Getting Randy in the Saddle
Rancher Owen Merritt (Randolph Scott) use to date Laurie (Joan Leslie) but unfortunately Owen was never ambitious enough for her and things ended between them despite the fact they loved each other. It is why Owen finds himself in an awkward situation as Laurie has married neighbouring rancher Will Isham (Alexander Knox) because he has the same drive and ambition as she does. Knowing that there is still something between Owen and Laurie, Will hires gunman Fay Dutcher (Richard Rober) to try and intimidate Owen and scare him off his land and out of the area. Whilst Owen is a man of peace he isn't the sort of man to back down when pushed and whilst he has since become close to Nan Melotte (Ellen Drew) he isn't going to let anyone try and boss him off his land.
Randolph Scott made over 100 movies in his time and I wouldn't be surprised if half of them were westerns. Unfortunately unlike western icon John Wayne when it came to Scott's westerns he always ended up playing the same sort of role in the same sort of movies which unfortunately makes them a bit of a blur. That brings to me "Man in the Saddle" an enjoyable movie for western fans but one which uses an incredibly familiar storyline featuring a wealthy rancher trying to ride rough shod over other ranchers to get their land. Now in fairness "Man in the Saddle" builds this typical storyline out of a jealousy over the closeness of a wife with a former lover but even that is not that original and as such "Man in the Saddle" ends up little more than some familiar western cliches spliced together in an effective manner.
Now back to Randolph Scott and unfortunately as this is one of those movies where he plays the really nice guy it does end up a bit cheesy. Part of the trouble is that when Scott played this sort of role; the clean faced, rosy cheeked rancher who has his hat tied neatly in a bow under his jaw he looks too much like a sap who doesn't look like he belongs in the west. Like always Scott grows the character to show a darker side but it is a hard slog to get there.
In truth Scott's performance is as typical as everyone else's and whilst both Joan Leslie and Ellen Drew play their parts well with Joan Leslie bringing the ruthless, ambitious side of her character to the surface it is a case that this is a movie from a time where they were mainly cast for their looks. There is also the small matter of Richard Rober who unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb because as a cocky gunman the costume department have dressed him up in an outfit which looks wrong even for someone trying to make a statement and looks more like a singing cowboy from the 1930's.
What this all boils down to is that for fans of Randolph Scott "Man in the Saddle" is an entertaining little western from the early 1950s. But it is only a typical western with familiar story elements, familiar action and familiar characters which with nothing making it stand out causes it to end up just another Randolph Scott Western.