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Tall in the Saddle Reviews

Hard-hitting but overly complex, this John Wayne western opens as Wayne arrives at the KC ranch in Santa Inez. He has come to apply for a foreman position, but when he learns that the owner has died and the ranch is now run by Long and her aunt, Risdon, he refuses to work for women. Later, Long asks him to help her retrieve a letter that has fallen into the hands of the town's untrustworthy judge, Bond. The letter provides proof that Long is old enough to be the legal owner of the ranch--information that Bond and Risdon want to suppress. Wayne arrives at Bond's office just after Bond has burned the letter. After he finds a deck of marked cards in Bond's desk, a fight breaks out, ending with Bond crashing through a door. Later, Wayne is introduced to Raines, another female ranch owner' but his misogynistic attitudes anger her. Accordingly, Raines has her stepfather, Douglas, hire Wayne to work on her ranch just so she can have the satisfaction of firing him, but as much as she tries, she cannot overcome her attraction to the chauvinistic Wayne. Eventually, it turns out that Bond isn't the only corrupt townsperson, just one of many involved in a conspiracy to gain control of the KC ranch. To silence Wayne, a murder is pinned on him (his gun is used to kill Wade, a volatile gambler), causing him to be run out of town by an angry posse. He retreats to the KC ranch, where he overhears a conversation between Long and Risdon and learns that he is the dead owner's nephew and therefore the rightful heir. Firmly convinced of his innocence, Raines arrives to help Wayne out. She informs him that Douglas is the real killer and that he has plotted with Risdon to wrestle away control of the ranch. After a final shootout the villains are killed and Long decides to return to her New England home, leaving Wayne and Raines to begin a life together. TALL IN THE SADDLE, while for the most part a typical oater, is interesting in its portrayal of women and their effect on the rugged Wayne. He enters the picture as a callous misogynist but, after being whipped into shape by the frisky Raines (who not only shoots at him, but also throws a knife in his direction), he softens and learns to respect women as people. This, however, wouldn't be believable if it weren't for the fine performance by Ella Raines. Turning in another commendable acting job (though a thoroughly familiar one) is George "Gabby" Hayes, who, as a stage driver and Wayne's sidekick, adds some comic relief when the film gets bogged down in its convoluted plot mechanisms. Grossing $4 million (a hefty sum for a grade B western, even if it did star Wayne), TALL IN THE SADDLE was a labor of love for Wayne, who liked the script (cowritten by Paul Fix, a friend of Wayne and a supporting player in many of his films, including this one) and tried to persuade John Ford to direct. Wayne had already appeared in two Ford masterpieces, STAGECOACH (1939) and THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (1940), but this picture would fall far short of those heights.