Man in the Saddle

The collaboration of actors and directors is a favorite area for analysis by film critics – Ford and Wayne, Mann and Stewart, Huston and Bogart readily spring to mind. That attention tends to get focused on these cinematic partnerships is I think understandable; they offer a reasonably self-contained block of work which can be examined easily. Mention Randolph Scott to western fans and the name that will probably come to their lips is that of Budd Boetticher, again understandable enough given the reputation their series of films together has deservedly earned. However, Scott also made a group of westerns with another director, Andre de Toth, just before he hit his late career peak with Boetticher. Man in the Saddle (1951) was the first, and arguably the best, of a half-dozen movies featuring de Toth and Scott.

The overall framing device is the classic western staple of the range war, the conflict over land and the need for expansion. But that’s actually the least interesting aspect of a story that involves a number of overlapping and obsessive relationships. Owen Merritt (Randolph Scott) is a man under pressure on two fronts; having already lost his woman, Laurie (Joan Leslie), to his powerful neighbor Will Isham (Alexander Knox), he’s now in danger of seeing his ranch go the same way. Isham is one of those typical western expansionists, a man never satisfied with owning half of anything and ruthless enough to use whatever means are necessary to get what he wants. Standing in the path of this irresistible force is the immovable object of Merritt. The only possible outcome of such a paradox is conflict, even though Merritt does his level best to avoid it for as long as possible. What makes this apparently simple tale fascinating though is the way these characters, and those around them, interact. Merritt clearly retains strong feelings for the ambitious and mercenary Laurie, yet he buries them deep, while Isham is fighting an internal duel with his own jealousy and self-doubt. Matters are further complicated by the presence of another neighbor, Nan (Ellen Drew). She quietly pines for Merritt and in turn is herself desired by Clagg (John Russell), a taciturn loner of brooding temperament. When Isham’s hired gunmen up the ante by stampeding Merritt’s herd and killing one of his men all the passions and obsessions of the principals are unleashed. Merritt is forced into taking a stand against his enemies, even those he was hitherto unaware of.

If one views the westerns of de Toth and Scott in relation to the work both director and actor did independently and with others, then it’s possible to undervalue them. But I think such comparisons, even if they’re inevitable, are unfair. Movies really ought to be evaluated on their own terms – do they achieve what they set out to do? Placing them within a wider context does of course serve some purpose but it ultimately does the films a disservice too. What all that’s leading up to is my belief that Man in the Saddle succeeds in telling its tale. Firstly, de Toth’s direction and Charles Lawton’s cinematography combine well and the tension builds nicely. Visually, it’s an interesting movie with a number of scenes taking place at dawn or dusk (perhaps using the half-light to underline the murky, shifting nature of the relationships) and the location work in Lone Pine and Thousand Oaks particularly enhances the latter half. The climax too is notable for the use of a dust storm as an accompaniment to the action and is suggestive of the elemental, swirling emotions of those involved. The only downside of the film, for me at least, was the slightly clumsy way the comedic parts were integrated. Generally, I have no objection to the introduction of a little comedy to lighten the load, but I’m not sure it’s handled all that successfully in this case.

By the end of his career Randolph Scott had almost elevated the depiction of the stoic acceptance of loss and regret to an art form in itself. One of the more rewarding things about watching those films leading up this is the ability to observe how that persona gradually evolved over the years. As Merritt, Scott touches on this idea of losing the woman he loved. That loss isn’t as fully defined or as final as would be the case in the later movies with Boetticher, but it’s there all the same. Alexander Knox isn’t an actor normally associated with westerns, making only three throughout his career, yet he’s fine as Scott’s rival. He’s very convincing as an emotionally repressed man and this is even more effective when he actually lets loose all his pent-up rage. In truth, all the main players acquit themselves very well: Joan Leslie as the hard-edged pragmatist, Ellen Drew as the calm Girl Friday, and John Russell as the outsider twisted by his unrequited passion. My only complaint is that Richard Rober is underused as the smiling gunman.

Man in the Saddle is readily available on DVD and has been for many years. The US disc from Sony/Columbia presents the film nicely in its correct Academy ratio. This older transfer comes from a good print and boasts strong, vibrant color with plenty of detail. The disc doesn’t have much in the way of extra features, just a standard preview reel for other Sony/Columbia movies available. However, the movie is the main thing and the presentation here should give no cause for complaint. The westerns that Randolph Scott made with de Toth have been overshadowed to a large extent by the later Ranown cycle, yet they’re enjoyable in their own right. Aside from allowing viewers to fill in some gaps in tracing the development of the Scott persona, these movies are good examples of the professionalism to be found in the Hollywood western of the 50s. Man in the Saddle may not be the best thing Scott or Andre de Toth ever did but it’s still a pretty good film and is worthy of the talents of all involved.


91 thoughts on “Man in the Saddle

    • Probably the best movie de Toth and Scott did together, although they have stronger credits to their names individually. It’s a nice, unpretentious movie in my opinion.

  1. Bravo for focusing on this somewhat neglected collaboration Colin – which once again reminds me of a movie I know I have seen but it was sooooo many decades ago that it really does;t count – distressing, but true – thanks chum. I’ll watch it again and get back to you 🙂

    • I’d like to hear your impressions if you get round to it Sergio. You probably have seen it – Scott’s westerns seemed to be on TV all the time (Saturday afternoons on BBC2 especially) back in the 70s so there’s a fair chance you saw it then.

  2. Colin, I’ve not really thought of actor-director collaborations either in westerns or other genres of films. The only case that comes to mind is the much-publicised collaborations of Scorsese first with De Niro and then with DiCaprio. I assume such a collaboration, provided the actor-director are in perfect agreement, is good for the film as we have seen from Scorsese’s hits with his two leading actors. I’ll have to check out the notable ones you mentioned. Also, I have heard and read so much about Randolph Scott’s westerns that every review is a reminder that I’m really missing something.

    • Hi Prashant. The actor/director collaboration is something that crops up all through cinema and can lead to some very good movies. Scott and de Toth worked well together, just not up to the level of the pictures Scott made with Boetticher – but those ones raised the bar significantly.

      I know you enjoy western literature so I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy Scott’s western movies. Of course I’m a huge fan of the actor so I’ll freely admit I may be a little biased.

