Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
My Darling Clementine (1946)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

His life slowly fading away, Holliday returns alone to his rented room and stands and gazes at his diplomas - he is a black silhouette in front of his hotel window. Then, he reaches for a whiskey bottle sitting below them and pours himself a drink. In a powerful visual image, his alcoholic, anguished face is reflected in the glass covering his doctor's diploma/license. After he sarcastically spits out the words: "Dr. John Holliday," he smashes his whiskey shot glass into the frame, shattering the glass and the reminder of what he was.

Then, he returns to the bar and chastises Earp for not telling him about Clementine's arrival:

Holliday: From where I'm standing Earp, that tin badge you're wearing doesn't give you the right to stick your nose in my personal affairs.
Wyatt: What's eatin' ya, Doc?
Holliday: Why didn't you tell me Miss Carter's here?
Wyatt: She told you why. She wanted to surprise ya.

Doc recklessly drinks more whiskey, as Mac (J. Farrell MacDonald) the bartender cautions him not to drink: "That stuff will kill ya." Wearing a broad sombrero, Chihuahua attempts to cheer him up with a song, but he is despondent:

Oh the first kiss is always the sweetest
From under a broad sombrero
The first kiss is always the sweetest
From under a broad sombrero

After a kiss, he snarls at her: "Why don't you go away? Squall your stupid little songs and leave me alone." Dejected, Chihuahua loosens her sombrero, walks away, and tosses a glass at him. Earp joins Doc at the bar and forcefully refuses a drink offer. Then, he intervenes to help his friend Clementine:

Look, Doc, I ain't tryin' to poke my nose into your personal affairs, but from where I stand, a man would have to go a long ways before he finds a finer girl than that Miss Carter, or a prettier one for that matter. Thinkin' a man west of the Mississippi wouldn't give his shirt to...

But Holliday bitterly resists any assistance, thinking Earp has said enough about his affairs and his drinking. (Doc also notices the inordinate amount of interest displayed by Wyatt toward Miss Carter.) Half-drunk and reaching for his gun, Holliday thinks it's "time I tempted fate," but Earp believes he's only playing a "sucker game":

There's probably fifty fellas around town just waitin' to see you get liquored up so they can fill you full of holes. Build themselves up a great reputation. The man that killed Doc Holliday.

When Holliday shoots wildly into the saloon, Earp punches him unconscious and drags him out of the saloon to his room.

The next morning, as the town comes together for a social gathering to celebrate and dedicate the construction of Tombstone's first church, the Marshal has just finished being freshly barbered and perfumed by the barber. [Tombstone is in the process of becoming civilized - a barber's business and the laying of the foundations for a new church are evidence that the town is becoming a place where James Earp could have grown up - if his future hadn't been cut short.]

The Marshal vainly stares at himself in a large mirror in the shop, and as he steps out to his favorite perch on the porch, is sprayed with "sweet smelling stuff." [After the appearance of Clementine from the East, Wyatt insists on all the barber's services and becomes a man of the East - he is prettified with a stylish haircut and then sprayed with perfume.] On the porch, he admires the reflection of himself in the shop window. Earp's brother Virg comments on the smell - the scent of "honeysuckle blossoms."

Chihuahua storms up onto the porch and is angered at Earp: "When Doc finds out you butted him last night, he'll twist that tin badge around your heart!" Relaxed but watchful while ignoring her threats, he yawns while balancing and shifting from one foot to the other on the railing post (like a slow bicycle pedaling motion), while tilted back on the two legs of his chair. She goes to Clementine's room in the hotel, throws open the door, and tells her to get out of town:

I'm Chihuahua. I'm Doc Holliday's girl. Just wanted to make sure you were packing.

With Holliday in his room across the hallway, Chihuahua is happy that her feminine rival Clementine is packing to leave town. [Doc's women represent two very different sides - one civilized and fair-skinned, the other primitive and dark-skinned.] Chihuahua shows her love for Doc by bringing him whiskey. Out of character, Doc promises to take Chihuahua with him into Mexico for a week or ten days and proposes marriage to her: "Why not? Tell Francois to fix a bridal breakfast. Flowers, champagne. You get into your prettiest dress. Tell him the Queen is dead. Long live the Queen."

At the beginning of a memorable sequence of scenes, Earp is surprised to find a rejected Clementine packed and waiting in the hotel for the stage to take her back East:

Wyatt: It's a mighty short visit.
Clementine: Some people think I've overstayed my visit already.
Wyatt: I don't know ma'am. If you ask me, I think you're givin' up too easy.
Clementine: Marshal, if you ask me, I, I don't think you know too much about a woman's pride.
Wyatt: No ma'am, maybe I don't.

