Wayne's in the Saddle Again
"Tall in the Saddle" is a fascinating western for completely different reasons than it should be. You see "Tall in the Saddle" is a typical b-movie western, good guy rides in to town and a whole lot of trouble with rustlers and crooks, the sort of movie which John Wayne made back in the early 1930's. But because in 1939 John Wayne's star rose with "Stagecoach" this is much more than one of those 60 minute flicks he use to make with a storyline which has more mystery, a better supporting cast and with two pretty young actresses a more interesting romantic subplot. It makes the world of difference especially when it comes to John Wayne because he strides through "Tall in the Saddle" in control rather than delivering the slightly nervous performance from his younger days.
Rocklin (John Wayne - The Fighting Seabees) arrives in the town of Santa Inez where he expects to meet Red Cardell who has hired him as they are having cattle rustling problems. But on arrival he learns that 3 weeks earlier both Red and his foreman had been killed and now his niece Clara (Audrey Long - Indian Uprising) and her domineering aunt Elizabeth (Elisabeth Risdon) are taking over the ranch. Unwilling to work for a woman like Elizabeth he ends up working for the neighbouring ranch where Arleta 'Arly' Harolday (Ella Raines) runs things. Soon Rocklin realises there is some seriously crooked business going on especially when he and his friend Dave (George 'Gabby' Hayes - Dark Command) get shot at leading to Rocklin trying to work out what is going on with so few people he can trust.
So anyone who loves their westerns will appreciate "Tall in the Saddle" because of what it does with a typical western. The basis of a good guy riding in to town and finding himself in the middle of a lot of trouble, corrupt businessmen, deception and murder is as stereotypical as they come. But all of this is more elaborate, it has mystery, it has a lot of characters who you don't know who to trust and a twist which comes out of nowhere. It makes it a lot more interesting because whilst the outcome is predictable putting all the pieces together is not that simple and you have to watch carefully or else you miss things.
It is also entertaining because this is the sort of western which John Wayne had been making a decade earlier. But in that decade John Wayne had grown, both physically but also in confidence and he strides through "Tall in the Saddle" completely at ease with the storyline and what his character demanded. He was also more confident around women and with two attractive and very opposite love interests Wayne has fun with the strong Arly as well as the genteel Clara.
What also helps "Tall in the Saddle" is the calibre of the supporting cast with the likes of Ward Bond playing his part with the same confidence as Wayne. Plus of course there is the greatest western comedy sidekick of all time George 'Gabby' Hayes as cantankerous Dave who often appeared with Wayne in those westerns from the early 30's. And both Audrey Long as Clara and Ella Raines as Arly not only look stunning but play their very different characters brilliantly especially Raines who's sexy feistiness sends sparks flying from the screen.
What this all boils down to is that "Tall in the Saddle" is a grown up version of a 1930s westerns with more confidence and more intrigue making it more entertaining. It isn't by any means a great western but well worth a watch for fans of westerns and John Wayne.