Saturday, October 23, 2010

1946 -MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, a classic American film.

The gunfight at the OK Corral retold by John Ford.  One of the greatest American films of all time and a classic in the western film genre.  But how responsible is Ford for its greatness?

My Darling Clementine was the final film on Ford's contract for 20th Century Fox and Darryl F. Zanuck.  Zanuck choose the story, gave Ford a very generous production budget  and had a lot of input in the casting of the film.

Ford shot extensively on location and when completed turned in a 2 hour cut to Zanuck.  Apparently Zanuck was quite appalled with Ford's version of the film, which had Ford disregarding much of the script and inserting lots of his patented cornball comedy bits.  Zanuck took the film away from Ford, completely reedited it and cut about 30 minutes out of it.  Zanuck also brought in another director to reshoot some key scenes including the ending of the film.  

Obviously Ford was responsible for the individual scenes and the visual look of the film.  My Darling Clementine is a sterling example of Ford's strong sense of visual composition.  Every scene has beautiful black and white photography and composition.  Ford also got very good performances out of the cast, particularly Victor Mature and Walter Brennan.  Ford's technique for directing actors was to basically verbally harass and abuse them during filming.  Victor Mature, never a great actor to begin with gave a very good performace.  Walter Brennan is also good as the head of the Clanton family, Ford kept Brennan's tendency to ham it up under control for this film.  Ford also harassed Brennan so badly that he never worked for Ford again. 

Today the film is one of John Ford's greatest films. However the considerable influence of Darryl F Zanuck must be considered when applying the auteur label to this film. 

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