It S The Earps Vs. The Clantons While Doc Holliday Hangs In The Balance In The Film, My Darling Clementine Essay, Research Paper
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 na ve 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 cattle through the rough terrain near Tombstone. The music in the background dawns a sinister theme so that the viewer knows that these men can t be trusted. Old Man Clanton indirectly encourages Wyatt to go into Tombstone that night so the Clanton boys can eventually steal the Earp s herd since it couldn t be bought. When they see Wyatt later on, the Clantons act uneasy and make it clear that they are the main suspects for the crime of rustling and murder. Also, they accentuate the protagonist role of Wyatt when he tells them his name. They wonder what kind of trouble they got themselves into when they find out that they miffed the famous sheriff from the East.
The Clantons do many things to accentuate their sinister role and keep the viewer guessing when their guns are going to come out blazing. The Clanton boys keep the Shakespeare actor hostage when they ve had too much to drink. Ike deliberately tries to defy Wyatt and keep the actor when Wyatt delivers justice to the situation. Later on, the Clantons line up at the bar in a menacing manner right before Wyatt chases after Doc Holliday. To add a nice touch, Old Man Clanton cracks his whip to indicate they he would like to have his boys served.
However, toward the end of the film, the Clantons get to be less subtle. We find out that Billy Clanton killed James, which then triggers him to shoot Chihuahua. After that, Billy is mortally wounded by Virgil, but Virgil then walks right into a trap and Old Man Clanton kills him with a shotgun blast. The Clantons then drop off the dead Virgil and indicate the battleground, the O.K. Corral, where the family feud would be settled. Chihuahua then dies from Billy s gunshots, which then brings Doc Holliday into the feud. After the gunfight ensues, Old Man Clanton tries yet another one of his miserable tricks and gets killed immediately.
So where does Doc Holliday belong in all this? Well, it is hard to say until he joins the Earps at the end to help them avenge James, Virgil, and Chihuahua. At the beginning of the film it seems almost as if Doc would act as the antagonist in this story, however he never really gets under the skin of Wyatt enough for anything violent to transpire (except for the misunderstanding which led to Wyatt beating him in a gunfight). Doc Holliday seems to be a man that once was something greater, but somehow lost it along the way. He doesn t quite seem himself when he is bullying people around and being generally unpleasant. His actions definitely make one wonder about where his life went wrong.
When Wyatt first gets to meet Doc Holliday, he throws the card dealer out for the second time. Soon after this, Wyatt is forced to confront him because the card game dissolves. Doc then proceeds to threaten Wyatt with the statements relating to the size of graveyards in the area. However, Doc does seem to be somewhat of a gentlemen throughout the confrontation. He buys the Marshal a drink, but eventually draws his gun on Wyatt. After finding out that Wyatt is somewhat strict and old-fashioned with his law enforcement, he states, I see we re in opposite camps marshal. Draw! Then, after meeting the other Earps, he buys them all a drink and invites Wyatt to go to the Shakespeare play. He really keeps the viewer wondering what s going to set him off next. One could say he s a bit bipolar.
So after the Earps and Holliday seem to have had a good time, they head over to the theater to find that the actor is missing and the show can t go on. When they find the Shakespeare actor at the mercy of the Clantons, they listen to him recite the Hamlet speech. Strangely, when the actor seems too tired to continue, Holliday takes over until his cough takes hold of him. He appears to be a cultured man, however he seems to be in a strange place for such worldly tastes. Here we learn for the first time that there indeed must be something more to Doc Holliday.
This theme is continued when Clementine, a very pure-seeming woman from out-of-town, arrives and makes Wyatt realize that there is more to know about Doc than he had previously suspected. He takes a liking to Clementine, showing just how honest and true she must be. To the viewer this must seem strange since she appears to be very proud of Doc Holliday. Why is Doc acting like a scoff-law if he s really a brilliant, educated surgeon?
Well, not clearing anything up, Doc explains to Clementine, I ll give you the truth. The man you once knew is no more. There s not a vestige of him left nothing He never bothers to say why, when, or how this transformation occurred, but it is clear that he is not the man he used to be. Clementine tries to persuade him that he is simply running away from himself, which most likely is the case. If there is another reason, we certainly never learn about it. After the confrontation with Clementine, Doc scoffs, Doctor John Holliday and then proceeds to smash one of his degrees in drunken frustration. Later, Wyatt has to put him to bed to keep him from doing something completely irrational.
Doc does a lot of things that make him seem unstable and even put him under suspicion for the murder of James, not to mention the loss of the cattle. Doc, like a teenager, has an outburst where he tells Clementine to get out of town in front of the church crowd. Earlier he had told Chihuahua that he would take her to Mexico, but he takes off the next without her. When Chihuahua goes hysterical and causes a commotion in Clementine s room, Wyatt gets her under control and then finds James chingadara on her. She then places the blame on Doc, and everything seems to fall into place. Little does Wyatt know that all the evidence is merely circumstantial besides Chihuahua s claim (which turns out to be false).
Poor Doc can t even live up to his contrived reputation and looses the gunfight which ensues after Wyatt s long chase after him. But once Chihuahua s lie is cleared up and she is shot, Doc gets his chance to actually do some good. His operation seems successful, but eventually proves inadequate when Chihuahua passes away. Doc then scoffs again, Doctor John Holliday and then wonders, When do we start? referring to the gunfight versus the Clantons at the O.K. Corral. However, Doc fails (once again) in the fight because of his cough. Actually, he does manage to shoot one of the brothers, but nonetheless, comes out as performing quite patheticly.
So Doc Holliday does clear his name and is removed from suspicion to join the protagonists in this film. However, he is not made of the same stuff as the Earp brothers are. Doc did not succeed as either scoff-law or surgeon in the film. It really makes Wyatt s statement, What kind of a town is this anyway? make a lot of sense. What kind of man is Doc anyway? It really seems clear that he was running away from himself, and his ineffective surgery could be attributed to lack of practice since he left the East. The alternative does not seem likely; Doc Holliday was not a successful scoff-law in any way (at least for the duration of My Darling Clementine ). It seems that he hurt Clementine because he was afraid of success. Maybe he didn t like the fast-paced lifestyle of a doctor, however being a thug can t be much of a relaxing occupation. Doc Holliday, if he had the chance to live, might have been able to muster up some semblance of his productive life. However, in this film he did nothing but follow a somewhat downward spiral.