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|Index||17 reviews in total|
Big rancher Alexander Knox has married Joan Leslie former girlfriend of
smaller rancher Randolph Scott. Knox is a brooding jealous sort of man
and wants Scott out the territory. He hires some gunslingers headed by
Richard Rober to do the job.
Scott's a 'peaceable man' in the tradition of Wild Bill Elliott, but don't provoke him too much. But Knox is determined to start a range war out of jealousy.
It becomes an open war after Rober kills brothers Cameron Mitchell and Richard Crane who work for Scott. And the wild part is that Scott's now taken a fancy to Ellen Drew.
A previous reviewer said that Alexander Knox was miscast in a western. True he isn't a typical western actor, but a whole lot of people went west to make names for themselves of all kinds. Knox does a good job of the brooding and jealous rancher with a deep seated inferiority complex.
Now it's also true that Richard Rober is a little too nattily dressed for a villain, but that sure is a western stereotype. I think he made a very good villain in this western. Rober was tragically killed in an automobile accident soon after this picture was finished. A good career in villainy was cut short.
A lot of plot similarities to this and The Violent Men also done by Columbia Pictures a few years later. It's a good entry from the Randolph Scott western collection.
Though "Man in the Saddle" has some effective moments and a few good
action scenes, it is below average for Randy Scott who usually did
better. The high point of the action comes near the beginning of the
movie when the cattle are stampeded with Randy trying to outrun the
herd in a covered wagon that is ablaze. The shoot out at the end is
much too abbreviated only lasting a few minutes. Randy doesn't even get
to duke it out with the hired gunslinger Fay Dutcher (Richard Rober).
What kind of name is Fay for a gunfighter? Owen Merritt (Scott) shoots
Dutcher as he rolls for his gun in the street. The talented actor John
Russell has a fairly nondescript role. He would have been much better
cast as gunman Dutcher.
The story of a love triangle with two women Joan Leslie and Ellen Drew after one man (Scott)is at times overplayed. Exactly what Owen's relationship was with Laurie Bidwell (Leslie) before she married Will Isham (Alexander Knox) for money and power is never revealed. Apparently the two had one hell of a relationship the way it still tugs at their heartstrings and is the continued buzz of the town. The hired gun is not just after more ranch land for his boss but after Owen as well.
Alexander Knox who played President Woodrow Wilson magnificently in "Wilson" several years earlier was thus typecast and unable to find himself in other parts. When he played the boss rancher in "Man in the Saddle" he was still trying to find his way after Wilson. Alfonso Bedoya and veteran cowboy actor Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams do well in the comedy department. Bedoya is a good foil for Big Boy. He continually looks for a new hat. Big Boy tells him he doesn't need a new hat for his head, he needs a new head for a hat. Even Randy Scott gets in on the humor this time and comes across with some funny lines. When Bedoya tells Scott that the trees are talking to him. Scott replies, "You'd better lay off that vanilla extract." When he is hold up with Nan Melotte (Ellen Drew)recuperating from a gunshot wound he feels the stubble on his face and comments, "It's like a coyote running through brush." The usually serious Scott plays a lighter role this go around and it is a plus for this otherwise dark and moody film. Look for Cameron Mitchell of television's "The High Chaparral" in a small part as one of the two brothers murdered by Will Isham's gang.
In the days before Tex Ritter gave immortality to the theme from "High Noon," showing Hollywood how cowboy music should be presented to the public, multi-talented Tennessee Ernie Ford sang the theme to "Man in the Saddle" with much the same feeling of authenticity. He also gets to sing another ballad on camera as one of the wranglers. He's hard to recognize at first because of his youth and no mustache. Tennessee Ernie was singing hillbilly boogie that sounded very much like Rockabilly when Elvis was still driving a truck in Memphis. He ended up concentrating mainly on television, retiring early from show business, except to cut a gospel album every now and then. "Man in the Saddle" is one of his few screen appearances.
Though not up to par for a Randolph Scott western, still worth seeing for fans of 50's westerns.
