Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Me and Al
Which is why I was surprised by what happened at our classic movie Meet Up for My Darling Clementine. It was the first time I'd seen this 1946 classic. I was enthusiastic because Henry Fonda is completely adorable, but I don't know as much about the movie or the genre as Ted and Carol, a pair of Western fanatics who met on a blind date more than 25 years ago and married because, as he said, "She said John Ford was her favorite director."
Yet as the Meet Up was winding down, one of the regulars, Jean, made a point of saying, "I'm so glad the Gal and Al are here. I always appreciate what you two have to say."
It made me glow as thought I'd swallowed a moonbeam.
Some of the things I said this week undoubtedly seemed remedial to Ted and Carol. But, since I'd never seen this Western before, I mentioned that the thing that struck me most -- other than rekindling my crush on Henry Fonda -- was how influential it was. There's a scene toward the beginning where Doc Holliday wants to shoot it out with Wyatt Earp. Sheriff Earp/Fonda calmly opens his jacket to show he's not wearing a gun.
"The peace-loving sheriff without a gun!" I gushed. "I've seen that a million times! I thought, 'Andy Griffith.' And then I realized this must be the movie that started the trope! Am I right?"
Then our moderator, Will, shared that Cathy Downs was not the first or even second choice to play the Clementine of the title, I was enthusiastic about the other casting choices -- especially Jeanne Crain -- because they would have provided a more charismatic counterbalance to sultry Linda Darnell. (She dominates the picture. Just look at the poster. That chick is not Clementine.) "Good girls don't have to be dull!" I insisted.
Al talked a lot about Walter Brennan in the supporting role as evilest bad guy ever, which shocked him because Brennan is better known for warm, avuncular types: the pastor in Sgt. York, Lou Gehrig's dad in Pride of the Yankees. He also shared some cool anecdotes about director John Ford (who was quite a character), but most of the discussion was dominated by Ted and Carol.
I don't begrudge Ted and Carol their expertise or their passion for the subject. Not only Westerns in general but the shootout at the OK Corral in particular. They knew who really died that day and what kind of guns were actually used (rifles, not pistols). They even visited Wyatt Earp's grave in California! Besides, this group is about sharing knowledge and passion for old movies. But it did feel like they were the teachers and Al and I (and the other dozen or so attendees) were the pupils.
So it was nice and very unexpected of Jean to say that. I think, perhaps, she wasn't talking about just Tuesday night, but every one of our Meet Ups.
*OK, it's not ambivalence. Can't stand him.