        • Ah, too kind Prashant.
          I guess it’s more interesting than important to look at partnerships and try to see the directions the collaborations moved in. There are instances where a thematic development can be seen but for the most part I wouldn’t regard it as essential.

  3. Yes, I am biased too, Colin. Scott is my favourite western actor – there, I’ve said it!
    There was a noticeable development generally between the first half of the fifties to the second half where more gritty, less stylised pictures came in, in all genres, and I think to some extent the Scott/Boetticher films reflect that change.
    As to Scott’s pre-Boetticher era they were more of a mixed bag, weren’t they? “Man In The Saddle” and “Coroner Creek” are, I think two of his best. Superior westerns.
    Enjoyed your detailed piece on this film hugely, Colin.

    • Jerry, I’ve no problems citing Scott as my favorite western actor either. Even one of his mediocre efforts is elevated by his presence alone.
      A mixed bag? Yes, I think that’s a fair description of his pre-Boetticher work but i can find things to enjoy even in the weaker ones. Coroner Creek is excellent – I got the new TCM set of Scott’s movies the other day, which includes this title. It looks like a step up from other versions I’ve seen in terms of picture quality and I’m looking forward to viewing it again in the coming weeks.

      • That’s going to be 90 minutes to really look forward to, Colin.
        I agree about finding something to enjoy in even the lesser Scotts (and actually there are not THAT many of those, for me).

        • Generally, the TCM set looks very nice, although I’ve only skimmed through it at this stage.
          I’m particularly keen on getting reacquainted with The Walking Hills.

  4. The Following contains MAJOR spoilers.

    Well you really nailed this one Colin,great review,

    I would like to add my thoughts regarding this film,my favourite of De Toths Westerns BTW.
    Had Ray Enright directed this film no doubt we would have had a bloody revenge Western along
    the lines of CORONER CREEK,and there’s nothing wrong with that..

    De Toth however brings an (Eastern) European vibe to the film-he is far more interested in sex.
    He must have experienced enough of it in his lifetime;seven times married-19 children.
    The most startling aspect of the film is the sexless marriage between Alexander Knox and
    Joan Leslie. Leslie will be the perfect “trophy wife” but their relationship will not be physical.
    Knox,foolishly thinks Leslie will relent on her wedding night from this agreement but she
    retires to her bedroom alone,Knox is left brooding with a bottle.
    Knox however admires Leslie’s ambitions,from a dirt poor background,he is impressed by the
    way she banishes her wastrel father from the wedding celebrations.
    Leslie’s character is not a bitch or a femme fatale,she is a woman from a humble background
    doing what she has to do to survive in a male dominated world.
    The strong female characters (Leslie,Ellen Drew) are one of this films strong points.
    More than anything else Knox despises the Scott character for he has had the one thing that
    he can never have- a physical relationship with his wife. (Scott is Leslie’s ex lover)
    Knox is excellent in a complex role-when he wishes to suggest menace he dips into a delicious
    Scottish brogue.
    The ending is deeply ironic,as Knox is dying Leslie gently caresses his face with her lace clad
    hand,we presume this is the only physical contact that they have ever had-heavy stuff.
    Film shows how Noir elements were surfacing into Fifties Westerns,though of course they
    surfaced much more early than that.
    De Toth spices thing up by having his female characters wearing leather strides and brandishing
    riding crops. He also uses a device that he has employed before (RAMROD) and since
    (HIDDEN FEAR) where there is so much going on at the start of the film the viewer feels that
    they have walked into the middle of the film.
    I really enjoyed Richard Rober’s great ;performance as a swaggering gunslinger,such a shame
    that we lost this fine actor way too soon.
    MAN IN THE SADDLE is a complex Western that rewards with repeated viewings.

    • Excellent comments John on the Knox/Leslie dynamic within the movie. I think you’re spot on in your assessment of the two characters’ motivations and subsequent actions.

      I agree too with what you say about feeling that you walked into the middle of the movie right at the beginning. It’s a technique I’ve seen used a few times in films and it’s always effective at pitching you straight into the drama. In fact, I like a lot of the scriptwriting techniques of this era; I guess many them were influenced by budgetary constraints but they do add an urgency and economy to the narrative in a most effective way.

  5. Just a couple of afterthoughts;I really like the scene on the staircase where Leslie seems to
    tower over her ex-lover Scott. I also like the change in Leslie’s character when she sees things
    are getting out of hand and people are starting to get killed,she attempts to run away with
    Scott and abandon her new found lavish lifestyle,but by then of course it’s too late.
    I have read interviews with Leslie and she seemed to really admire De Toth as a director.
    Oddly enough someone who did not admire De Toth was Scott’s buddy Joel McCrea
    RAMROD was not a happy shoot-McCrea wanted Raoul Walsh to direct and De Toth wanted
    Gary Cooper to star. They never worked together again;but having said all that despite
    their differences they made one great Western,

    • Yes, another of my absolute favourite westerns, “Ramrod”. McCrea is my other huge favourite western star and he is at his best on this film, I think. I did not know the unhappy background to it but it sure does not get in the way. I have a great fondness for “ranch” westerns like this and “Ride The Man Down”.
      Really interesting dissection of the characters and their motives, John K.

    • The set of Ramrod may not have been an especially happy one but everything comes together so well on screen. If anything, that just emphasizes the professionalism of all involved.

  6. “By the end of his career Randolph Scott had almost elevated the depiction of the stoic acceptance of loss and regret to an art form in itself”

    Why “almost” Colin? I bet we could agree that he had actually done this in the Ranowns.

    Very good review, and interesting followup comments by John Knight. I’ve seen this several times but not in awhile–it’s been way too long. I share the feeling it is the best De Toth/Scott–and easily so. They are a variable group–usually something good though. “Riding Shotgun” seemed next best to me–I liked that one a lot. I rewatched “The Bounty Hunter” on the strength of your earlier piece just last year, not having had a good impression, and it was much better than I remembered.

    I know I’ve posted in one of these blogs that “Man in the Saddle” is one of my three favorite Scott movies pre-Ranown cycle, the other two being “Hangman’s Knot” and “A Lawless Street.” These were all from Scott’s own company with Harry Joe Brown (so is the fine “Coroner Creek”). In my experience (I’m only missing a couple of postwar Scotts now), these ones they produced tend to be better than the ones made elsewhere.

