My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

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Mr Sausage
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My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:16 am

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domino harvey
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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:55 pm

Okay, I'll say it: I find this a midrange Ford effort, and I am constantly surprised at the high place it holds in the hearts of many. Since so many of you love this movie, how about starting discussion with talking about why?

Oddly, though I have nothing against the character, in stark contrast to that other Western figure who promoted a lot of movie representations Jesse James, I don't really like any movies about Wyatt Earp, unless we're counting Winchester '73

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#3 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:21 pm

It's the primary myth of the Western film - the imposition of civilization on a lawless land - distilled down to its essential archetype. Like any archetypal work, it can easily come off rote or uninspired, so YMMV. But I think there's enough poetry in its recital, and enough bizarre touches to its dramatization - Brennan's against-type villain, Fonda's bizarre aloofness, Mature's self-loathing - to keep things interesting.

I will admit it's to me almost a much more interesting film write about in contrast to something else (e.g., McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which is like a bizarro version of this).

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#4 Post by knives » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:54 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:55 pm
Okay, I'll say it: I find this a midrange Ford effort, and I am constantly surprised at the high place it holds in the hearts of many. Since so many of you love this movie, how about starting discussion with talking about why?

Oddly, though I have nothing against the character, in stark contrast to that other Western figure who promoted a lot of movie representations Jesse James, I don't really like any movies about Wyatt Earp, unless we're counting Winchester '73
I like it a lot even though I don't think there is much that necessarily screams great. Most of the things that are are little character bits like Fonda kicking at the pillar. The bigger stuff mostly doesn't work for me and Mature gives a bad performance. Actually, in my mind it is fairly mid tier Ford, but weirdly it likely will go on my list because the good just works for me so well while the bad is easy enough to ignore.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#5 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:03 pm

It's a cornerstone of John Ford's body of work, crystalizing his view of American life as it's reflected in the history of the American West, and The Searchers plays off or builds off a lot of the same ideas, so it's an important work that lays a path to that towering landmark.

The theatrical cut probably waters it down a bit - the ending alone is terribly compromised. The surviving preview cut isn't Ford's cut as it has quite a few of Zanuck's changes incorporated into it, but it plays much better, IMHO, and feels much more like a Ford film. Compare it to Frontier Marshal, a solid film that was included in Arrow's limited edition reissue - more or less the same story, it has many of the same exact elements and Dwan is a good director. But with all due respect to Dwan, you can see why Ford is one of the masters when you see the two back-to-back, even though the preview cut is again a compromised film. If I had to sum it up, it's because Dwan's film is airtight and very economical - everything he wants you to know is packed solid into his compact film. But Ford opens his film way up and suggests a whole lot more beyond what's happening at any moment and what's been scripted from scene to scene. The pacing, the lyricism in the blocking, the lighting and composition and even the bits of business given to each actor...it's a much richer work.

I've seen this many times (they used to re-run the preview cut a LOT back when AMC was still a classics driven channel), and it was a long time before I found out that My Darling Clementine is merely Ford's second Western in the sound era, and his first since Stagecoach, made seven years and many films ago. That's striking for a director that's synonymous with Westerns, and between those two films, he pretty much codified everything I associated with him and the West.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#6 Post by knives » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:13 pm

Strong disagreement on the two cuts. I find the preview to be a slog lacking in small moments.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:17 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:21 pm
Brennan's against-type villain
I mean, Brennan's best (and arguably best known) role (and the one that brought him the only justified Oscar of the three he won) is as the complex villain of Wyler's the Westerner, so I'm not sure he's so against type as an antagonist here. I think Brennan has a strange artificial reputation for playing affable old coots, but he definitely had his share of darker character roles over the years

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#8 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:41 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:13 pm
Strong disagreement on the two cuts. I find the preview to be a slog lacking in small moments.
What small moments does one presumably find in the theatrical cut that's not in the preview cut?

