“No, I’ve always been a bartender.”

Here is Jim and I talking about My Darling Clementine, John Ford’s classic Western. Jim brought up the noir connections, and there are many, but one we sort of missed was cinematographer Joseph MacDonald’s pedigree. The visual style of noir wasn’t just something he was emulating, it’s something he helped create. I brought up the true crime connections, in particular the questions about the truth in true crime that came up during our course on the topic. Stuart Lake’s biography of Wyatt Earp, which served as source material for the film, established Earp’s legend among the myths of the Old West, but both Lake and Earp did a lot of embellishing on the truth of his story. Ford was more interested in making a good movie than in any historical accuracy.

The OK Corral is a bit of history that I didn’t know much about. Anything I knew about it came from Star Trek, where Kirk and crew played the part of the Clanton gang:

so I was surprised to see Earp as the good guy. Apparently his career includes stints on both sides of the law though. So what we have in Clementine is a historical event, the shootout, which was made into legend by Earp and Lake, and the legend then loosely dramatized by Ford. In True Crime there were always about the truth of the stories – points of view, what’s left out, what’s emphasized – and here it’s taken to an extreme of making poetry out of myth. But the noir is strong in this one.


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