    This little overview just means Scott’s postwar films, and not including “Ride the High Country” (post Ranown) or earlier “Western Union”–excellent Fritz Lang Western from 1941 that I plan to get back to this year.

    As for De Toth, his first (“Ramrod”) and last (“Day of the Outlaw”) Westerns, the only two filmed in black and white (by Russell Harlan both times), are for me definitely his best in the genre and among his three best movies with “Pitfall” (which is perhaps best of all). It doesn’t matter if McCrea and DeToth were unhappy working together–it’s the results that counts. I would say that in “Day of the Outlaw” Robert Ryan was probably exactly the kind of protagonist De Toth related to most and it’s one of that great actor’s most memorable performances.

    • Why almost? Blake, I guess you know how I tend to shy away from absolutes in these things. I remember chatting about something similar in the past when we were discussing the use of the term masterpiece. In this case, I guess the comment doesn’t really need qualifying – just a natural caution on my part.

      I’ve a lot of time for all those Scott westerns you mention there and really must put up a piece on A Lawless Street at some point, although I recall Toby covering it very well some time ago. It’s a marvelous movie in terms of visuals, but that’s really only to be expected from Joseph H Lewis.

      Regarding de Toth, I’ll have to confess that I’ve yet to see Pitfall despite owning a copy of the movie. And the same goes for Slattery’s Hurricane.

      • Hope you know I was half kidding about that “almost” Colin. I know you don’t like absolutes and well remember that “masterpiece” discussion. Maybe I like absolutes too much, though am trying to learn to be more moderate. But I know we agree about what Randolph Scott could personify by the end and you said it very well.

        I’m guessing you would like PITFALL a lot–you might want to watch it sooner rather than later. And for me, SLATTERY’S HURRICANE is also one of De Toth’s best, an unusual melodrama and beautifully done–and it stars Richard Widmark no less.

        • Yes, I knew where you were coming from there Blake – no worries. 🙂

          Scott did remarkable work all through the 50s and, having seem a good deal of it now, I think it’s fair to say he never put a foot wrong. He did make some movies which at worst could be called average, but even then any weaknesses stemmed from other sources rather than from Scott himself.

    • “By the end of his career Randolph Scott had almost elevated the depiction of the stoic acceptance of loss and regret to an art form in itself”

      Love this quote — can I steal it for my book’s chapter on this one?

      I have a real soft spot for this film — it’s one of my favorite Scotts and certainly tops of Randy’s De Toth pictures.

      I love De Toth. Pitfall s terrific. To me, Day Of The Outlaw is his masterpiece. The scene where they operate on Burl Ives, done with that closeup of his face, is one of the greatest singles scenes in 50s Westerns. It never fails to give me a real knot in my stomach.

      Speaking of favorite scenes, I’ve decided that the opening scene (in the cave) in Seven Men From Now is my favorite scene in a 50s Western — even over the first few minutes of Rio Bravo. It’s as if Burt, Budd and Randy were drawing a line in the Lone Pine sand — you know in two minutes that the rules have changed.

      Boy, how I digress!

      • Certainly Toby, you can use anything you like.

        I guess most of us here would agree that Day of the Outlaw is the finest piece of work de Toth ever produced. There are memorable moments and strong performances all through the movie, but an on form Burl Ives is an impressive sight.

        I’m not sure if I ever tried pinning down favorite scenes in that way – it’s troublesome enough doing that for one movie at times, let alone a whole decade’s worth – but that opening to Seven Men from Now would probably be right up there for me too.

  7. Very much enjoyed your post, Colin, and the ensuing thoughtful comments. I last saw this film over seven years ago. A fight on a snowy hillside and the final shootout in the dust storm made lasting impressions, but not much else, though I enjoyed it. I have this on VHS and need to revisit it, especially as I now know the work of so many people in this film so much better than I did then. In particular I’ve become a big fan of John Russell thanks to LAWMAN.

    I second Blake’s recommendation of PITFALL. That’s one I was fortunate to see on a big screen a couple years ago, on a double bill with THE BIG COMBO. What a great night! Meanwhile I have DAY OF THE OUTLAW in a stack near my TV, hope to watch that one soon.

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks Laura. Russell has a good part here – just a shame it’s not a bit bigger to be honest.

      You ought to watch Day of the Outlaw soon, while it’s still winter – you can almost feel the cold seeping through the screen.

  8. I’m glad Laura has become a big fan of John Russell through “Lawman”. This was a series that I never got to see back in the day but now have the entire series on DVD – it has become one of my favourite TV western series, largely due to Russell’s presence.
    Also, very interested in what Blake has to say (actually Blake always has something interesting to say, I’ve noticed) about Scott’s own productions with Harry Joe Brown. It is interesting that from about 1950 through to 1960 Scott’s films virtually alternated between those produced by Warners and those Scott/Brown productions released through Columbia. I enjoy most of these films regardless but the Columbias, for me, are the pick of the bunch.

    • Two recommendations for Lawman – I’ll have to check it out myself.

      I know the matter was addressed to Blake, but if I might just jump in myself first. I too think the Scott/Brown productions for Columbia have the edge. I’d imagine the fact Scott had more control over the production of these movies must have played a part in that.

  9. I am going to attempt to break the following down into several sections just to avoid a marathon
    post,so y’all have been warned!
    I thought,thanks to Colin,that I would revisit MAN IN THE SADDLE last night,I have seen the
    film on quite a few occasions and thought is was due for another view.
    My previous comment regarding the “lace clad hand” does not appear in the in the film I must
    have been thinking about another death scene in another film.
    Actually,anyone reading my previous comments may have been looking forward to a far more
    “steamy” film,in spite of what I said there is plenty of gunfights,fist fights and shootouts in the film.
    The films dynamic is driven by Alexander Knox’s great performance as the nasty,cold control
    freak. The thing that obsesses him the most is Scott’s previous relationship with his wife.
    From the word go we learn that Richard Rober has been brought on board to eliminate Scott.
    In a knowing pivotal early scene Rober noting the stairs that lead to Leslie’s bedroom; states
    that Scott will always be a barrier between Knox and his wife,the sooner he is dealt with,the better.
    Unrequited love is really dealt with in this film,apart from Knox there is John Russell who has
    a pathetic schoolboy type crush on Ellen Drew. This finally develops into full-blown jealous rage.
    Ellen Drew also is more than a little fond of her neighbor Scott.
    The Joan Leslie character is interesting too;from a dirt poor backgound with a ne’er do well
    father she saw her mother die at a young age working her fingers to the bone trying to keep
    the wolf from the family door. Who can blame Leslie for wanting a taste of the finer things in
    life. Leslie has humanity and compassion too. A femme fatale would have just let all these silly
    men kill each other and end up with the ranch.

