My Darling Clementine


In the 1940?s, protagonists and antagonists were easily distinguished in America?s Western-style films. However in John Ford?s film, "My Darling Clementine", which depicts the famous story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday?s character is portrayed as an elusive, somewhat ineffective man. Not until one of the final scenes does the viewer have confirmed that Holliday is actually a fair and just man. He then becomes a member of the protagonists with the Earp brothers, although remaining a failure. Along with that, suspicions about the Clanton family aren?t absolutely confirmed until this same point in the film. While the Clanton?s role seems to be that of easily-blamable scoff-laws from the very beginning, Holliday displays character traits that show that he could be or might have once been a cleaner, straighter, and more-distinguished man. Through an exploration of the Earps (mostly Wyatt), the Clanton family (mostly Old Man), and eventually Doc Holliday we will be able to better understand the building tension that occurs in Ford?s "My Darling Clementine".
From the very beginning, it is easy to see that the Earp brothers, especially Wyatt, are pure, brave, and good-natured boys that fit the law-abiding ideal. This is important, because the West was (or, at least, represented) an unregulated area where the law could be bent at virtually any time. For people to be as pure as the Earps seemed very unique, and their name was well respected from Wyatt?s earlier work as Sheriff in another town. Apparently he could clean up a fair-sized city, and the people in Tombstone were certainly excited when they found out he would help out their small, remote oasis with virtually no law enforcement.
As soon as Wyatt tries to get a shave, he realizes that he is not in a quiet, peaceful town. In fact, he is appalled at the state of order in Tombstone. He asks rhetorically, "What kind of a town is this anyway?? A man can?t get a shave without gettin? his head blowed off!" After taking matters into his own hands and solving the problem, he is still frustrated. He scoffs, "What kind of town is this anyway, selling liquor to Indians??" It is made clear at this point in the film that Wyatt is no coward, and he is a man that can get things done.
When confronted by Doc Holliday for the first time, Wyatt is a gentlemen and doesn?t let Doc get to him. However, Wyatt is still frustrated with the condition of peace in the town. He complains, "Well this sure is a hard town for a fella to get a quiet game of poker in." After obliging Doc to have a drink, Doc explains that Tombstone has the "?biggest graveyard west of the Rockies. Marshals and I usually get along much better when we understand that right away." Wyatt remains a gentlemen even when tested in front of a crowd. He is the epitome of patience and self-restraint. However, when Holliday asks if he were to take a notion to break the law, Wyatt calmly explains that he has already, and the law will remain the law. Later in the scene, Wyatt accepts Doc?s invitation to the Shakespeare play to be performed that evening.
Truly taking honor in his new position, Wyatt does many things to maintain order in Tombstone. Some of these things include going out to seek Mr. Shakespeare in order to keep the people from trashing the theater, saving Mr. Shakespeare from Ike and the other Clanton brothers, putting drunken Doc Holliday to bed when he could have been potentially very rowdy, and standing up for Clementine when Doc tells her to get out of town in front of the church crowd.
The other Earp brothers don?t get much of a chance to show their valor, however Virgil is an exception. Showing courage he chases after Billy Clanton who recently had attempted to murder Chihuahua, and even enters to Clanton home to make sure that justice is served. Although this is a more naïve action than something that Wyatt would do, it certainly shows how pure and untainted Virgil was.
While the Earps play the protagonists (Wyatt obviously drawing the focus), the Clantons play the antagonists, and they make it clear from the very start. At the very beginning of the movie, Old Man and Ike Clanton are looking down on the Earps as they drive their