The Movie Waffler BluRay Review - <i>MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)</i> / <i>FRONTIER MARSHAL (1939)</i> | The Movie Waffler


Arrow Video's hi-def release of John Ford's classic western, with a bonus inclusion of Allan Dwan's 1939 Frontier Marshal.

Review by Eric Hillis

"Francois Truffaut described Ford as "an artist who never said the word 'art', a poet who never mentioned 'poetry'." I won't incur the wrath of Ford's ghost by mentioning either term, but I think his work on My Darling Clementine speaks for itself."

My Darling Clementine
Directed by: John Ford
Starring: Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Walter Brennan, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Ward Bond

John Ford had already made acclaimed westerns (The Iron Horse, Stagecoach), but My Darling Clementine would cement his reputation as the king of the genre. He returned to Arizona's Monument Valley, where he had shot Stagecoach, and made the location his own. Today it's impossible to look at a photo of Monument Valley without picturing one of Ford's lone riders engulfed by the landscape.
It's in Monument Valley that we first meet Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and his three brothers in the midst of a California bound cattle drive. After turning down an offer for their herd from 'Old Man' Newman Clanton (Walter Brennan in a role a million miles from the nice-but-dim parts he would become best known for), Wyatt heads into the nearest town, Tombstone, with brothers Morgan (Ward Bond) and Virgil (Tim Holt), leaving 18-year-old James (Don Garner) to guard the herd. In Tombstone, Wyatt's shave is interrupted by stray gunfire from a drunk Native-American. Wyatt resolves the situation and is offered the position of Marshal, which he declines, as he's merely in town for a quick shave. When the three brothers return to their camp, they find the cattle gone and James dead, shot in the back. Wyatt returns to Tombstone and accepts the Marshal position, planning to avenge his kid brother's death.
With Ford more interested in character than plot, Wyatt's quest for vengeance is put on hold for the majority of the film, which focusses instead on his immersion into the town of Tombstone, which becomes more civilised in his presence.
Ford brilliantly, yet subtlety, uses sound design to convey the town's transformation. When the Earps first ride in for a shave, it's manic, the air filled with gunfire and the raucousness of the town's taverns; the Earps are clearly outsiders. By the time we get to the movie's famous gunfight at the OK Corral sequence, Ford has the duel play out in silence; it's the Clantons who now stand in contrast to the tranquility of the town.
It wouldn't be a Ford movie without a bromance. Here it's between Wyatt and Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), a notorious gunfighter who becomes the Marshal's greatest ally. They form two sides of a quartet of unrequited and self-denied love, rounded out by prostitute Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) and School Ma'rm in the making Clementine (Cathy Downs). Both women love Doc, who loves them in return in different ways, yet can't bring himself to admit it, thanks to his self-loathing. Wyatt falls for Clementine, but his moral code forbids him from acting on his impulses. In one of the greatest two-shots in cinema history, Wyatt and Clementine stand shoulder to shoulder watching a Church dance, their faces betraying their true feelings, Wyatt's hands scrunching his hat in moral torment as he plucks up the courage to ask her to dance.
The gunfight at the OK Corral has been portrayed in numerous movies, but none rival Ford's immaculate staging here. With music absent from the soundtrack, Ford racks up the tension, every soft mush of boot in sand possibly leading to a bullet. Wyatt's gun blazing through a cloud of dust swept up by a passing stagecoach is one of the most iconic images in the shootout canon.
Francois Truffaut described Ford as "an artist who never said the word 'art', a poet who never mentioned 'poetry'." I won't incur the wrath of Ford's ghost by mentioning either term, but I think his work on My Darling Clementine speaks for itself.

Frontier Marshall
Directed by: Allan Dwan
Starring: Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jnr

This 1939 take on the OK Corral story served as the main inspiration for Ford's version, and several sequences were lifted, albeit executed with more grace by Ford. We have the friendship between Wyatt Earp (Randolph Scott) and Doc Holliday (Cesar Romero, catching scenery in his mustache), as well as the dual love interests, Binnie Barnes's cockney prostitute and Nancy Kelly's refined lady.
At a brisk 71 minutes, there's considerably less time for character development, but director Dwan and screenwriter Sam Hellman do an admirable job of fleshing out the central quartet while finding time for interesting side characters like the real-life comedian Eddie Foy, played here by his son, Eddie Foy Jr.
Rather than Earp seeking vengeance against the Clantons, Frontier Marshal has the Marshal caught up in the ongoing feud between two saloon owners, but it all leads to the famous gun battle regardless.
With a cast of B-movie stalwarts, and a rapid pace, Frontier Marshal is a must see for OK Corral obsessives, and worth a watch for Western buffs, though casual viewers may be less enamoured.

We get two versions of Clementine - a 4K restoration of the theatrical cut and a slightly longer, but less effective, pre-release cut restored in 2K.
A commentary track by author Scott Eyman and Earp’s grandson, Wyatt Earp III.
John Ford and Monument Valley is an informative hour long doc that looks at Ford's use of the famous locale, with contributions from Martin Scorsese and Peter Cowie (author of John Ford and the American West), along with archive footage of Ford and stars Henry Fonda, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.
Movie Masterclass is an episode of a 1988 British TV show in which director Lindsay Anderson attempts to convince a classroom of poorly groomed film students of the film's brilliance. This is a fascinating watch, and Anderson makes for a highly engaging lecturer; his love for Ford is palpable and at one point he reprimands a student for using the phrase "just a western."
Lost and Gone Forever is a short visual essay that feels a little haphazard but is definitely worth a watch for Ford fans.
What is the Pre-Release Version? compares the two versions of the film and gives some insight on the relationship between Ford and producer Darryl Zanuck.
Rounding out this fantastic package are two radio dramas, trailers for both films, a stills gallery, reversible sleeve and a 40 page booklet with contributions from critics Glen Kenny and Kim Newman, plus an interview with Clementine screenwriter Winston Miller. Another five star extras package from Arrow!