Posts Tagged ‘Paul Fix’

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.

For The Great Western Blogathon, 1953’s Hondo

Today’s blog post is for The Great Western Blogathon hosted by classic film fan and blogger Thoughts All Sorts.  Be sure to click on the link to read what other classic film fans have written!

I  remember many Saturday evenings as a kid, sitting with my parents and younger brother,  watching a Western on one of the three networks that at that time, in the 1970’s, were the dominant television channels an American could tune into.  My memories seem to tell me that it was NBC that usually aired these Westerns, and of course, the best ones starred John Wayne.   I have seen a lot of Wayne’s Western films over the years, but four years ago on Turner Classic Movies, they aired one I had never heard of before, 1953’s Hondo.   This technicolor movie was directed by John Farrow(father of actress Mia, husband to actress Maureen O’Sullivan), with John Wayne in the lead role as Hondo Lane.    The film was based on a Louis L’Amour short story, The Gift of Cochise.  At 84 minutes, it has an intricate plot, told  at a fast pace that doesn’t lose the viewers interest one iota.  

The plot revolves around 4 characters,with the supporting characters adding to the ebb and flow of the minor sub-plots.  Wayne’s Hondo Lane is a half-breed, working as a message runner for the U.S. Calvary stationed at a fort in the New Mexico territory.  The year of the setting isn’t mentioned, but I would guess it’s after the Civil War.  Lane has a reputation for having killed 3 men the previous year, but we can also tell that Lane is an honorable man and we are on his side from the beginning of the movie; we can safely assume that he killed those 3 men in self-defense.  He does mention his first wife, now deceased, from time to time.   She was a beautiful Native American woman, and her death has added a layer of sadness to Lane’s persona, as well as his views on the treatment of the Native Americans by the white settlers and the U. S. Government.   He can see both sides of the arguments, so to speak, due to his unique heritage. One small side mention about Hondo’s character, he has a dog that is always with him, and I am pretty sure it was played by the dog that played Lassie.  It looks like Lassie with some extra, fake fur strapped to it’s back!

Hondo doing his job, delivering a message.

Geraldine Page, portrays the second character of the film, that of Mrs. Angie Lowe.   Angie’s parents were early settlers to the New Mexico territory, and it is their small ranch that she lives on as she was an only child and the sole inheritor of the property.  She has a husband, Ed, who was an orphan her parents helped raise, and we  learn later that  he isn’t a good person.  Angie is a strong woman, smart, and will do what she can to protect her son from the facts about his father’s choices.  Her son Johnny is the only blessing in her life from her marriage to Ed( Leo Gordon, a tall actor, who often played bad guys in Western movies and television shows.)  Johnny(Lee Aaker) is a typical 6 year old, and while he doesn’t have a lot of lines to say, a subplot does revolve around him involving the 4th main character of this film, Apache Chief Vittorio, played by Michael Pate.

Hondo arriving at the Lowe’s ranch for the first time, to ask for water.

Angie is puzzled about this Hondo guy

Chief Vittorio, strong and in command of his tribe, is  worrying over more and more white settlers that are moving into his territory.  He is not happy that there is a U. S. Calvary presence in the area either.  His second in command, Silva(played by Rodolfo Acosta), is a hot-head who Chief Vittorio often has to rein in.   This tribe of Apaches has always been on good terms with Angie Lowe and her parents, often stopping at the ranch due to it’s having a good source of water.  The Chief, during one of these visits for water, becomes curious as to why Angie’s husband is never around.  He is impressed with Johnny’s bravery at trying to protect his mother during this visit as Silva makes a crude gesture towards her.  Chief Vittorio decides to make Johnny a blood brother with the Apaches, and he also warns Angie that if her husband doesn’t show up soon, that he will come back to take her and her son and raise her son in the Apache way, so that this brave boy will learn to be man.

Chief Vittorio(on the horse) and his aid Silva, warning Angie

Minor characters in the film are: Ward Bond as Buffalo Baker, a fellow message deliverer for the Calvary and Lane’s friend, James Arness(the future Sheriff Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke fame) as Lennie, an Army Indian Scout, Tom Irish as Lt. McKay, a new Calvary officer, and Paul Fix, as Major Sherry, in charge of the fort.

Hondo  begins to wonder why Angie’s husband is never around the ranch

Hondo takes on the good father role for Johnny

Angie and Hondo fall in love!

The aspects of the settlers vs. the Native Americans is portrayed with wisdom, the developing relationship with Lane and Angie is told in a moving way and with restraint.  Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her part in this film.  There is a tangle Lane gets into with a card player he angered that is central to the plot,  his being mistaken as a Calvary soldier that leads to an unfortunate encounter with Chief Vittorio and Silva, and the news that the Apaches may be preparing for an uprising, all this fits into this very well acted Western.    All in all, Hondo is a  very fine film, and Wayne gives a strong and very thoughtful performance.   If you haven’t seen it, seek it out.  It is available on dvd through Amazon, through their instant rent program, and at TCM’s Shop.