If you know anything about Randolph Scott westerns, you’ll recognise that Scott very rarely has anything to smile about. He’s either a sheriff, a bounty hunter, a soldier, a loner, usually out for justice or revenge .
The best of the bad hombres go up against him – Raymond Massey, Lee Marvin, Michael Pate , but you know the outcome – he’s RANDOLPH SCOTT!
Three supreme bad guys he didn’t tangle with – Lyle Bettger, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally.
Ok, I’m getting to the title of this post. Don’t rush me.
I can think of only two westerns where Randolph Scott didn’t play a hard bitten, man on a mission type. One was Buchanan Rides Alone, and the other is The Tall T.
In THE TALL T, Scott plays Pat Brennan, a small ranch owner whose life is going the way he wants it. He gets on well with folk . He’s philosophical when he loses his horse in a bet, (trying to ride a bull!)
- In a short space of time, he’s in the middle of a situation which may cost him his life. He hitches a ride on a stagecoach driven by his buddy, Arthur Hunnicutt. The only two people in the coach are Maureen O’Sullivan and her new husband, John Hubbard.
Three killers, Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier stop the coach , as they know Maureen is the daughter of a rich mine owner. Ransom is on their mind.
Scott’s ‘Brennan’ has to figure out how they can stay alive.
Maureen’s new husband is only interested in saving his own skin. Maureen knows he only married her for her money. He ends up dead, and eventually ’ Brennan’ eliminates the bad guys, one by one.
A small cast often produces drama of high quality ,and “The Tall T” is perfect in that regard.
Henry Silva’s sadistic character kills with no compunction.
And here it comes!
Doretta is trying to recover from the shock of the killings and Pat reassures her by saying:
C’mon now . It’s gonna be a nice day.”
It’s so totally unexpected and out of the blue, yet it fits with the character . And it breaks the tension of the final scenes.
No one is quite sure why the film is called THE TALL T. There was a working title, The Tall Rider. Advertising for the film : “Taut! Torrid! Tremendous! T for Terror!
NOTE: My thanks to Bob Walker for the following:
The explanation for the title was given in an article written by Michael Schlesinger.
“Just what is The Tall T? I asked him ( Budd Boetticher) myself one day, and he replied that it’s the name of Tenvoorde’s ranch ( the setting of an early scene that we never return to and is thus quite irrelevant), but the explanation somehow got lost in the editing. I asked why he didn’t try to have the title changed, and he smiled cryptically, “Because I liked it.”
( Tenvoorde being the ranch owner whom the Scott character is visiting at the film’s start.)
Bob also added : “Another famous line from the film – “Some things a man can’t ride around.”
The ending is sublime, fitting and deeply satisfying too. It sums up the ethos of the movie perfectly.
The movie as a whole is a wonderful piece of work, the abrupt switch of tone that occurs with the appalling discovery of what happened at the swing station is shockingly effective. It sets up the ruthlessness of Boone’s character and then the charm which the actor later injects adds that layer that makes his ultimate and unavoidable showdown with Scott so much more meaningful.
Surely one of the most violent westerns Scott ever made – so many folk end up dead. Boone’s character is so well written and we can appreciate his conversations with Scott.
Yes, it is violent. Homeier’s demise is pretty brutal stuff.
Vienna, good write-up of my favorite Randolph Scott movie THE TALL T(filmed 1956, released 1957). I’ll always remember that last line. When Scott passed away on March 2, 1987, I recall viewing a tribute of Scott on one of the newscasts and it appropriately ended with that scene from THE TALL T, with him saying that very line of dialogue.
That’s nice to know, Walter that the newscast showed that scene.