Church bells at the unfinished church toll as the two walk out onto the porch. Services are being held to commemorate the laying of the foundation of the town's new church. Wyatt uses the opportunity to shyly pursue the attractive lady:

Clementine: I love your town in the morning, Marshal. The air is so clean and clear. The scent of the desert flowers.
Wyatt: That's me. (He nods toward the Bon Ton shop.) Barber.
Clementine: Marshal? May I go with you? (Along with the church bells tolling, the churchgoers are singing the hymn: Shall We Gather at the River?) You are going to the services, aren't you?
Wyatt: Yes ma'am. I'd be admired to take you.

Majestically arm in arm, he slowly escorts her down the covered porch and past the barber who salutes them as they pass. They round the corner as he squires her out to the edge of the town's main street. It is an enchanted walk sequence toward the tolling bell of the unfinished church. Emotion builds as they approach closer to the ritualistic celebration.

Deacon John Simpson (Russell Simpson), one of the devout churchmen with a fiddle tucked under his arm, announces that the people will not have to listen to the words of a preacher. An open-air dance will be held at the skeletal church building instead:

I hereby declare the first church of Tombstone, which ain't got no name yet, or no preacher either, officially dedicated. Now, I don't pretend to be no preacher, but I've read the Good Book from cover to cover and back again, and I never found one word ag'in' dancin'. So we'll commence by havin' a dad-blasted good dance!

In a magnificent scene, Tombstone celebrates its first half-erected, embryonic church by holding a delightful open-air dance. Clapping in rhythm to the fiddle music, the dancers take to the floor. After watching for a while, Earp tentatively and stiffly removes his hat, and then asks Clementine: "Oblige me ma'am?" She accepts and as they make their way up to the raised dance floor, everyone is told to part deferentially around them and make way:

Sashay back and make room for our new Marshal and his lady-fair.

[The scene symbolizes Earp's gradual acceptance into organized society and the community. Both characters are symbols of the new West - the hero and the Eastern girl. At first awkward with her, he soon is civilized and made comfortable with her as his dancing partner.] Wyatt gracefully whirls her around in a rigid mechanical waltz step, as everyone claps from an outer circle. Wyatt's two brothers ride up in a buckboard on their way out to visit James' grave, amazed to see their brother dancing with Clementine: "Well, by golly."

After the celebration at the church, everyone returns for Sunday dinner in the hotel. Holliday, increasingly hostile to Wyatt for taking an interest in his former girl, discovers Clementine at Wyatt's dinner table and denounces her for not leaving town as he requested. Wyatt defends her presence:

Holliday: Look, Clem, I told you last night to leave Tombstone and go back East. I also told you if you didn't leave, I would.
Wyatt: Hey, Doc. Just a minute, Doc. That's the second time in three days you've been tryin' to run somebody out of town. That's my business. That's what I'm gettin' paid for. Miss Carter or any other decent citizen can stay here just as long as they want to.
Holliday: We're through talking, Marshal. My advice to you is start carrying your gun.
Wyatt: That's good advice.

On the porch near the street, Chihuahua sees Holliday riding out of town as shotgun on the stagecoach, leaving her behind and throwing her a canvas pouch of money stamped with the words: "Cattlemen's Savings Bank, Tucson, Ariz." She is heartbroken that he is irresponsibly running out on her, without understanding that it is his inner tormented nature that is the cause for his sudden departure. In a jealous rage, she blames Clementine for ruining her own romantic future with Doc. She runs to Clem's room, telling her: "Doc's gone. He's left town. He was going to Mexico and take me with him. He was going to marry me. Well, you're leavin' too." When Earp arrives as she hysterically rants and raves at Clementine, he notices his younger brother's silver cross/medal around Chihuahua's neck. She claims that Doc gave it to her. [Later, it is learned that she is lying to cover up her indiscretions with Billy, one of the Clanton boys.]

Although Wyatt suspects the Clantons of killing James and rustling their cattle, he immediately suspects that Doc had something to do with James' death. He learns from Mac the bartender that Holliday "got his saddlebags and a sack of gold out of the safe and left in a hurry." He "left on the bullion stage riding shotgun...for Tucson." On horseback, Wyatt races and pursues after Holliday's speedy stagecoach to bring him back to Tombstone. Doc refuses to be brought back to town. The two face each other, drawing their guns and shooting. Wyatt shoots the gun out of Doc's hand and prevents Doc from running away from Tombstone (and himself).