Man in the Saddle is directed by Andre De Toth and adapted to
screenplay by Kenneth Gamet from the novel written by Ernest Haycox. It
stars Randolph Scott, Joan Leslie, John Russell, Ellen Drew, Alexander
Knox, Richard Rober and Guinn Williams. Music is by George Duning and
cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.
More known and rightly lauded for the series of Western films he made with Budd Boetticher, it often gets forgotten that Randolph Scott also had a long working relationship with Andre De Toth. Man in the Saddle was the first of six Western films the two men would make together, and it's a pretty impressive start.
Sometimes you see words such as routine and standard attributed to a lot of Westerns from the 1950s, and Man in the Saddle is one such film that's unfairly tarred with that brush. Not that the narrative drive is out of the ordinary, the plot essentially sees Randy as a peaceful farmer forced to get nasty when evil land baron flexes his muscles, but the zest of the action, the stunt work, the colour photography (Lone Pine as always a Mecca for Western fans) and Scott, mark this out as a thoroughly entertaining production.
Characterisations carry a bit more psychological smarts than your average "B" Western of the era. There's a four way tug-of-love-war operating that is clearly going to spell misery, pain and death for somebody, a capitalist slant that bites hard with its egotistical bully boy overtones, while the obsessive behaviour of the principal players adds another dark cloud over this part of the West. Then there is the action scenes, of which De Toth once again shows himself to be a darn fine purveyor of such directional skills.
And so, we get an ace runaway blazing wagon sequence, a stampede, a quite brilliant gunfight in a darkened saloon, a mano-mano fist fight that literally brings the house down and then continues down a steep ravine, and the closing shoot-out played out during a dust storm doesn't lack for adrenalin rushes. Scott is once again a bastion of Western coolness, more so when he throws off the bright attire he wears for the first half of film, to then switch to black clothes that signifies he's going all bad ass on those who have caused him grief.
Undervalued for sure, both as a Scott picture and as a Western movie in general. Don't believe the routine and standard scare mongers, there's good craft here and it's a whole bunch of Oater fun. 7.5/10
Joan Leslie loves Randolph Scott but marries wealthy Alexander Knox. The super jealous Knox isn't satisfied having Joan; he also wants Scott dead. So he hires gunmen to kill him. Scott survives the attack and is nursed back to health by Ellen Drew, who's in love with him. Once better he sets out to settle things with Knox and his hired guns. So-so western soaper has a nice cast but doesn't rise above average. Scott's fine, as is most of the cast. Hard to buy sweet Joan Leslie as hard and ambitious. This is one of those westerns where the good guy wears a bright yellow neckerchief and the bad guy wears black gloves. Watchable but forgettable.
Average Scott western, at best. There're some darn fine Lone Pine
vistas that aren't usually seen, plus mountain scenes from southern
Sierras. That's one thing about well-produced westerns the scenery can
sustain even when all else falters. Scott, of course, is Scott,
strong-jawed and humorless, carrying the film even when the congested
script doesn't. The plot's pretty familiar, rich landowner taking over
hero's land, along with a number of subplots. Then too, we've got not
just one ingénue, but two. Leslie and Drew may be malt shop girls from
the 40's but they do well enough here. I'm glad their hair color
differs, otherwise they would be hard to tell apart.
I'm with those who think Rober and Knox too bland to compete with Scott. Also, I agree that Russell would have made a much more vivid villain; too bad he's wasted in what looks like a tacked-on role. And catch how easily Bedoya goes from clown to menace, even without "stinkin' badges". I really did expect sharper results from ace director DeToth. Given the right material, he can be quite affecting, as his western masterpiece Ramrod (1948) proves. As Andrew Sarris points out, few movie makers had a better feel for human treachery than the eye-patch Hungarian. My guess is he regarded the script as little more than a vehicle for Scott, though a few nice fringe touches do emerge, such as the straggler who gets in the way of the showdown.
All in all, the oater's too sprawling in both cast and story to achieve anything more than a scenic time passer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a small lake that straddles the boundary separating Will
Isham's Skull Ranch and Pay Lankershim's land. Isham (Alexander Knox),
a powerful, determined and jealous megalomaniac, offers $50,000 cash if
Pay sells his ranch to him this night, Isham's wedding night. It's
worth maybe $9,000. There's enough water for both our herds, Pay says.
