I remember fondly my father singing My Darling Clementine often when I was a young and how much he loved watching reruns of old Westerns. It wasn’t until I watched John Ford’s My Darling Clementine with him one day, that I realized that hypnotic tune was actually part of the opening credits of the movie. Interestingly, Cathy Downs as Clementine Carter was everything I thought she would be, as I sat awestruck by her beauty. I smile these days when I recall Henry Fonda’s Wyatt Earp in the movie, being absolutely smitten by the graceful Clementine as she makes her stage entrance. I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt the same way!
Far from being historically accurate, especially in the retelling of the legend of the gunfight at the OK Corral, the film was allowed to take on a life of its own because John Ford believed mythmaking was sometimes more important than real events, especially in storytelling. Moreover, the uncanny way he recreated his look at American life and the Wild West appealed to audiences who didn’t seem question his patriotism.
That said, the film follows the story of Wyatt Earp, as he takes on the position of town marshal, after his brother’s murder by the Clanton clan. Making a vow to stay in Tombstone, until his brother’s killers are found, he soon runs into the hard-drinking Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) and a young woman named Chihuahua (Linda Darnell). It is here that Ford explores their relationships with each other, before we eventually build to Wyatt Earps’ long-awaited revenge against the Clanton clan at the OK Corral. But wait, I hear you say, what about Clementine? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie yourself to find out what becomes of Clementine.