review for My Darling Clementine on AllMovie

My Darling Clementine (1946)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Considered one of the greatest classical Westerns, John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) turns an idealized version of the Earp/Clanton shootout at the OK Corral into a story of how the West was won for the good of civilization. Shot on location in Monument Valley in crisp, deep-focus black-and-white, the film opens as Henry Fonda's upstanding yet slightly (and humorously) awkward Wyatt Earp arrives in Tombstone to settle a family score with the murderous Clantons, staying long enough to make the untamed town safe for the new church and schoolmarm-to-be Clementine and enable corrupt, tubercular Easterner Doc Holliday to find a bit of redemption. Yet even as Ford celebrates the possibilities of the new West, he also engages the post-war tendency for Westerns to examine their own myths: for instance, in the expressionistic photography and in Earp's contradictory place between civilization and the wilderness. He knows the way Tombstone ought to be, but he can't settle there himself; the final shootout begins as an orderly ritual but becomes a chaotic montage of death. The "director's cut" discovered in 1994 contains several minutes of excised footage; the ending was reportedly changed due to the reaction of a 1946 preview audience.