Clara Clayton

Clara Clayton


name=Clara Clayton
role=Doc's girlfriend/wife
movies="Part III", ""
film=Mary Steenburgen
tv=Mary Steenburgen

Clara Clayton is a fictional character, one of the lead characters in the "Back to the Future" motion picture trilogy, played in "Back to the Future Part III" and voiced in the by Mary Steenburgen.

Clara was born in 1855 in New Jersey, the daughter of Daniel and Martha Clayton. Her uncle, Ulysses S. Clayton, was a general in the American Civil War. She is a schoolteacher, living and working in the schoolhouse outside Hill Valley. Clara is a very independent woman and will not take much fuss from anyone, especially Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. Clara does not like being lied to and believes that people should tell the truth. She often saves the day after coming up with ideas; she does, however, try and take actions that will help her or other people avoid dangerous situations in the first place.

Clara is a very intelligent woman. Her favorite author is Jules Verne, and she is very interested in astronomy and science. One of her favorite possessions is her telescope, which she often uses to look at the stars, and she appears to know where a lot of the constellations are. Clara is a thinker and most of the time will think things through. If she believes something to be too "wacky" or too fantastic to be believed, she will not believe it (such as when Doc tried telling her about the time machine).

Pre-"Back to the Future Part III"

When Clara was 11, she caught diphtheria and was quarantined for three months, so her father bought her a telescope and put it next to her bed so she could see everything out the window. This ignited a love of science and astronomy that would stay with her for the rest of her life.

Little is known about her life between 1861 and 1885, except she became a schoolteacher and has been doing the job for some years before 1885. When she heard that the position of the new schoolteacher in Hill Valley was available, she decided to leave New Jersey behind and head out west to start a new life in California (she may have been influenced by her parents, who met on the Oregon Trail according to the animated series, although this detail is not taken as canon by many fans).

A draft script (set in 1888 rather than 1885) said that Clara was a widow from Silver City, but this is not applicable to the finished film.

"Back to the Future Part III"

Originally, on September 4, 1885, Clara moved out to Hill Valley, California, taking up a job as a schoolteacher. But as no one had come to pick her up, she rented a horse and cart. However, the horses were spooked by a snake, and she fell into Shonash Ravine, which was renamed Clayton Ravine in her memory.

These events were altered when Emmett "Doc" Brown arrived in 1885 in his De Lorean time machine. Doc volunteered to pick up Clara from the train station, where they met and fell in love at first sight. Sadly, within a week Doc was shot in the back by Buford Tannen, and died two days later. Clara helped pay for Doc's tombstone, engraving it with "Beloved Clara". Marty McFly finds this tombstone in 1955 with the 1955 Doc and heads back to 1885 to save the 1985 Doc from being murdered.

As such, Doc did not go to pick up Clara at the station - if he never meets her, he cannot fall in love with her - and as before, Clara hired a horse. It was spooked by the snake, but luckily for Clara, Doc and Marty were around to save her life, without knowing who she was. Once again, Clara and Doc fell in love at first sight, which caused problems for Marty who was anxious to get back home to 1985. Doc and Clara attended the Hill Valley festival on September 5, 1885 and spent the night watching the stars through her telescope. They discovered a common love for the novelist Jules Verne. Doc realized the next day, as he and Marty conversed while they set up the De Lorean for its trip home that he had to say goodbye to Clara and go back to the future. He tried telling her where he was going, but she did not believe him and slapped him.

The next morning, September 7, Clara decided to leave for good on a one-way train ticket. However, a couple of fellow passengers sitting behind her talked about how Doc was truly heartbroken over the events of the previous day. Clara brought the train to an emergency halt and ran back to Doc's workshop. She discovered that Doc was telling the truth after seeing the demonstration model on how the time machine was going to return them to the future. She took a horse from the stables and left to catch up with Doc and Marty, who had "borrowed" a train to push the De Lorean up to 88 mph. Clara found the detached passenger cars of the locomotive they took, and hurried down the track to reach it. She caught up to the train on horseback and reached out for the ladder on the tender. Just as her gloved hand grasped it, the first "presto" log exploded, causing Clara to fly up in the air and land safely on the ladder.

Clara climbed up the ladder and saw Doc on the side of the locomotive. She tried to get his attention, but he couldn't hear her because of the loud noise of the locomotive. She continued to slowly crawl along the logs of firewood until the second presto log exploded, knocking her backward. She recovered and managed to get into the cab where she blew the locomotive's whistle, thus alerting Doc and Marty to her presence. Clara proclaimed her love for Doc, prompting a discussion between him and Marty. Marty informed Doc that they were past the "point of no return," and Doc consequently decided he would take Clara with them to the future.

Doc convinced a hesitant Clara to climb out of the cab. She gave a look down at the churning wheels before mounting herself on the seat of the cab. She swung her legs out and over the seat to carefully step her high-heeled boots on the thin, precarious ledge. Doc approached Clara as she kept inching the tips of her boots along the ledge to his encouragements. Clara continued to come closer, grasping a metal bar with her gloved hands, and the lovers were soon close enough to reach one another.

Right as their hands were about to touch, the last presto log suddenly exploded. The metal bar Clara was holding onto broke, and her boots slipped off the ledge. However, Clara's fall was broken when her long dress became caught on part of the locomotive's running board. The dress began to rip from Clara's weight. With Clara's dress ripping more with each passing moment, Marty hurriedly sent Doc his hoverboard. Doc caught it and made his way over to Clara, grabbing her just as the dress tore completely from the running board. They hovered off into the distance as Marty watched and he was forced to go back to 1985 without them.

The De Lorean had been destroyed by a train once back in 1985 (Marty having gotten out in the nick of time) so he could not come back to 1885 to pick up Doc and Clara. As such Doc started work on a new time machine built into a steam train, as neither he nor Clara (who should have been dead) belonged in 1885. The two married on December 15, 1885 in a small ceremony. Since everyone believed that "Clint Eastwood" (Marty's chosen alias in 1885) perished in the ravine, in 1985, the ravine is called Eastwood Ravine, instead of Clayton Ravine (since Clara never perished).

Over the next 10 years, Doc and Clara worked on the train as their family grew. Clara gave birth to the couple's first son, Jules in 1886, followed by younger brother Verne in 1888. Eventually the time machine was finished, and the Brown family left the 1880s to travel to the future (where the train would be fitted with a hover conversion), and later to 1985 to visit Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker, before departing for times unknown.


The animated series reveals that Clara, along with the rest of the family, moved to the 20th century. The Browns live in a farmhouse outside of Hill Valley by 1991 and Clara has settled into 20th Century life very well, and became a teacher at Hill Valley Elementary. She occasionally joins her husband, sons, or Marty on their time travel adventures.

Memorable quotes

*"I believe you've underestimated me, Mister." - to Buford Tannen, who suggests she can "do something for him worth eighty dollars".
*"Golly" - upon falling on her backside on top of the fast moving train.
*"Not bad - for a mom!" - upon playing Verne's video games in the animated series' episode, "Bravelord and the Demon Monstrux".

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