Reading Colin’s review of Coroner Creek (http://livius1.wordpress.com) got me started re-watching some of my favourite Randolph Scott westerns.
Man In The Saddle is a rather nondescript title for this Randolph Scott western which has a lot going for it. – range wars, jealousy, obsession, stampedes, storms and a love triangle! All you can hope for in a good western.
The film opens in the middle of the story. We learn quickly that big landowner Will Isham (Alexander Knox) is about to marry Laurie Bidwell (Joan Leslie) who has previously been involved with rancher Owen Merritt (Randolph Scott).
It also becomes clear that Isham wants to buy up all the small ranches around him and that includes Merritt, Bourke Prine (Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams) and Pay Lankershim (Clem Bevans).
Merritt isn’t too happy that Laurie is marrying Isham.
Ellen Drew is Nan Melotte whose small holding is next to Owen’s ranch. She and Owen and Bourke Prine are about to start their drive to market to sell their cattle.
Alexander Knox is suitably cold and menacing as Isham . He becomes convinced his new wife still has feelings for Merritt.
Richard Rober, always good in villainous roles. Sadly he died in a car accident shortly after Man In The Saddle was completed.
He plays the Isham’s hired gun who stampedes Owen’s cattle and brings death and destruction to the peaceful ranchers.
John Russell’s character, Hugh Clagg is a surprising addition to the film’s plot. He plays a loner whom nobody really likes, but he is obsessed with Ellen Drew’s Nan who is kind to him.
Richard Crane and Cameron Mitchell as the Vird brothers who work for Owen.
Always a pleasure to see Clem Bevans as Pay Lankershim (love that name!). Unfortunately Clem is only in the film briefly. Pay reluctantly accepts Isham’s generous offer to buy him out.
One of the few lighter scenes where anyone smiles in the film. The light moments come from Alphonso Bedoyo as Owen’s ranch cook.
Man In The Saddle was a Scott/Brown production, written by Kenneth Gamet from Ernest Haycox’s novel.
Producer Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott had known each other since 1941’s Western Union and The Desperadoes and continued their association from 1947 through the 1950s. No doubt a lucrative partnership for the two men who could turn out good westerns at not too great a cost.
Man in the Saddle has great locations in the Alabama Hills in California . And fortunately it was in color. Though there were too many night scenes which weren’t well lit – where was the ‘moonlight’.
It was the first of six films Andre De Toth made with Randolph Scott. The others are Carson City, The Stranger Wore A Gun, Thunder Over The Plains, Riding Shotgun, The Bounty Hunter.
Deserving of a box set release. I particularly like Carson City and The Bounty Hunter.
The screenwriter was Kenneth Gamet whom I discovered did the scripts for 8 of Randolph Scott’s westerns. He also co-founded the Screen Writers Guild.Like Scott’s producing partnership with Harry Joe Brown, it makes sense that this writer would become familiar with the Scott formula.
It’s interesting that in many of Scott’s westerns there was a group of actors common to many of them – Lee Marvin, Frank Faylen, Michael Pate, Dorothy Malone, Clem Bevans, Ray Teal.
Clem Bevans had a much bigger role in Scott’s Hangman’s Knot the following year, whereas Guinn Williams , a solid friend of Owen in Man in the Saddle, returns to his more usual type of role as a blustering bad guy in the latter film.
Question. Owen’s trail herd seems to be forgotten as the film progresses, or is it being tended by Tennessee Ernie Ford who plays a ranch hand and sings the title song round their campfire !
Love this rare picture on the set, with director Andre de Toth on left, Randolph Scott, Ellen Drew, Guinn Williams.
On her wedding night, Laurie gets a visit from Owen . She makes it clear she will marry Isham. Owen says, “You always figured you could make your mind pull your heart along. I hope you can.“
I liked Joan Leslie as Laurie who has plans to better herself by marrying the rich Isham. She can be ruthless – when her father (Don Beddoe) drinks and talks too much at her wedding reception, she simply tells him to leave the area and she’ll send him money.
Her marriage to Isham is strictly a bargain, in name only. “I’ll play the part you want me to play.”
But Isham doesn’t share anything, be it land or a woman – his philosophy is “Whatever I have is mine and mine alone. I’ll share with no one.”
Later he warns Owen, “Stay away from everything that belongs to me.”
So that’s the set up for this 87 minute film which is well paced and full of action.