The scene immediately cuts to a view of Chihuahua's room, where she pulls her blouse up. The Marshal and Doc rap loudly on Chihuahua's door while she delays them and urges Billy Clanton (John Ireland) to leave through the window door. When the two are finally allowed to enter, Doc asks why she lied to Wyatt about the locket:

Holliday: Chihuahua. Why did you tell the Marshal I gave you this jewelry?
Chihuahua: Well, you did, Doc. You gave it to me.
Holliday: I never saw this piece of junk before in my life. Who gave it to you?
Chihuahua: Well, you can't remember everything you give me, Doc. Sure you did. Don't you remember?
Holliday: When?
Chihuahua: Two or three days ago. I don't know. What difference does it make?
Wyatt: That bein' the case, Doc, I charge you with the murder of my brother James Earp.

Realizing that she has implicated Doc in a murder, she is reluctant to be a "squealer" and admit that one of the Clanton boys gave her the medal. She explains how her hurt and jilted feelings led her to make the false accusation against Doc:

Well, you told me to go away and squall my silly little songs somewhere else. So I came up here and had a good cry. There was a knock at the door and I thought it was you. I opened the door and it was Billy Clanton.

Outside the window, Billy has overheard their conversation - he fires shots just at the moment of her confession and badly wounds her. Clanton runs along the rooftop and escapes out of town toward the Clanton ranch on horseback. After taking some shots at Clanton himself (and fatally wounding him), Wyatt sends Virgil to ride after him.

Wyatt believes in Holliday's ability to revive his Eastern surgeon's skills, calls for nurse Clementine, and asks for poker tables in the saloon to be set up as an improvised operating table. Before being operated on without a sedative, Chihuahua asks:

Chihuahua: Sorry, Doc. It's too bad?
Doc: No, honey. Look, I haven't got anything to put you to sleep. So this is going to hurt like blazes. Yell, scream, holler, anything you like. Tell me when you're ready. (She nods her readiness.)

Meanwhile, Virgil continues to pursue the mortally wounded Billy to the Clanton ranch. There, he finds Old Man Clanton commiserating in a stony pose over the dead body of his son laid out on a bed: "My boy Billy. Shot down on the streets of Tombstone. Murdered." When Virgil leaves the dark-shadowed room, Old Man Clanton blasts him in the back with his shotgun, killing him in revenge. He orders his three sons to prepare to leave for town for a showdown.

In a long-held closeup, Chihuahua lies on the operating table and speaks a few final words to Doc, believing that he loves her:

Chihuahua: Hi, Doc.
Holliday: You're all right. You've been a brave girl.

Kate (Jane Darwell), the jovial town madam, offers to care for her as she recuperates: "I'm going to take her to my house and take good care of her. (To Wyatt) Can't I do that, Marshal?" Wyatt proposes to victoriously toast the elated Doc after performing the seemingly-successful operation: "Doctor Holliday." At the saloon door (in the background) as Holliday proudly leaves carrying his doctor's bag after regaining some of his confidence and life-affirming values, Clementine tries to congratulate him:

Clementine: I'm awfully proud of you, John.
Holliday: Thanks, Clem. She was a brave girl.

In the foreground at the bar, Wyatt asks Mac a memorable question:

Wyatt: Mac, you ever been in love?
Mac: No, I've been a bartender all my life.

As Wyatt leaves the saloon, the Clantons ride through town with their guns blazing. Old Man Clanton dumps Virgil's body into the street, shouting at Earp:

We'll be waitin' for you Marshal - at the O.K. Corral.

The mayor and deacon offer to help fight the Clantons who have barricaded themselves at the O.K. Corral, but Earp declines them as volunteers. He wishes to settle his personal score with the Clantons alone. The Earp's strong family ties justify the killing of the Clantons: "...this is strictly a family affair." At the Corral, Ike asks his father if Earp is "too yella" to fight, but Clanton assures him: "He'll come."

Disheartened by the death of Chihuahua and bitter at the loss of his renewed hope, Holliday decides to face what is left of his life. In the Marshal's office, Doc joins the Earp brothers who wait for dawn to accept the Clanton's challenge. Doc contemptuously mocks his own title: "Doctor John Holliday." He grabs a rifle in Earp's office, cocks it and is allowed to join them: "When do we start?" Earp responds: "Sunup." After a quiet, but tense night, the sun rises, the Mayor hands warrants for the Clantons' arrest to Earp, and final preparations are made.