    • John, I’m pleased this piece encouraged you to revisit the movie. It really is the interaction of the characters along with the competing and overlapping passions that drive it along and keep it compelling.

  10. I watched another old favorite recently Joseph Newman’s very fine THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY. I recently got the Aussie Blu-Ray which is a considerable upgrade of the DVD which was a
    decent transfer too.
    Here we have another Western where the hero has two lovely women to choose from.
    Newman’s film also had a swaggering gunslinger as well (Richard Anderson,excellent)
    Whereas in De Toth’s film Richard Rober had charm and humor Anderson is simply repellent
    especially in his attitude towards women and a mentally impaired youth.
    McCrea is torn between prim and proper minister’s daughter Julia Adams and freewheeling
    saloon owner Nancy Gates.I must admit it was fun seeing Adams play such an uptight character.
    Newman’s film is as much about relationships as gunfights and fistfights;and there is plenty of
    that as well.
    In one very powerful scene Nancy Gates is alone in her bed sobbing her heart out,knowing that
    McCrea will marry Adams. Things then take a much darker turn as Anderson attempts to
    rape her.
    As in De Toth’s film all’s well that ends well Gates ends up with McCrea letting him utter a great
    one-liner “funny how a man has to sweat out the whole deck before he finds the ace!”

    • Yeah, it’s a good one. Speaking of McCrea, I watched The Outriders for the first time the other day. A lovely understated performance by McCrea in a complex role. And Arlene Dahl looked fabulous.

      • Hey, and what about that incredibly sexy scene where McCrea helps Arlene Dahl on with her
        footwear in front of the whole wagon train.

        • That whole dancing/campfire scene, culminating with Dahl telling McCrea how she has avoided him because out of all the men he wanted her most, is extremely charged.

  11. Another “sexy” Fifties Western is King Vidor’s excellent MAN WITHOUT A STAR.
    Here there is tremendous chemistry between Kirk Douglas and Jeanne Crain from the word go.
    Crain offers Douglas a night of passion on the understanding that he will side with the bad guys
    against the good guys. This is an offer Kirk cannot refuse,but in the end he forgets the “deal”
    he has made and sides with the good guys.
    Crain in this film is a strong woman doing what she has to,to survive in a man’s world.
    Despite all this the film is crammed with action.
    Here is another film where director and star did not get on too well,but as Blake commented
    it’s the end result that counts.
    Mara Corday in an interview said that Douglas gave Vidor a hard time on this film.
    Douglas in his autobiography thought that Vidor thought this “little” film was not worthy of
    his talents;his next project was WAR AND PEACE-much more his “thing”

    • Ah, now there’s a movie that didn’t work well for me. I wrote about it in the past and commented on Douglas’ tendency to rely on mugging in that picture. I subsequently heard that the discontent behind the camera may have had something to do with the way Douglas seemed to get out of control at times. I agree though that Jeanne Crain is very good and the presence of Richard Boone is another plus.

      • Many thanks for the link Colin,I really must take the time to delve further into your back pages.
        At least we agree how good Crain was in the film, and I really enjoyed your take on this one.
        BTW Mara Corday told a most amusing story about working on this film.
        One day Mara and the rest of the saloon gals (that’s the polite term) decided to vote on which
        male cast member had the cutest “butt”
        They decided it was Richard Boone(?!)
        Anyway,according to Myra Douglas got REALLY upset.
        I think the whole interview is over on Boyd Magers site somewhere.

        • There was just too much inconsistency or unevenness of tone in that movie for me John.

          Thanks for sharing the anecdote – I’ll have to go in search of the interview.

          • Thanks Colin, BTW I’ve mis-spelled Mara’s name,what kind of B Movie fan am I.
            You normally edit my stuff……….it sure needs it!
            I presume you have broken your golden rule and got a few MODs as I do not think THE OUTRIDERS is available anywhere else. I DO hope that you managed to also pick up
            STARS IN MY CROWN………..I will be VERY interested to read your take on that one!
            I presume that you are considerably younger than me so are prepared to wait for the darn
            things to appear elsewhere but when you get to my stage in life waiting is not an option!

            • Sorry John, I usually try to catch those things but that slipped through – fixed now!

              I have a number of MOD discs but I still try to get a pressed version where possible – The Outriders is available from Spain here by the way.

              My age? I just recently passed 45 my friend.

              • Wow! If I was 45 I would probably wait for a lot of these MOD’s to surface in Europe.
                What really freaks me out is that in 12 years I will be crowding 80………..60 did not worry me
                to much and nor does 70…but 80 that’s a different thing altogether!
                Still,Clint is 84 an May and still going strong; one must try to be positive about these things,it’s
                just that 12 years ago seems so recent.
                Anyway as I said before I just cannot hold back on these MOD’s at my stage in life especially
                with great films like THE LAST POSSE out there.
                I would still like to know if you picked up the MOD of STARS IN MY CROWN as I just know
                that you will love that film and it’s one I would love you to review.

                • Well, Colin has 20 years on me too, John K, but……….I am years younger than that in my head. Just stay away from mirrors……….

                • Sadly, I missed that John. Deep Discount were selling a lot of WA titles around Xmas for $7.99 and I bought a few – The Hanging Tree for example in OAR, which I hope to feature soon – but Stars in My Crown, When Strangers Marry and one or two others just slipped my mind at the time.

  12. MAN IN THE SADDLE was based on a novel by Ernest Haycox. In nearly all of his stories the hero has to choose between two women. Initially he is attracted to the wrong one, but eventually realizes his mistake and makes the correct choice.

    Luke Short, who wrote the stories that both CORONER CREEK and RAMROD are based on, used the same storyline in these two novels. That was not coincidental. Short was a great admirer of Haycox.

    By the way, Scott is also my favorite Western actor.

