Saturday, January 1, 2011

I'm OK, you're OK

Hollywood has made several versions of the Wyatt Earp story, although to be honest I haven't seen most of them. The one I have, My Darling Clementine, is airing tonight at 8:00 PM ET as TCM's Essential.

Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, the leader of the Earp familiy which has a feud with the more lawless Clanton family, headed by patriarch Walter Brennan, although it's really the sons here who are itching for a fight, led by John Ireland. The Earps are driving cattle and wind up in Tombstone, Arizona, which is where they leave the cattle in the care of the youngest brother, who promptly gets murdered. This causes Wyatt to become deputized as a marshall and go after his brother's killers, and, well, you probably know the rest from one of the other movies.

The story here is probably as worthy as any of the other OK Corral retellings; as I wrote above I haven't seen the others yet so I can't make a comparative judgement. This one, however, was able to bring together a very fine cast. In addition to Fonda and Brennan, there's Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, the consumptive dentist who knows he's going to die anyhow so joins with Earp more or less just because. Wyatt's brothers are played by Tim Holt and Ward Bond, while John Ireland and Grant Withers play the Clanton kids. And then there are the women; the proper Clementine (Cathy Downs) and the much more exotic (but more like a femme fatale) Apache "Chihuahua", played by Linda Darnell.

My Darling Clementine was directed by John Ford, who had actually worked with the real Wyatt Earp back in the 1920s. Earp wound up spending the last several years of his life (he died in 1929) in Hollywood as an advisor to movie studios on the "old West", which is how he met Ford and John Wayne, among others. Perhaps that gives this version an air of authenticity in places that other versions wouldn't have, but as always, this is Hollywood, so there are other considerations that come before accuracy.

My Darling Clementine is of course on DVD.

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