Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Tall T

I recorded all four of the movies aired last night in the TCM salute to Randolph Scott. I think all four are available on DVD, so I'll start off with a post on the first one aired, The Tall T.

Scott plays Pat Brennan, whom we see at the film's opening riding up to the local stagecoach line station. Pat knows the station-master and his son, and Pat is becoming a sort of neighbor to them as he's taken a nearby ranch which he plans to operate and build up. To do that, however, he's going to need a bull to inseminate whatever cows he has, and to get that, he's going to have to see his old boss, Tenvoorde.

Tenvoorde drives a hard bargain and would franly like Brennan back as a ranch foreman since Brennan was the best one he ever had. Instead, he engages in a bet with Brennan, his bull for Brennan's horse, which is just a set up for Brennan to lose his horse and get to the next piece of action. While Brennan was in town before going to see Tenvoorde, he met stagecoach driver Rintoon (Arthur Hunnicutt), who was getting badgered by bookkeeper Mims (John Hubbard) about hiring a private coach to take him and his new wife to Bisbee for their honeymoon. It turns out that the new Mrs. Doretta Mims (Maureen O'Sullivan) is the daughter of the man with the biggest copper claim in the territory, and so fabulously wealthy as a result. No wonder Mims would want the plain spinster when nobody else seemed to.

Anyhow, Brennan had to walk back to his ranch having lost his horse, which is how he meets up with Rintoon driving the private coach hired by Mr. Mims. They stop at the station where Brennan is hoping to borrow a horse, and find that the station is deserted. Or, at least, the station master and his son don't respond to calls. It turns out that there are three men there, led by outlaw Frank Usher (Richard Boone), and Usher had planned to hijack the stagecoach. He just didn't realize that there was going to be a private coach stopping at the station before the regularly scheduled coach.

So now he's got four hostages he doesn't know what to do with. Thankfully, it's about to become three since Rintoon plays the hero and gets himself shot for it. However, Usher also has a pair of accomplices in Billy Jack (Skip Homeier) and Chink (Henry Silva) he doesn't particularly like. Usher doesn't like to kill, while the other two are gun happy and talk incessantly about women. But Usher is in a bit of luck when he learns about Doretta's rich father....

The Tall T is a taut, well-made little western. Pretty much everybody in the movie does a good job with their role, although I didn't particularly care for the fact that Rintoon was on the irritating side. I don't know whether that was Hunnicutt's fault, or the way the character was written. The story is also well-plotted, being based on a story by Elmore Leonard. The cinematography on the print TCM ran seemed slightly uneven to me: excellent on the long shots, but a bit off on both some of the close shots and the credits, where the background scenes behind the credits seemed a bit grainy. Perhaps that was just my eyes.

All in all, I can recommend The Tall T to any fan of westerns, and am happy to see that the prices on the DVDs are good (although that may mean the prints aren't as good).

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