    • Indeed. I should have mentioned that Haycox provided the source material – thanks for adding that. I have one of his novels, Rim of the Desert, sitting on my shelves but haven’t read it yet.

  13. Unrequited Love…….now there’s a subject!
    Its a very common human emotion that lots of us have encountered at some point in our lives.
    Film Noir is rife with it but Westerns….that’s a different matter,I cannot think of many where it
    De Toth’s film is probably the best example unless anyone can think of another title.
    One film that does spring to mind is Sam Newfield’s FRONTIER GAMBLER.
    This is a really cheap film and it looks it too,but at the same time its is a quite powerful little
    In this film urbane cultured Kent Taylor is dismayed to see his “muse” Coleen Gray get involved
    with loutish gunslinger Jim Davis. Tragedy follows.
    One astute reviewer on the imdb called it a B Western version of LAURA.
    Speaking of Laura,I DO hope that she tracks this one down,as she is in a class of her own in
    writing great essays on these “micro movies”
    Like me Laura is a huge Coleen Gray admirer,so I hope it appears on her radar sooner rather than
    later.At any rate the film does show a second string cast at the top of their game.
    FRONTIER GAMBLER was one of a short lived films made in a deal between the Lipperts and
    Sam Newfield,doyens of poverty row films. They called themselves Associated Releasing.
    Another interesting little Western made under this deal is Richard Bartlett’s impressive
    TWO GUN LADY. This film has been championed by Blake Lucas so that means its worth
    anyone’s attention.
    Another little Newfield epic is LAST OF THE DESPERADOS the story of what happened to
    Pat Garrett after he shot Billy The Kid. I have never been able to track this one down……yet.

    • John, as always I appreciate your kind words. 🙂 I have actually had FRONTIER GAMBLER bookmarked as it’s available via Amazon Prime streaming. TWO GUN LADY is available there as well! Hopefully I’ll get to those and DAY OF THE OUTLAW before too long. 🙂

      The discussion of MAN IN THE SADDLE is so interesting, I’m fishing my videotape out of the storage cupboard today. Thanks to our host Colin and all above for the great discussion.

      Best wishes,

    • Wow, this strand is veering wonderfully and in its course it’s picking out many wonderful titles. I got hold of good copies in recent months of “Frontier Gambler” and “Last Of The Desperados”. Have not yet got around to the former but the only time I saw it was on the big screen was at a local flea-pit cinema in 1960. High time I watched it again! “Last Of The Desperados” was a surprise as I really did not expect too much. Sure, it’s cheaply made but it pays for the viewing. AND it has Jim Davis in a key role. Really quite an interesting film.

    • John, just saw TWO-GUN LADY tonight and liked it a lot. Glad you mentioned it. Hope to write about it at my site in the next day or two.

      Best wishes,

  14. I have seen many Randolph Scott”s westerns and somehow missed Man In The Saddle. Based on your review, will look for it. Last night I watched another Scott”s western The Man Behind The Gun and found it just as great. Best regards.

    • Well we are a little spoiled for choice when it comes to Randolph Scott westerns, aren’t we? Anyway, it’s a pleasant situation to be in. The Man Behind the Gun is entertaining enough, but Man in the Saddle is better all round – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it Chris when you get round to it.

  15. Wow for your age to have so vast knowledge of the 50s westerns and film noir of the earlier era, you are a super powerhouse of these genres. Congratulations and your output are always informative! Best regards.

  16. I’m a Robert Ryan fan but have never seen Day of the Outlaw – have just put in my Amazon order.
    I was hoping you had done a review,Colin, but can’t find one.

    • No, I’ve never written anything on the movie, and I can’t say why to be honest.

      If you’ve never seen it, then you really are in for a treat. Just remember to wrap up warm!

  17. Colin, it just struck me Andre De Toth directed Randolph Scott in another western, Thunder Over The Plains. Any comparisons? Best regards.

    • Chris, Scott and de Toth worked together on a total of six westerns:
      Man in the Saddle
      Carson City
      The Stranger Wore a Gun
      Thunder Over the Plains
      Riding Shotgun
      The Bounty Hunter

      I like them all and would find it hard to rank them. However, I’d place Man in the Saddle at the top and The Stranger Wore a Gun, which I liked least, at the bottom. Aside from that, I don’t feel there’s much separating the others as regards quality. Others may disagree with that assessment of course.

      • I find this very encouraging. Don’t want to harp on about Colin’s youthfulness but I grew up in the 50s so this stuff is all ingrained but it is quite something else when someone who grew up after “the westerns age” still discovers it and loves it so deeply. This just gets better.
        Might I be permitted to throw in a couple of titles myself that are sort of related to all of the above? Anyone out there know McCrea’s “Four Faces West” (1948)? I first saw it one Christmas on TV when I was just a kid but it made a huge impression on me – still does. This is the western famed for having not a shot fired throughout.
        Also “Return Of The Badmen” from the same year? This is an early Scott, produced by Nat Holt, which puts all the famous outlaws together for Marshal Scott to face. Unlikely (impossible even) but with a snarling, vicious turn from that fantastic actor Robert Ryan as the Sundance Kid, I love it. Just take a first look at the opening titles – it draws you in to the excitement straight off.

        • Jerry, harp away to your heart’s content – 45 is an age when you can’t hear often enough that you’re still youthful! 🙂

          Return of the Bad Men is wonderful indeed. A super cast and a far-fetched but fun premise.

  18. Jerry, I wrote about FOUR FACES WEST at my site a few years ago and it’s a wonderful film. I was recently asked to come up with a list of 5 underrated Westerns for another site and I believe I will include that one on the list.

    It is very encouraging to see how many classic film bloggers and attendees at the TCM Classic Film Festival are quite young (20s/30s), hopefully the interest in films of this era will just keep growing! (I’m a handful of years older than Colin, first loved these films as a kid of the ’70s.)

    Best wishes,

    • That’s really nice to know, Laura – very encouraging.

      I will go into your site now and look for your review of “Four Faces West”.. Yes, a very under-rated film. Thanks for that.

