My Darling Clementine ★★★★

Enchantingly languid Ford western freely springs from some of the most iconic legends of that genre's iconography -- Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the OK Corral, the Clantons -- but renders it casually and calmly (and fictitiously) enough to present it as slightly heightened life in progress, to the point that one's historical interest is almost totally subsumed by fascination with the characterizations and, as usual in Ford's best films, their complex relationships. A healthy part of this is the robust, quietly stoic central performance of Henry Fonda as Earp, as well as those of Cathy Downs and Linda Darnell as Holliday's love interests; and as in Stagecoach, the meaningful glances shared among these parties would be material enough for a very long book. The incremental pacing makes for a sumptuous world indeed; and of course, it's one of the most beautiful of all Hollywood films thanks to Joseph MacDonald's irresistibly florid photography of Monument Valley, with clouds recontextualizing the entire dream in a manner only possible in black & white and Academy ratio. This is multifaceted, tangential storytelling in the classic American folk tradition, driven by personality and freeing myths from the weight of legend.

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