"You don't get the idea," Isham says with a tumbler of brandy in his
hand. "I'd only own half a lake. I don't own half of anything,
Lankershim. I own it all, lock, stock and barrel. That goes for
anything. Whatever I have is mine and mine alone. I'll share with no
Now Skull's boundary is up against Owen Merritt's land...and it will only be a matter of time before Isham goes after Owen (Randolph Scott). He's even brought in a hired gun to speed things along. And the woman Isham just married? Turns out Laurie Bidwell (Joan Leslie) is the woman Owen loves. She made her choice, however, because she wanted position and money, and that meant Isham, not Owen. After Owen nearly gets killed in a stampede engineered by Isham's men, Laurie is beginning to have doubts about her choice. She'd better remember what Isham told Pay: "Whatever I have is mine alone. I'll share with no one."
When Owen's men start getting killed, he decides to do some killing of his own. It's not long before it's just Owen Merritt against the power of Skull, and that means Will Isham and his hired guns. Thank goodness Owen has a few loyal ranch hands and one friend, spunky, feisty Nan Melotte, the blonde young owner of a small ranch next to Owen's. We know things are going to get much rougher in the next hour.
Man in the Saddle may be a B western, but it's a Randolph Scott B western. With me, that usually means a strong story even with clichés, most often a good villain or two, enough action to quickly pass the time and, of course, Scott. He was a big guy who could come across as grim, judgmental and dead serious. He also had perfected the persona of an honorable man of action. He had the screen presence to carry even B westerns. He had no trouble dominating his films, even when playing against an alpha male like Lee Marvin. I've always found a good deal of pleasure watching a Randolph Scott western.
Joan Leslie has a much more complicated character to play than most B movie westerns call for. Her Laurie Isham comes from a hardscrabble past. She loves, in her way, Owen. She marries Isham because she yearns for position and security. She winds up trying to be loyal to both. Leslie manages to carry it off so well we sort of admire Laurie and how she's trying to handle the fix she's put herself in. To see Joan Leslie at her freshest and friendliest, find a copy of The Sky's the Limit. At barely 18 she stars opposite Fred Astaire and shares a fast, funny song and dance routine with him, "A Lot in Common with You." Leslie just about keeps up with Astaire and he makes it seem easy for her. When she can manage just two air-borne turns (which she does with grace and precision), he hits three but places himself just a little in front of her to disguise the difference.
For those fond of pound-'em-into-the-ground fistfights, Man in the Saddle features a lulu. Scott and John Russell, an equally big guy who plays a man with a vicious temper who has a hankerin' for Nan, start walloping each other in a mountain shack, then slip-slide down a rocky, snow covered mountainside going after each other with fists, rocks and tree limbs. The stunt doubles earned their money with this one.
Man in the Saddle is no classic, but it turns out to be one of the better westerns Scott made during this period.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to say this is one of the better Randolph Scott pictures that
I've seen from his career previous to the "Ranown" films. It has a much
more compelling story than a lot of standard oaters from the 40s and
50s, with not one but two interesting female characters.
Scott plays Owen Merritt, a tough rancher who is provoked into a range war by the uber-competitive Will Isham (Alexander Knox). Isham has married a former flame of Merritt's (Joan Leslie) and can't stand the thought that she might have residual feelings for Merritt. Also in the mix is the more tomboyish Ellen Drew who plays a neighboring rancher who helps Merritt and falls in love with him.
There's a very interesting social subtext to the story with the two women -- the Leslie character is from a poor rural background but wants to escape her history, while the Drew character is more grounded and self-aware and doesn't want to run from her own life. The Knox character is also interesting, psychotic and yet noble. Richard Rober plays the more coldhearted gunslinger who he hires to do his dirty work, and the dynamic between Rober and Knox is interesting as well.