The climax of the film is a version of the shootout at the O.K. Corral against the Clantons. The confrontation pits the efficient and calculated Earps (representing civilization) against the ragged Clantons (representing primitive natures). The five men leave the office and slowly start marching down the main street of town (in a long-shot) toward the O.K. Corral. - Wyatt, Morgan, Doc, the Mayor, and the Deacon. As they approach closer, the Mayor and Deacon fall back, Doc and Morg circle to the side through a back alley and behind fences, and Wyatt is left alone in the street. Then he too circles to the other side in a semi-military maneuver. [The O.K. Corral gunfight is not fought as a face-to-face confrontation in the middle of the main street.]

Before any shooting commences, Earp explains how he has warrants charging Old Man Clanton and his sons for the murder of James and Virgil Earp - including a charge of cattle rustling:

Wyatt: I'm givin' you a chance to submit to proper authorities.
Old Man Clanton: Well, you come on right in here Marshal and serve your warrant.
Wyatt: Which one of ya killed James?
Old Man Clanton: I did, and the other one too.
Ike: I'm gonna kill ya.

The town stagecoach riding between Earp and Ike billows up clouds of dust as the oldest Clanton son kicks open the corral gate and walks toward Earp. Using the dust as camouflage, Earp moves closer and fires a shot at Ike, killing him. Morgan kills a second Clanton. Next to him, Doc suffers a coughing fit and is shot by one of the Clantons. [Doc's physical infirmity causes him to become vulnerable during the gunfire - his disease tragically afflicts him.] Using horses in the corral as cover, Earp gets closer and kills another Clanton in front of a horse trough. Just before he collapses, Doc kills the fourth Clanton son. Old Man Clanton surrenders to Earp and is banished from town:

Old Man Clanton: My boys, Ike, Sam, Phin. Billy.
Wyatt: They're dead. I ain't gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years, feel just a little what my Pa's gonna feel. Now get out of town. Start wanderin'.

Old Man Clanton is allowed to ride out of the O.K. Corral - his punishment is to live and feel what Earp's father will soon feel. Suicidally avenging the deaths of his sons, he turns with gun in hand to shoot Wyatt. To defend his brother, Morgan (from the hip) shoots Clanton from his saddle. Morgan informs Wyatt that Doc has been killed in the gun battle.

At the film's conclusion, the opposing forces have been obliterated by a showdown between the law and anarchy. Marshal Earp's job is completed and he leaves town on horseback (with his brother Morgan in a small buckboard) headed for California. They are taking their brothers' bodies home to their Pa. Wyatt stops at the crest of the hill at the outskirts of Tombstone - in front of him, the road stretches endlessly into the distance, as Clementine, the new schoolmarm [another symbol of the civilizing of the West] waits for him within the town's fence. They speak together for the last time. Wyatt tells her that he and the other surviving Earp son have chosen to leave to tell their Pa 'what happened' rather than stay around to finish civilizing Tombstone:

Clementine: There's so many things I wanted to say and now nothing seems appropriate.
Wyatt: Yes, ma'am, uh, yeah I know. The mayor says you might be stayin' here a while, maybe helpin' get a school started.
Clementine: Yes, I'm the new schoolmarm.
Wyatt: That's mighty nice, ma'am. Me and Morg are goin' out to see Pa, tell him what happened. I might come East again, get some cattle, maybe stop by here again.
Clementine: Stop by the schoolhouse?
Wyatt: Yes, ma'am. I sure will. (Wyatt kisses her affectionately on the cheek.) Goodbye, ma'am. (Wyatt extends his hand for a handshake.)
Clementine: Goodbye.

After he fulfilled his part of the commitment to tame the land, Wyatt, the classic mythic hero returns to the wilderness, prefering to live apart. After vaguely half-promising to return to the community, Wyatt turns and mounts his horse. Before riding off, he delivers the film's final line while saluting her with his hat:

Ma'am, I sure like that name - Clementine.

As he rides away, Clementine waves and then stands in the road to watch his figure shrink smaller and smaller as it moves on a long, vertical road toward a distant monument and the horizon. A harmonica plays the tune of western folk ballad 'Oh My Darling Clementine' again as the film fades with the cowboy chorus singing:

I'll be loving you forever, Oh My Darling Clementine.

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