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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944)

Convoluted John Wayne Western from R.K.O. works its B+ budget plenty hard, churning out heaps of plot, but without enough to show for all the effort & action. Mid-list megger Edwin L. Marin, a shoot first/hope for the best type (he probably just wanted to get home on time) rushes every shot. (Better than dawdling, though.) The story has Wayne hunting down the man (or men) who killed his new employer, with cattle rustling, ranch ownership, card sharps & lowbrow comedy (courtesy of Gabby Hayes) figuring into things. But why is every other guy Wayne meets trying to do him in? A vet supporting cast does well enough, defaulting into standard character mode, but Wayne’s young love interests (bad-girl Ella Raines/good-girl Audrey Long) overact badly. And Marin lets the tone swing so wildly, the story never gains traction, with bits of romance, action or comedy all hit and miss. It’s one of those films that probably played better on old Afternoon-At-The-Movies tv, where commercial interruptions dealt it out piecemeal.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Roy Webb’s score must have gotten into Dmitri Tiomkin’s head. That opening phrase grew into the Oscar nominated theme song from FRIENDLY PERSUASION/’56.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The film provides a rare opportunity to catch Wayne kneading biscuit dough . . . with his fists. He even remembers to flour the ‘cutter.’

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