Turner Classic showed this one yesterday afternoon and the old DVR was set. From 1946, I’d never seen it before. Directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, I think the first time I was ever aware of it was during an episode of M*A*S*H where they were showing it one evening. It was supposed to be Colonel Potter’s favorite movie.
The plot was the basic one we are all familiar with, but there were significant variations from what is known. The four Earps were driving a herd of cattle toward California when they run into Old Man Clanton(Walter Brennan) and his son Ike. Wyatt rebuffs an offer to buy the herd at too low a price. Later, when the three older brothers leave young James to watch the herd while they go into Tombstone for a shave and a few drinks, they find a lawless town. Refusing the open Marshall job, Wyatt, Morgan(Ward Bond), and Virgil return to find the herd gone and James shot in the back. James Earp actually died in 1929 and his death here was 1882, before the OK Corral fight which happened in 1881. In the movie, he was only eighteen, though in real life was the eldest of these four brothers.
Doc Holliday(Victor Mature) is a surgeon here instead of a dentist. The Clementine of the title is a young woman from Boston who’d been looking for Doctor John Holliday, his fiance he’d left to head west for his consumption.
The Gunfight at The OK Corral is set up when Wyatt gets proof the Clantons murdered James and stole the herd, which he’d suspected in the form of a silver locket taken from James’ body and found around the neck of Chihuahua(Linda Darnell), a saloon singer involved with Doc. At first saying Doc gave it to her, she’s a jealous woman, she finally admits Billy Clanton(John Ireland) was the one. Billy shoots her as she reveals that fact and Virgil goes after him, chasing him in a running gun battle all the way, Billy dying on the Clanton front porch. Virgil, who died in real life in 1905, gets a bullet in the back from the old man for his troubles.
The gunfight is between Clanton and his four sons and Wyatt, Morgan, and Doc. When it’s over, all the Clantons are dead(the old man actually died the month before) as well as Doc Holliday(who really died in 1887).
At the end of the movie, Wyatt and Morgan leave for California to tell their father about what happened. Morgan, of course, was assassinated only a couple of months after the big gunfight.
Nice dramatic picture that I’d wanted to see for a long time. It’s hard to go wrong with a John Ford movie, inaccuracies and all.