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#9 Post by knives » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:54 pm

It's been a while, but to put forth the example that if I recall gets a lot of talk on the old Fox disc the graveyard scene which really helps lift up the film to me. It's been over a decade since I saw the preview so specific examples are beyond me at the moment.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#10 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:26 am

I know that scene. I have a preference for the preview cut, though even that cut presents the scene with a few changes dictated by Zanuck. The changes in the theatrical cut are more pronounced - Zanuck basically wanted Earp to lay it on thicker, emphasizing he was fighting to make a better future for kids like his now-deceased brother. He also made James younger, 18 instead of 20, a subtle choice (you see it only in the years on the tombstone) and not a bad one.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#11 Post by tenia » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:44 am

I guess I strongly love the movie because it just goes by when I watch it. It flies by. It feels at times so light, so breezy, yet so rich, so deep, one of the rare movies I yearn to watch on a regular basis, especially when I'm feeling down. It calms me, soothes me as only a handful of movies does (The New World is a special one of those).
I'd have a hard time pinpoint exactly what it is, especially since I wouldn't say I'm an expert at breaking down this kind of feelings for a movie in a technical merit way, but here you go.

I also love Fonda's Earp in this.

NB : I prefer the release cut, notably for its ending.
Last edited by tenia on Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#12 Post by Roscoe » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:51 am

The high regard so many have for this film is not shared by me. It's certainly handsomely made, but ultimately my extreme dislike for Henry Fonda's performances in general means that I wind up rooting for the Clanton gang to shoot him dead dead dead.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#13 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:59 am

Re: the ending shot for the release cut, it feels like phony pandering to me compared to Ford's. And I honestly don't know what to say about that hate towards Fonda. You Only Live Once, The Wrong Man, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, Once Upon a Time in the West, this...you are just flat out wrong about one of the great film stars of Hollywood's Golden Age.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#14 Post by Drucker » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:10 pm

I intend to re-watch it this weekend, but popped it in for a few minutes yesterday and I love how perfectly Fonda strikes the tone between tough but lovely. I have a feeling my defense of the film will ultimately be that the acting is just so good by some of my favorite actors, it brings everything alive.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#15 Post by Roscoe » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:13 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:59 am
Re: the ending shot for the release cut, it feels like phony pandering to me compared to Ford's. And I honestly don't know what to say about that hate towards Fonda. You Only Live Once, The Wrong Man, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, Once Upon a Time in the West, this...you are just flat out wrong about one of the great film stars of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Glad you dig on the Fonda. For me he occasionally scales bold heights of minimal competence. Opinions are gonna differ.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#16 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:33 am

Ford has slipped down my list as directors go. Still great but not as great for me. I get tired of the hokie, folksy humor in his films, at times it seems out of place. But will say that I'm still a huge fan of the trio of great westerns... The Searchers, Stagecoach and my favorite, My Darling Clementine.

What I love about My Darling Clementine is the way it looks. To me it is the way a western is suppose to look: the town, the people, the darkness of the interiors and the brightness of the outdoors. When the film moves indoors it moves into a noirish realm. It is just so lovely photographed (Joseph MacDonald gets some credit for that). When the Clantons and Earp meet for the second time in the hotel with the driving rain outside is such a beautifully shot tone setting scene for the rest of the film. Of course the performances are wonderful. Fonda's Earp is first rate. It's also my favorite Mature role.

Can anyone add anything about the Ford/Brennan differences? I find it fascinating that this is the only time Brennan worked on a Ford film.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#17 Post by Roscoe » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:57 am

FrauBlucher wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:33 am
I get tired of the hokie, folksy humor in his films, at times it seems out of place.

