This morning I watched a movie that I had done a group project on in my Westerns film class in college. I watched My Darling Clementine (1946).
When I signed up for the Westerns class, I wasn't especially excited by the topic. I liked westerns when I was little but hadn't gone out of my way to watch westerns in quite a while, aside from a brief Leone phase I had gone through freshman year. I didn't know much about John Ford, but I knew I didn't care much for John Wayne so I was only taking the class for the great professor. The first day of class there were a pair of UConn basketball players looking for an easy class of watching movies. The professor laid out the syllabus for the class and set the tone that that would be a class where there would be a lot of reading, a lot of class participation and weekly written assignments. The basketball players did not stick around long enough that they would even need to take a W to drop the course. I did not drop the class and it was one of the most enjoyable and challenging classes of my undergrad career.
My memories of John Ford from that class were that he loved to have the sense of community in the wild west, that he loved filming in Monument Valley, and that he loved filming the clouds in Monument Valley almost as much as the large rock monuments. I've driven through Monument Valley maybe four or five times in my life and it's one of the greatest experiences I've had on a road trip. It's a beautiful place, I've driven through as it was snowing and I've driven through just before sunset when the monuments change colors and their shadows stretch for miles. I would also get a great feeling as if I were driving through a John Ford western in real life.
This movie is odd because the title makes it seem as though it's a romantic western when in reality it seems they just wanted to use the song Oh My Darling Clementine. There is a loose connection to the name of one of the characters but she barely attributes to the story. It's the story of the shootout at the OK Corral and on this viewing I was reminded how great of a director Ford was. He stages the actors and clouds and monuments in a way that could be framed and placed on the wall of an art museum.
Henry Fonda is a great Wyatt Earp looming as large as the landscape. Victor Mature sounds like a name a 10 year old makes up to let everyone know he has become a man.