The Tin Star (1957)

Approved  |   |  Western  |  31 January 1958 (Finland)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 3,361 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 19 critic

A cynical former sheriff turned bounty hunter helps a young, recently appointed acting sheriff with his advice, his experience and his gun.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Morgan 'Morg' Hickman
Sheriff Ben Owens
Nona Mayfield
Michel Ray ...
Kip Mayfield
Bart Bogardus
Dr. Joseph Jefferson 'Doc' McCord
Mary Webster ...
Millie Parker
Peter Baldwin ...
Zeke McGaffey
Richard Shannon ...
Buck Henderson
Ed McGaffey
James Bell ...
Judge Thatcher
Howard Petrie ...
Mayor Harvey King
Russell Simpson ...
Clem Hall
Hal K. Dawson ...
Andy Miller
Jack Kenney ...
Sam Hodges


Veteran bounty-hunter Morg Hickman rides into a town in danger. The sheriff has been killed, and young inexperienced Ben Owens named a temporary replacement until a permanent can be found. Ben wants to be that permanent replacement, so needs to impress the townspeople with his skill. When he finds that Morg was a sheriff for a long time before he became a bounty-hunter, he asks the older man to teach him. Morg thinks that being a sheriff is a foolish goal, but agrees to instruct Ben in handling people, more important to a sheriff than handling a gun. Written by Ken Yousten <>

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Release Date:

31 January 1958 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Der Stern des Gesetzes  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Throughout the film, Ben is shown wearing two guns, and as Tony Perkins was left handed, whenever he draws his pistol, his left hands is correctly depicted as dominant. Yet at one point in a scene during Ben's search for the McGaffey brothers, his horse with Ben on his back, whirls around to reveal Ben only wearing one gun, and that being holstered on his right hip. See more »


[first lines]
Sheriff Ben Owens: Uh, ju-just getting the feel of these guns.
Morg Hickman: Where's the sheriff?
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User Reviews

As classic as you can get!

The contribution made by Henry Fonda to classic Westerns is incredible : he made his point early with "The Oxbow Incident," his potent presence in "Drums Along the Mohawk"... He was excellent as Wyatt Earp in "My Darling Clementine," even better as the stubborn, mistaken lieutenant-colonel in "Fort Apache " a legendary gunman in "Warlock" and the hardened gunfighter-tutor in Anthony Mann's "The Tin Star."

Fonda plays a solitary-bounty hunter ("I'm not the law. I work inside it for money!") who had once been a sheriff, and who had given up the badge in disgust of the shameful way he had been treated by the citizens in a decisive tragic moment of his life—for which he lost his wife and son...

Fonda is quiet, sure, polite, sincere and appealing... Teaching Michael Ray, it was clear that he knew not only his guns but human nature... He is human, kind, anxious, worry and tender with the young boy...

Anthony Perkins is attractive in his doubts about taking action or decision... He is naïve and innocent, also incompetent for the job of an officer responsible for law and order... He always looks to Fonda for leadership, but he is eager to be a firm sheriff...

The conversation between Fonda and Perkins are the heart of the movie, which deals more with character than Gunplay: "You got to keep cool and have absolute confidence. You lack confidence." "A decent man does not want to kill. But if you're gonna shoot, you shoot to kill." "Study men. A gun is only a tool. You can master a gun if you got the knack. Harder to learn man."

The film had racism: When Bogardus kills the Indian, in the back, outside the saloon, he says: "No sheriff will disarm a white man for shooting a mingy Indian.You, an Injun lover?"

Betsy Palmer plays Nona Mayfield, a woman compelled to live outside the town because she married an Indian: "I'm just so used to everybody hating Indians."

The film had also intuition and humor:

  • Kip Mayfield to Fonda: "Don't I look like a sheriff?" And Fonda

replying: "You look more like a sheriff than the sheriff does."

Abbe Pickett, after being a father for eleven girls and now to a boy, asks: "You sure it ain't another girl?" and the doc replies: "Well, I hope I'm not too old to know the difference."

John McIntire is fine as the old doc whose big dream was: "I wish you two to get together."

Neville Brand enjoys oppressing, intimidating and persecuting...

Anthony Mann's "The Tin Star" is strong on location work, tense, realistic, technically competent... The film had dusty action, and a picturesque old town with its bank, hotel, saloon, jail, hanging tree and all the cowardly citizens turned out to watch...

With elements of "Shane," and "High Noon," the film is a very good Western, 'as classic as you can get.'

37 of 49 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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