I quite enjoyed it and will gladly watch it again. It's not hugely memorable, and the ending is a bit of a let-down, but it has quite a few nice moments and a good western atmosphere with a more interesting story and characters than most. Andre de Toth's direction is very efficient and stately.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a Randolph Scott Western with a very perplexing ending. The
character of Laurie Bidwell Isham (Joan Leslie) was so inconsistent it
managed to spoil what could have been an effective story. OK, she
married Will Isham (Alexander Knox) for his wealth and ambition after
throwing over Owen Merritt (Scott), the laid back rancher. Having
second thoughts about the whole thing made sense, but after she planned
to run off with Owen and then opted to stay with the heel, that just
ripped it. For the writers, it seemed like a necessary angle for
Scott's character to close the deal with Nan Melotte (Ellen Drew), but
it should have been handled a lot more cleverly. Oh well.
Otherwise the story moved along at a nice pace and delivered it's share of action and suspense. One thing that seems virtually impossible to me though, and it's happened in a handful of Westerns I've seen, is how easily one can disengage the hitch on a runaway wagon the way Owen did in this one. It's often done with railroad cars as well, and I bet if you tried it yourself you'd strike out a hundred out of a hundred times because of the pressure forces at work.
I saw John Russell's name in the opening credits and darn if I didn't recognize him when he showed up as the taciturn henchman Hugh Clagg. The picture staged a fairly impressive one on one between Russell and Scott, that had to be carried outside after the cabin they were in fell apart. Seriously, you have to see it for yourself. They had a nice tumble down the hillside as well, but I had to wonder why Clagg's horse would have been waiting for him where he landed to make a getaway. Just like I wondered how Owen and Nan managed to drive their wagon up the mountain in the first place. If there was a clear trail to that cabin, why didn't Clagg use it to get there?
But tell you what, Randolph Scott didn't let me down in the wardrobe department. He donned his trademark all black outfit for the final showdown with the baddies, complementing it with a nice bandanna flourish. Bad guy Isham didn't make it to the end of the picture, so you're left to wonder whether Laurie wound up selling out to Merritt after he closes with Nan in a clinch. And steenkin' badges aside, Alfonso Bedoya fulfills his picture long wish to get a new hat.
I love Randolph Scott westerns and have seen most of his films.
However, unlike the vast majority of his wonderful films, this one left
me feeling rather indifferent. Some of it is because the plot is oh so
familiar, some of it is because the villains aren't particularly
believable or interesting (Alexander Knox and Richard Rober were simply
too bland for their roles) but I think a lot of it was because the
motivations of the baddies were just too vague. It was like they were
bad because they were caricatures--not real people. Sure, Knox's
character was supposed to be jealous...but this didn't seem enough to
explain his actions. And, oddly, for once, Randolph Scott also seemed
aimless--at least for part of the film.
Another problem, and I've seen this in a couple other Scott films is that the stunt doubles simply didn't look like the people they were doubling for in the film. While the difference between the stunt man and Scott wasn't as bad as the one in I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA!, it was pretty close. Again and again during the fight at the cabin by the waterfall, you could clearly see it wasn't him.
Despite all these problems, I am not saying that this is a bad western---it isn't a particularly inspired or interesting one. And, from Randolph Scott you just wouldn't expect ordinary. This was 100% ordinary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems that all the comments here are somewhat ordinary, and miss
some of the fantastically extraordinary touches of de Toth. True the
western drags in places, but there are moments that only a director of
the quality of de Toth can create. His humor was always very sly, here
no exception. For another instance look at the way he handles Gary
Cooper in Springfield Rifle. But back to the case in point. Near the
start Scott and Williams are about to leave and this 75 year old lady
comes through the door carrying a bundle and says, excuse me gentlemen.
Look at it carefully and you will see it is a fantastic grace note, and
very funny. Then look at the way Scott is rolling a cigarette when
Isham pulls up, talks over his shoulder etc. Also why does Clagg break
a stick to get Ellen Drews attention coming up the hill? Its almost
perverse and never explained. Then the end in as good a dust storm as
was ever filmed short of the one in Treasure of Sierra Madre.
And saving the best for last, the fight scene between Scott and Clagg, is simply stupendous. Over quickly, very real, tense, the long roll down the hill, etc. It may be the best single fight ever on the screen.
These alone raise de Toth into a level reached by very few other directors of westerns. His subtlety is very great: in fact his sense of humor is still, for me, the very best. Nobody better.
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