The Tin Star (1957) Henry Fonda, Anthony Perkins, Betsy Palmer, Michel Ray, Neville Brand Movie Review

The Tin Star (1957)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Henry Fonda in The Tin Star (1957)

A Shining Star

Bounty hunter Morg Hickman (Henry Fonda) arrives in town with a dead outlaw on his spare horse looking to claim the bounty on the man. But he quickly realises that not only is his presence in the town unwelcome but Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins), the acting town sheriff, is young, inexperienced and bullied by the town's businessmen. With no room at the hotel Morg ends up staying on the outside of town at the home of widow, Nona Mayfield (Betsy Palmer), who is equally unwelcome in the town due to having been married to an Indian. But Morg has a secret, he use to be a sheriff and when Ben discovers this he asks Morg to teach him how to be a good sheriff who despite thinking Ben is foolish agrees to teach him all he knows which is more than how to use a gun.

Character depth, acting and beautiful cinematography are the three ingredients which make Anthony Mann's "The Tin Star" a shining star, a movie which to be honest takes you by surprise due to the camera work which is rich in depth and detail. The amazing thing is that "The Tin Star" is not the most action packed of westerns, it ends with some spectacular action but along the way the action is quite sparse and in place of it is the wisdom of the old bounty hunter knowing human nature.

Anthony Perkins in The Tin Star (1957)

So what does that really mean? Well it starts with Henry Fonda bringing that wisdom to the roll of Morg Hickman and making him a man who you can see has studied human nature, who has come across all types of people and knows how to be the nice guy but also the guy prepared for trouble. This makes his interactions with Anthony Perkins so fascinating because Perkins makes Ben perfectly naive but enthusiastic. And there is this almost education we receive as Morg teaches Ben, such as when there is a brawl in the bar with Morg stopping Ben from interfering, pointing out the brawlers are not wearing guns and so won't amount too much. At the same time we also see Morg and Nona Mayfield become close as we discover Morg use to have a wife and child whilst she feels unwelcome by some.

All of the great acting in "The Tin Star" and also the writing is served well by director Anthony Mann and cinematographer Loyal Griggs who framed pretty much every shot brilliantly. From watching Ben walk across the street through the window of his office to a camera following Ben and Morg through a swinging saloon door it is all beautiful and attention grabbing. But then so is the frequent close ups we get of Henry Fonda which work perfectly to highlight the characters seen it all wisdom.

What this all boils down to is that "The Tin Star" is a wonderful western which stands up well when watched today, 60 years after its release. And the reason it is still a brilliant western is thanks to the character depth, acting and beautiful cinematography.