What I love about My Darling Clementine is the way it looks. To me it is the way a western is suppose to look: the town, the people, the darkness of the interiors and the brightness of the outdoors. When the film moves indoors it moves into a noirish realm. It is just so lovely photographed (Joseph MacDonald gets some credit for that). When the Clantons and Earp meet for the second time in the hotel with the driving rain outside is such a beautifully shot tone setting scene for the rest of the film. Of course the performances are wonderful. Fonda's Earp is first rate. It's also my favorite Mature role.
Nicely said. Agreed about the humor that can get puke-inducingly folksy, as in the moment in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN where Fonda's Lincoln judges a pie contest and I start to pray for J.W. Booth to show up. And the outstanding cinematography, and Mr. Mature's performance, despite his being way too robustly robust to convince as a man dying of consumption.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#18 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:54 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:33 am
Ford has slipped down my list as directors go. Still great but not as great for me. I get tired of the hokie, folksy humor in his films, at times it seems out of place. But will say that I'm still a huge fan of the trio of great westerns... The Searchers, Stagecoach and my favorite, My Darling Clementine.
We've moved in opposite directions. I saw many of his best loved films in high school and probably again in undergrad. I could appreciate and respect his work then, but he wasn't a personal favorite. Part of this was for the reason you've stated, but I chalk this up with a common mistake I see again and again whenever I hear people knock down anything of worth - the "flaws" get more attention than the virtues, partly because they're easy to latch on to on first viewing.

Ford doesn't make perfect gems, they're all flawed. For better and for worse, the hokieness is part of who he is. Perhaps the most powerful scene in The Searchers immediately dissolves to a gag where Ward Bond is bent over, getting a piece of shrapnel (or a bullet? an arrow fragment?) pulled out of his ass.

But over time these moments feel insignificant, especially as they've grown very familiar, and the virtues of his films grow deeper, richer and far more complex than I would have guessed.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#19 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:55 pm

I thought the preview version had a lot more "atmosphere" (and local color) -- which made it far more interesting than the stripped-down theatrical version.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#20 Post by dda1996a » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:30 pm

I saw this so long ago, but from what I remember I was surprised by its tone, actors and the temporality of the story.
Also with everyone listing their favorite Ford westerns, how is Liberty Valance not at the top of the list?

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#21 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:32 pm

It will be near there for me.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#22 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:38 pm

dda1996a wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:30 pm
Also with everyone listing their favorite Ford westerns, how is Liberty Valance not at the top of the list?
It's my number two after Stagecoach

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#23 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:51 pm

I love Liberty Valance, it's one of Ford's masterpieces and as mentioned elsewhere, one of the great "memory" films in cinema.

Also, this just reminded me of a hilarious joke from Billy Crystal when he hosted the Oscars in 1992, the year JFK was one of the nominees for Best Picture:

"Oliver Stone's next film will be The Men Who Shot Liberty Valance."

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#24 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:55 pm

While I love The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Stagecoach (and think them sublime, perfect, etc.) there is a fascination about a film like My Darling Clementine or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon!, the looser, more artsy Ford westerns, that I prefer in the long run, I think.

It was either in this thread, or in the old mubi user thread, where someone gave an extraordinary close reading of the "To be or not to be" scene in Clementine, discussing how Ford uses Shakespeare's famous soliloquy to explore not only the character motivations but also the fundamental nature of the West ("the undiscovered country"). Rewatching some scenes in consideration of it, I'm also struck by how wide Ford keeps it, how much he emphasizes the scale of the West (for all the film's glorious interiors). Never using any especially striking deep focus (in what I've rewatched), Ford's film has an immense wideness, skies rolling out in ways that never seem to in Stagecoach.

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Re: My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

#25 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:30 pm

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:55 pm
Never using any especially striking deep focus (in what I've rewatched), Ford's film has an immense wideness, skies rolling out in ways that never seem to in Stagecoach.
Stagecoach really examines an enclosed world like several Ford pictures (7 Women, The Long Voyage Home come to mind), that is translated in the visuals (the camera often keeps these characters framed in a fairly enclosed space). Although that makes sense in terms of the narrative and themes, it's probably one of the reasons I don't enjoy it to the same degree as some of his other westerns.

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