  19. More thoughts on MAN IN THE SADDLE.
    I must say this is one of those films that rewards on repeated viewings there are always little
    things to pick up on in this film. In many ways it reminds me of the best Westerns of Anthony Mann
    with it’s feel for landscape and the dark (in both senses of the word) interior scenes.
    Mann like Boetticher knew the need for charming often complex and likeable bad guys.
    I do have a problem with “hero”James Stewart in THE NAKED SPUR where his misanthropic
    bitter loner is overdone IMHO. That does not stop it from being a very fine Western BTW.
    In the Mann films such great actors as Dan Duryea,Robert Ryan and Arthur Kennnedy as the
    bad guys really raise the game of those films.
    In MAN IN THE SADDLE De Toth and Alexander Knox have decided to keep a cold ruthless vibe
    to his character,there is not much to like about him. Nevertheless as he has a sexless marriage
    to a beautiful woman who he obviously adores the film makers know that the viewer will have, at least,some empathy with the guy.
    Only in Knox’s scenes with Joan Leslie does some spark of humanity seem to surface.
    Just imagine if they had had a “proper” marriage,no doubt this would have brought about a total
    change in his character.
    My only quibble with the film is the John Russell character;did we really need two sexually
    repressed males in the same film? I guess the film makers thought as we are exploring dark
    territory (for the Western at least) they might as well go the whole hog.
    That is not to detract from John Russell BTW an actor who I admire greatly.
    Joan Leslie in an interview thought Russell should have been a much bigger star,a lot of us
    feel the same.
    Russell was so great in Eastwood’s PALE RIDER as the fearsome Marshall Stockburn,what a
    chilling performance. There has been talk here about Russell’s TV series LAWMAN,never seen
    this one as it was never shown in the London region. Also did not know that Peggie Castle,another
    of my faves was a regular. Warner Archive say they are going to release this at some point…
    cannot wait!

    • I think John Russell was definitely a better actor than he is given credit for. Even his small part in Rio Bravo was done well – just a pity he had so few scenes.
      I can’t agree about Jimmy Stewart’s character in The Naked Spur. He was obsessed and I understood why. He only really let it all go when he slowly eased Robert Ryan’s body of his horse.

      • I agree on both counts. Russell was very memorable in that small but pivotal role in Rio Bravo – I love the scene where he pays the band to play Deguello.

        And I thought Stewart was just excellent in The Naked Spur; his breakdown right at the end was perfectly judged.

  20. A word here about screenwriter Kenneth Gamet who had some amazing credits as well as
    several Scott movies. There is a lovely “homage” to Gamet in A LAWLESS STREET where a
    calender on the wall reads “Gamet’s Vegetable Compound”
    Unrequited love does surface,sort of, in the Gamet scripted Scott vehicle TEN WANTED MEN
    where oafish Richard Boone tries to “hit on” lovely Mexican maiden Donna Martell.
    I have no doubt had De Toth,Boetticher or Lewis directed this film that it would have been
    far superior,those guys would have milked the sexual obsession element in Gamet’s script.
    instead we get Bruce Humberstone who goes for often OTT action set pieces.
    Humberstone’s Hollywood nickname was “lucky” (or as Maureen O Hara liked to call him “Lucky
    Stumblebum”) According to Maureen he earned this tag because regardless of the quality of
    his films they always seemed to be box office hits.
    Perhaps I am being unduly unfair to Humberstone,I have never seen his “masterpiece” I WAKE
    UP SCREAMING and I have no doubt Blake Lucas will take me to task regarding this;and quite
    right too! Where is Blake BTW?
    In fairness TEN WANTED MEN does get by for it’s wonderful cast alone, and those lovely Old
    Tuscon locations.
    Another excellent Gamet scripted film with Russell and Leslie is the stark modern day Rod
    Cameron Western HELL’S OUTPOST.
    Laura,many thanks for the name drop on your blog in the BADMAN’S COUNTRY review……..
    fame at last! Did you ever see the aforementioned THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY as I
    know that it has several of your most admired actors in it?
    Jerry,totally agree with your view on FOUR FACES WEST and thanks for the info on
    LAST OF THE DESPERADOES,I will be very interested to hear your take on FRONTIER GAMBLER
    and hope that you will comment when Laura eventually gets around to reviewing it. I thought that
    the leads were all excellent in this film.
    Last but not least,in Laura’s recent interview with Coleen Gray there is a telling insight of
    a young actress asking a director in how to approach a scene. What a contrast between a
    great director (Hawks) and a not so great director (Humberstone)

    • John, I won’t try to argue that Humberstone was some misunderstood genius whose work needs to be reassessed. However, I’ve found his films – those I’m familiar with anyway – to be competent and entertaining. I Wake Up Screaming is easily the pick of the bunch and you really ought to track down a copy, but I’m quite fond of his Charlie Chan and Tarzan films too.
      Ten Wanted Men
      is unexceptional to be sure, but again it’s a solid enough effort.

      • Colin, I did not mean to be too hard on Humberstone,at the least he was a competent director
        of genre movies. There is not much of his output that I have seen that has really impressed me
        though. I must admit as a child I loved WONDER MAN a Technicolor comedy that had gangsters
        and two Danny Kayes.
        It’s just that I felt TEN WANTED MEN was a missed opportunity,especially considering that the
        script had great potential.In a way it’s a reversal of MAN IN THE SADDLE,here Randolph Scott’s
        Arizona land baron is benign; supportive of his neighbours (including Boone)The film proves the
        old saying “no good deed goes unpunished” because Boone turns really nasty when Scott
        takes in the Mexican maiden to protect her from Boone’s lecherous advances.
        Humberstone turns the film into a routine programmer shoot em up whereas I feel other directors
        would have given us something more complex and substantial.

        • I pretty much agree with you there John. Ten Wanted Men is fairly routine stuff, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity given the talent on view.

  21. Another very interesting Western which delves into complex areas of the male phyche is
    Richard Wilson’s very impressive MAN WITH THE GUN (UK Title THE TROUBLE SHOOTER)
    Here Robert Mitchum’s “town tamer” gets more and more extreme is dishing out rough justice
    to the bad guys mainly brought on by his intense relationship with Jan Sterling. The viewer
    really starts to feel sorry for the “baddies” in this one.
    I really wish that Wilson had directed more films,I find him a most interesting overlooked talent.
    I also wish that N.B.Stone jr (RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY) had written more Western feature films
    as well.
    I also am very keen to track down Wilson’s WALL OF NOISE which noted UK film writer Richard
    Whitehall said was one of the very few interesting films made about horse racing. It does have
    a cast of several young Warner Bros TV stars and The Archive do say that they will release it
    on DVD soon.
    Like Jerry and others have stated it’s amazing that “young” Colin has gained such vast film knowledge and has such love for these old movies especially as he was born years after the
    Studio System was well and truly over.
    I am sure Jerry and I were often in the same London “fleapits” at the same time catching up
    with some of the films that we had missed first time around.

