57. “My Darling Clementine”, John Ford (1946)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

My Darling Clementine

My Darling Clementine

dir. John Ford scr. Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller based on a story by Sam Hellman cin. Joseph MacDonald with Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Walter Brennan

In 100 words: When I think of westerns, I think of busy shoot-em-up movies with cowboys and some sort of black and white distillation of good versus evil, while talking about American exceptionalism. Ford, the best director of westerns, created his most unusually sweet and lackadaisical western here, in opposition to that standard. The film feels more like a hang-out movie: its focus is so much more on the life of its many characters and town activities, rather than the gathering storm that later erupts in a magnificent climax. Sterling images and edits, great use of sound, richly layered acting make this exceptional.

Other Movies for Context: Ford is one of the greatest and most important American directors. I wasn’t a big fan of westerns, and quite frankly, it’s not a genre I reach out to when I just want to watch a movie. But Ford’s are the standard for which every western films should be judged. His legendary The Searchers (1956) is often considered among the greatest movies ever, but it’s my least favorite of his. Stagecoach (1939) is my favorite apart from this one, while The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is pretty spectacular. Ford also has some of the most handsomely filmed images I’ve ever seen that chronicled the history of America: among them are The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was my Valley (1941), and the unusually romantic and lush The Quiet Man (1952).

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