From: southpaw@altavista.net
Date: 18 Mar 2000

Just catching up on some old Rara-Avis digests and came upon a discussion Elmore Leonard & the film 'The Tall T.' I thought that some here might find the following of interest:

http://www.nandotimes.com/ourcentury/cnremember/story/body/0,3343,66061- 104625-572185-0-nandotimes,00.html

Things to Remember By DAVID COHEN

(October 4, 1999 3:28 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - Since the earliest days of Hollywood, Westerns have served as a genre in which questions of morality and ethics have been played out. The wide-open spaces, the barren landscapes, and the easy opportunities for hindsight have proved irresistible to those who would fight and re-fight arguments over basic truths.

One of the more obscure but excellent directors in this regard was Budd Boetticher (1916- ). In the 1950s, he made a series of what critic Andrew Sarris called "floating poker games" set out West. Randolph Scott
(1898-1987) was his star, and the best of those films was "The Tall T," a short but potent 1957 film.

"The Tall T" was a story of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Scott plays the central character: He's a lone rancher with a strong sense of independence but he's also a soft touch, toting around some cherry-striped candy that a little boy asked him to buy. He and a pair of newlyweds (John Hubbard, Maureen O'Sullivan) end up held captive after a botched stagecoach robbery by a trio of murderous thieves
(Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier) whose victims include that little boy and his father. The cowardly Hubbard tries to save his skin by making a deal with Boone to ransom his rich wife for $50,000. A deadly game of bluffs and threats follows.

Boetticher's three-cornered game revolves around a good man, a bad man and a truly evil man. Scott is the good man, ramrod straight and tall, but stoic. Silva is the truly evil one, a vicious killer whose very posture suggests a man who can't distinguish good from evil - and doesn't want to. In the middle is Boone, who keeps Scott alive for no good reason other than the fact that Scott's integrity and maturity make him a man he can talk to.

Weary of traveling with two thugs but not strong enough to leave them behind, Boone's character is a fascinating one. Boone yearns to be like Scott but thinks destiny has placed him on another path. His final one-on-one confrontation with Scott makes for a great scene: Boone walks away from an armed Scott with his back turned, knowing full well that Scott could never shoot him in the back. A few seconds later, however, he comes back, making one last try for the $50,000 and is gunned down. As critic Danny Peary has written: "Their final clash results from Scott being a moral man with violent tendencies and Boone being a violent man with moral tendencies."

Boetticher's film was a B-movie through and through, a mere 77 minutes. Its production values were nothing special and its cast on the low-budget side. But it was, like his 1959 film "Ride Lonesome," an effective, entertaining story about morality, courage and, most of all, integrity. "The Tall T" of the title could well be "Truth."

THE TALL T, a 1957 film. Key figures: Budd Boetticher (director), Harry Joe Brown (co-producer), Burt Kennedy (script), Elmore Leonard (story), Randolph Scott (star-producer), Richard Boone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Henry Silva.

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Mar 2000 EST