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Saturday, August 25, 2012

THE TALL MEN (1955)

By the time Clark Gable & Raoul Walsh got together for three films in the mid-‘50s, they were running on fumes, especially Raoul. It turned their second & third collaborations into snoozes, but here the casual helming from an increasingly disinterested Walsh gives this standard issue cattle-drive Western a relaxed quality that feels just about right.* Gable and kid brother Cameron Mitchell are a couple of Civil War vets gone bad. They’re all set to rob Robert Ryan when their victim offers up an opportunity instead of a money bag. Drop the stick ups and take charge of the huge herd of cattle Ryan wants to move from Texas to Montana. Along the way, they pick up feisty Jane Russell and wind up fighting over her, a big outfit of cattle marauders & most of the Sioux Nation on the trip back North. The scale of the production scale is huge, but just about everything else is pretty basic with a tone light enough to let Russell sing a bit & show off her spectacular curves in a corset as a chain of none too surprising story points play out. The current DVD looks a bit dull in the first half, but improves noticeably once we hit the trail. And a triple twist ending winds things up in a quick, satisfying fashion. Sometimes a lack of artistic ambition is just the ticket for an old fogey Hollywood vet.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *The late Westerns of Howard Hawks, like his underrated EL DORADO/’66, cultivate a similar ‘strolling’ quality. And this film’s producer turns out to be Howard’s kid brother William Hawks.

DOUBLE-BILL: Compare this drive North with Walsh’s early-Talkie drive West in his static, but handsome 70mm THE BIG TRAIL/’30 with young John Wayne in buckskin.

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