My Classic Movie Pick: Tall in the Saddle

The kitchen floor remodeling/painting of the walls/new pantry cupboard/new sink faucets installed is all completed.  It was done in time to welcome the grandparents to our home as we all gathered recently  to celebrate child #3’s graduation from high school.  3 graduated, 4 to go is my mantra currently!  With all of the hubbub done and calmness and serenity back in my life, it’s back in the blogging saddle for me and I know of no better way to do this than to recommend a classic movie. TAll in the Saddle poster 1In April, over at Turner Classic Movies, the star of the month was John Wayne.  The station aired a lot of his famous movie roles

which  I had seen already.  The station also aired lesser movie roles that Wayne played, in B westerns which he acted in before 1939’s film Stagecoach jumped his career path up a notch.  I decided to watch some of those lesser known films and found one that was made in 1944, RKO Studio’s  Tall in the Saddle.  A western, with a touch of noir, 2 ladies in distress, and Gabby Hayes.  What a fast-moving, fun film it was for me to see. Wayne portrays Rocklin, a cowboy who is traveling to a town in Arizona to begin working on a ranch owned by a Mr. Red Cardell.  Rocklin decides to sit up top with the stagecoach driver, Dave, played by Gabby Hayes.  Now,  I had never seen Hayes in a movie before and only knew him from the caricature of him in Mel Brooks’s comedy tribute to westerns, Blazing Saddles, and in the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, Hayes is mentioned in the lyrics.   Therefore, this was fun for me, to see Hayes in action and he didn’t disappoint, as his Dave loves to drink, is a bit hard to understand with his garbled talk(just a bit, not as exaggerrated as it is in Brooks’s film) and his agreeing with Rocklin that women are nothing but trouble.  Also on the stagecoach to the same Arizona town are the lovely Miss Clara Cardell(Audrey Long) and Miss Cardell’s grumpy aunt, Miss Elizabeth Martin(Elisabeth Risdon).   Miss Cardell is immediately attracted to Rocklin, but she is demure about it and her aunt keeps scolding her for looking at the cowboy!  Aunt Elizabeth is such a grumpy, bossy gal that I kept wanting Miss Clara to tell her off and to get out of her life.  The old aunt does eventually get out of Clara’s life, but not in the way one would expect.

Dave and Rocklin, on the way to AZ, discussing women!

Dave and Rocklin, on the way to AZ, discussing women!

Lovely Clara Cardell

Lovely Clara Cardell

Grumpy Aunt Elizabeth

Grumpy Aunt Elizabeth

The stagecoach eventually reaches its destination and Rocklin finds out that his new boss, Red Cardell, has been murdered; shot in the back.  At this point in the film, Rocklin meets the Harolday family.  Stepdad Harolday(Don Douglas) and his two grown up stepkids: Clint, a weakling who loves to gamble(Russell Wade) and the very strong-willed and hot-headed Arly(Ella Raines).   Arly and Rocklin immediately dislike each other, or at least Arly acts like she does, but we can tell she is also attracted to the new cowboy in town.

Rocklin and Arly, fighting off their dislike for one another

Rocklin and Arly, fighting off their dislike for one another

Rocklin confronting the lawyer about Clara's inheritance.

Rocklin confronting the lawyer about Clara’s inheritance.

Rocklin telling the Haroldays his suspicions about Red's murder.

Rocklin telling the Haroldays his suspicions about Red’s murder.

There are a couple plots weaving their way throughout this movie, which make it an interesting one to view.  First, the murder of Red Cardell and the attempts on Rocklin’s life.  Who commited the crime and who wants Rocklin dead?  Second, the lovely Clara has now inherited her dead Uncle’s ranch.  The grumpy aunt and a low-life lawyer(Ward Bond) join forces to try and steal the inheritance out from under poor Clara.  Rocklin suspects they are up to something and wants to help Clara.  Third, the love triangle in the movie.  Clara likes Rocklin a lot, Arly likes Rocklin a lot, Rocklin likes both ladies and is torn between the two.  It gets resolved but in an unusual way.

Tall in the Saddle is available to buy via TCM’s Shop  and it is also available through Amazon.  There are a few clips and the movie’s original trailer are all on Youtube.  From a serialized story written by Gordon Ray Young that was then adapted for the screen by Paul Fix and Michael Hogan, directed by Edwin L. Marin, seek out Tall in the Saddle to see Wayne in an early star turn, dealing with sneaky, double-crossers, inheritance stealers, two lovely ladies, and Gabby Hayes’s inestimable help.

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