It seems impossible to contemplate today, but there actually was a time when
American Movie Classics was THE destination for lovers of the Golden Age
Classics, which were run entirely commercial-free and even (occasionally)
letterboxed. One of their most notable features was the AMC Preservation
Festival which, one year, much to my surprise, ran an alternate pre-release
version of my second favorite black-and-white western (the first? THE
GUNFIGHTER) which I never knew existed. and what a revelation it was--over
eight minutes of additional or alternate scenes (and substantially different Cyril
Mockridge musical cues) which, for me at least, accomplished the
impossible--significantly improving what I had always regarded as a "perfect" film.

When 20th Century Fox announced that MY DARLING CLEMENTINE would be
one of their upcoming monthly "studio classics" series, I was filled with
trepidation. Would the Powers That Be even be aware that this alternate version
existed, much less release it on DVD? I needn't have worried. When I called the
home video division at Fox, I was assured that not only would BOTH versions be
included on the DVD, but a documentary outlining in detail the differences
between the two versions would also be included. And I have to say that Fox has
indeed done this John Ford masterpiece proud! Visually, the transfers for both
versions are nothing less than superb, both soundtracks have been polished and
cleaned up to perfection and preservationist Robert Gitt's documentary comparing
both versions is the equal of a similar documentary on Warner's great THE BIG
SLEEP DVD.

The story of the Clanton's and the Earp's fateful meeting that morning
at the O.K. Corral is so familiar to all that recounting it here is
simply unnecessary. Moviegoers have been pummeled for decades with
mundane and unimaginative cinematic renditions of this event--witness
GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL, HOUR OF THE GUN (director John Sturges,
while he was making JOE KIDD, apologized for that one in my presence one day
at Universal!), TOMBSTONE, and WYATT EARP, etc. for the uninitiated, there is
no way that words can sufficiently conjure up a satisfactory description of the
qualities that make CLEMENTINE the monumental achievement it is.

Suffice to say that the lyrically romantic direction of John Ford, the stark majesty
of Joe Macdonald's black and white photography, and the performances of Henry
Fonda (the quintessential Wyatt Earp) and the sadly underrated Victor Mature, as
a Doc Holliday that effortlessly leaves all other interpretations of the role in the
dust, all contribute their part to the magnificent whole that is MY DARLING
CLEMENTINE (perhaps New York Times critic Bosley Crowther put it best in his
original review--"every scene, every shot is the product of a keen and sensitive
eye.") The release of this great DVD heralds, once and for all, the fact that 20th
Century-Fox has joined Warner Brothers as one of the two majors most
responsible for consistently meticulous DVD versions of their beloved classics.
Long may they reign!

--DICK DINMAN

 

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