Sunday, May 09, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Tall in the Saddle (1944)

It's Mother's Day, and relaxing and enjoying some of my favorite things includes -- of course -- watching movies!

John Wayne's TALL IN THE SADDLE is a family favorite. While I class ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947) as the Duke's best Western not directed by Ford or Hawks, TALL IN THE SADDLE ranks high among the non Ford and Hawks films for solid Western fun.

Wayne plays Rocklin, who comes into town for a ranch job and finds himself in the middle of all sorts of trouble, especially as the man who had hired him has been killed. The ranch warfare and plot is way too complicated to explain, but needless to say, Rocklin ultimately saves the day.

Fiery Arly (Ella Raines) has a love-hate relationship with Rocklin and can't decide whether to shoot him or kiss him, so she does both. Audrey Long is Arly's sweet rival, Clara. Long is pretty but Raines is amazing; she and Wayne have real chemistry.

The movie has a great cast of Western "faces" and a fast-paced, zippy script with some great lines; Wayne's comeback "Just as hard as I could!" is one of my husband's all-time favorite bits of dialogue. The movie has some wonderful humor; a showdown in a dusty Western street which has an unexpected climax seems to be a forerunner of James Garner's SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969). The movie also has a nice authentic, outdoorsy Western feel.

My main complaint about the film is that Elisabeth Risdon's shrill character, Clara's aunt, veers so far over the top. I prefer the more subtle villainy of Ward Bond's genial yet oily judge.

The supporting actors in the film include familiar faces such as George "Gabby" Hayes, Paul Fix, Emory Parnell, Russell Simpson, George Chandler, Frank Puglia, and Sam McDaniel.

Wayne's friend Paul Fix, as a matter of fact, cowrote the screenplay. It was one of three screenplays or stories he wrote. Fix acted in over 330 films and was the father-in-law of Harry Carey Jr.

This film was directed by Edwin L. Marin. Before moving to RKO Marin had spent a number of years at MGM, where his films included the '38 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. He went on to direct a number of Randolph Scott Westerns of the late '40s and early '50s.

The movie was filmed in then-rural areas of Southern California, including Lake Sherwood and the RKO Ranch, with shooting also taking place in Sedona, Arizona. The running time is 87 minutes.

TALL IN THE SADDLE has been released in a very nice print on DVD.

It's also had a release on VHS.

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