    • Been running around at work all day so I hadn’t time to reply this John. I also really like Man With the Gun, it’s a great minimalist piece and Mitchum nails his dark, and frequently terrifying, role in my opinion. The supporting cast is deep and adds a lot to the movie. I have a lot of time for Alex North’s score too, very evocative.

  22. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Randolph Scott. | 50 Westerns From The 50s.

  23. Hey, John, I don’t always have time to participate as much as I ideally might like in wonderful discussions like this one but have followed it and enjoyed all your comments. I was thinking that these emotional/sexual motivations externalized into conflicts between ranchers and others in the Westerns of De Toth is consistent in the best ones, though in variation. You’ve written well about Alexander Knox’s character here, also Joan Leslie’s, and the other relationships. In RAMROD, Veronica Lake causes the range war out of her neuroses–though other characters have their flaws too–and uses a number of these characters in the process. In DAY OF THE OUTLAW, the hero is Robert Ryan and he is the big rancher and part of the reason he wants to push out a rival (Alan Marshal) and provoke violence is that the other is married to Tina Louise, who had an affair with Ryan that she has now ended (one might say it is truly “the winter of his discontent”–those who know the movie will know why I describe it that way). Of course, Ryan plays this for all it’s worth (and Tina Louise, too, an excellent actress)–no one ever played bitterness like Ryan.

    Really a terrific, lively discussion. Just want to add that I completely agree about that magical romantic scene in THE OUTRIDERS where McCrea and Dahl finally dance and there is that surge of feeling between them, just such a lovely scene.

    John, I’m not a great fan of I WAKE UP SCREAMING and actually prefer Harry Horner’s remake VICKI because I find the subtler Richard Boone more interesting as Cornell than Laird Cregar, even allowing Cregar’s effectiveness.

  24. Glad that you have surfaced here Blake,and of course over at Laura’s on the TWO GUN LADY
    THREAD. Your comments are always most interesting and welcome.

    A pal phoned last night,who normally follows my antics here and suggested that I give THE
    ROUND UP another look,especially as it taps into “love triangles in the Western” that we have
    been talking about here. I must say the THE ROUND UP was one of my “discoveries” of last year
    but sadly,at the moment is not available on DVD.
    THE ROUND UP is an excellent Paramount early Forties A Western and is certainly Lesley
    Selander’s most romantic Western.Here we have Patricia Morison torn between husband
    Richard Dix and ex-lover Preston Foster.Morison,magnetic as ever, is compelling and Foster is
    aces as the good guy turned bad.
    I always felt that Dix was a bit stolid in his role and would have rather had Randolph Scott or
    Joel McCrea play his part. On a second viewing however I feel Dix was perfectly cast because,
    quiet frankly, would Morison still yearn for Foster if she was married to Randy or Joel?
    Anyway it’s a hugely enjoyable film that should be a lot more well known.
    Patricia Morison,who turns 99 in March BTW is a true “renaissance woman”
    After her brief time as a star at Paramount she drifted into B Movies then re-invented herself
    as a top Broadway diva and then later as an artist.This hauntingly beautiful actress should
    have been a major star in movies,I just guess that she was ahead of her time.
    Thankfully,she did not end up like tragic Frances Farmer another fine actress who rebelled
    against the studio system.

    • John, THE ROUNDUP is one I have to see as I’ve become such a fan of Preston Foster. Also, as a child I saw Patricia Morison as “The Baroness” in an L.A. production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC so I’ve always taken an interest in her. (Sally Ann Howes was Maria and cowboy star Bill Williams’ son William Katt, later the “Greatest American Hero” on TV, was Rolf.) Morison was mentioned in an L.A. Times article about the complex where she lives:

      It’s also interesting to me she was cut from KISS OF DEATH, where she would have appeared as Victor Mature’s wife who dies.

      As Jerry said, this thread keeps growing and I’m picking up so much interesting info! Thanks to you all.

      Best wishes,

      • I’ve seen Patricia Morison in only a handful of movies, mainly the B efforts. However, I do remember she had a moderate part in a film I watched last year, The Fallen Sparrow.

      • Many thanks for the link Laura,I think that you provided it before over at Toby’s when I
        mentioned Patricia Morison on another thread. Too bad that her scenes were cut from
        KISS OF DEATH. I hope that you get to see THE ROUND UP,I know that it’s one that
        you will really enjoy.

  25. A word about veteran producer Harry Sherman-several of his productions have been name-dropped here. (RAMROD,FOUR FACES WEST,THE ROUND UP)
    Sherman is most famous for bringing us the Hopalong Cassidy Westerns.
    Nevertheless he also produced a decent number of top quality A Westerns;BUFFALO BILL for
    WOMAN OF THE TOWN which we have discussed before on an earlier thread is a fine Bat
    Masterson Western but hampered by Albert Dekker as Masterson. Scott or McCrea would have
    a far better choice and, of course, they did play Masterson in later films.
    Sherman’s TOMBSTONE:THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (Director William McGann) is an
    excellent take on the Wyatt Earp story with Richard Dix and Kent Taylor and a formidable
    roster of bad guys.
    Sherman certainly had great taste as a producer and sadly, before he passed away he was on the
    verge of producing a series of A budget Technicolor Westerns starring Joel McCrea.
    These were to be released through independent Eagle-Lion studios who went bust the same
    year of Sherman’s passing. Considering Sherman’s previous work featuring McCrea these films
    would have been very special indeed.
    There are some excellent titles in the Eagle-Lion portfolio including some major early Anthony Mann.

  26. Gosh, this strand just keeps going and it’s just so interesting. I will certainly comment on “Frontier Gambler” when I have watched it, John (must do that soon!).
    Harry Sherman was a terrific film-maker. We have all the Cassidys to thank him for (up to 1944 anyway) and his semi-A-westerns with Richard Dix and joel McCrea are great favourites of mine.”American Empire” (1942) was another of his I like, again with Dix and Foster with the interesting addition of Leo Carrillo doing a pretty sinister turn as the baddy.
    “Woman Of The Town” is one I have not seen in 40 years, maybe 50. I remember it fairly well though but it has not played on TV here since all that time ago.

