Few events in the saga of the Old West have captured the imagination of story-tellers, historians and moviemakers as much as the legendary “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” of 1881. Indeed, the notorious showdown between the Earps and the Clantons has come to symbolize the conflicting forces of honor and lawlessness, of loyalty and treachery, that in the American psyche characterized life on the Western frontier. The gunfight and the men who participated in it, as well as the people whose destinies were intertwined with those of the Earps and Clantons, have been the subject of many a movie and television show over the years. Of these dramatizations, perhaps the most memorable have been the films My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the O,K. Corral, and Tombstone.
Each of these movies possesses a charm of its own as it depicts the drama of the West’s most famous shootout. Each focuses on a certain dimension of the event and the circumstances surrounding it, becoming at times historical fiction in the process, and, at times as well — and unabashedly — just plain fiction.
It is usually the earliest of these screen versions of the story, My Darling Clementine, that is awarded four stars in the movie critics’ guides. Released in 1946, this indisputable classic was directed by the renowned John Ford and starred Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, and Walter Brennan as Ike Clanton. Filmed in ominous black and white, the movie curiously enough borrows its title and theme music from the dark-humored old American folk song, “My Darling Clementine” — about a young man’s sweetheart who drowns in a lake — and adopts the name Clementine for Doc Holliday’s fictitious queenly old flame.
The lanky, low-keyed Henry Fonda portrays Wyatt Earp as an awkward, laconic wandering cowboy and occasional marshal who, nevertheless, unfailingly rises to the occasion……………………………