    John K and Blake, you provide us with much food for thought through your deep knowledge of your subject.

  27. Gee,thanks Jerry,you are no slouch yourself when it comes to film knowledge so I am more than
    Funnily enough while we are talking “love triangles on the range” I saw another one at the
    weekend which falls into this description.
    This time it’s the William Elliott Republic A Western THE SAVAGE HORDE.
    This one also is scripted by Kenneth Gamet. Anyway Elliott’s gunslinger on the lam encounters
    former sweetheart Adrian Booth now engaged to ruthless king-pin Grant Withers.
    Gamet seemed to like these ruthless land barons in his Westerns and it’s interesting that he
    reversed the trend in the aforementioned TEN WANTED MEN.
    Director Joe Kane is more interested in physical action and there is no indication in the film
    that Elliott and Booth’s relationship was anything more than chaste. Only towards the end of the
    film,when Booth finds out what a total rotter Withers is,and rejects him does his obsessive love
    for her surface.
    Kane really keeps the action at a fast clip in this one and there is a neatly staged gunfight climax.
    Bob Steele is excellent as a vicious gunslinger always on the prod.
    I was going to go into one of my rants about Elliott’s A westerns but I am off to Toby’s because
    he has just started an Elliott thread,so Colin,you have been spared… least this time buddy!

  28. Nicely done. Love the westerns of Scott and De Toth was generally a good go to director. I always get a kick out of the fact that he directed House of Wax but couldn’t see the effect of 3-D as he only had the one eye.

    • Thanks Mike. There is indeed something deeply ironic about the fact the man who directed what’s often referred to as the best of the 50s 3-D movies was unable to appreciate the effect himself. I like House of Wax a lot; apart from being a good, entertaining film, it’s the one which set Vincent Price on the horror path that would bring him such success.

  29. Wow, Colin – late to the party here, but great to see so many excellent comments you’re now typically getting on each of your posts! This is another good post. I haven’t yet picked up this Scott western but will move it up my Amazon cue now after reading your review. I’ve really come to appreciate Randolph Scott, and that genteel yet steely presence he brought to the genre, over the past 5 years or so, and hope to grab every one of his 50s westerns released on DVD I can. The fact that this one also features John Russell definitely tips the scales in its favor (if you’ve seen my review of Russell’s late 50s SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE TV show, you’ll know I’m a fan).

    • Steely and genteel are especially good ways of describing the Scott persona Jeff. He was one of my earliest western heroes, from the seemingly constant reruns on TV when I was a kid, and my fondness and respect for his work has if anything only grown stronger over the years.

      Thanks for drawing my attention to Russell’s TV show Soldiers of Fortune, which I’ll admit I was unfamiliar with. Anyone not yet acquainted with Jeff’s excellent site (why?) ought to hop over there now and read his very positive take on that show, and generally set a few hours aside to browse the whole site.

  30. I’ve watched MAN IN THE SADDLE a few times and enjoyed it but never saw the dimensions in it that have been discussed here. Once again, Colin, your observations and the lively discussion here have caused me to re-evaluate a film I did not take that seriously. Watching it last night, I was impressed once again with Andre de Toth’s technical craftsmanship. He really was a flawless filmmaker.

    Aside from the fact that he was a fine actor, I have enormous respect for Randolph Scott. After WW2 he said he only wanted to make westerns. His oil wells in Texas “came in” and with oil came the affluence to do what he wanted most. He turned his back on all the Hollywood films he could have starred in and committed himself to the western. He put his own money into the productions, then he formed his own company, and near the end, chose the material (the Burt Kennedy scripts) and the director (Budd Boetticher) he liked best. By my count Randolph Scott made 48 westerns between 1946 and his retirement in 1962, and that was only the second half of his career.

    I wish a couple of today’s big stars had Scott’s commitment to the western. The western might “come back” if someone with clout would give leadership to the genre.

    • You know Richard, I always like hearing that a piece I put up here encouraged someone to check out or go back to a film. If they find something new or worthwhile when they do so, then that’s a real bonus.

      And yes, Scott’s contribution to the genre was immense. We tend to think of his on screen work mainly, which is both right and natural, but as you pointed out his influence and commitment behind the scenes was significant.

  31. Here are the westerns Randolph Scott made after WW2. There were three non-westerns, one of those a short, which I left off the list. I capitalized those titles that are not on DVD yet in the USA. I have off-air recordings of those. The rest I have on DVD:

    1962 Ride the High Country
    1960 Comanche Station
    1959 Ride Lonesome
    1959 Westbound
    1958 Buchanan Rides Alone
    1957 Decision at Sundown
    1957 The Tall T
    1956 7th Cavalry
    1956 Seven Men from Now
    1955 A Lawless Street
    1955 Tall Man Riding
    1955 Rage at Dawn
    1955 Ten Wanted Men
    1954 Riding Shotgun
    1953 Thunder Over the Plains
    1953 The Stranger Wore a Gun
    1953 The Man Behind the Gun
    1952 Hangman’s Knot
    1952 Carson City
    1951 Man in the Saddle
    1951 Fort Worth
    1951 Santa Fe
    1951 SUGARFOOT
    1950 Colt .45
    1950 The Nevadan
    1949 Fighting Man of the Plains
    1949 The Doolins of Oklahoma
    1949 The Walking Hills
    1948 Return of the Bad Men
    1948 Coroner Creek
    1948 Albuquerque
    1947 Trail Street
    1946 Badman’s Territory
    1946 Abilene Town

    And there are the westerns he made before WW2.

    • Quite a list, isn’t it. I think I have 31 of those on DVD myself, and have seen all but half a dozen or so. Of the titles currently MIA as far as DVD is concerned, I seem to remember Sugarfoot being quite entertaining, although I was a bit disappointed by Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend.

  32. Well said, Colin. While not by any means the best Scott oater, it hits the spot entertainment wise. Always been a fan of the two ladies here, Drew and Leslie.

    • I find there’s not much generally weak stuff among Scott’s work in the 50s, and not that much weakness in the post-war years overall. The very strongest material stands out clearly but even the mid-range titles have a lot going for them.

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