Shot in a mere twelve days, The Tall T is one of the most remarkable westerns in a decade that unquestionably belonged to the western genre. Burt Kennedy scripted a pure, taut, and crisp script from an Elmore Leonard short story.The Tall T is an actor’s film. The first surprise lies in Maureen O’Sullivan’s performance as homely, whimpering Doretta Mims; a performance that can almost be seen as a bookend to her far different, equally superb performance as the independent, strong-willed, sensual Jane of Tarzan and his Mate (1934). Here, she is the newly married, timid wife of unsympathetic louse John Hubbard. By film’s end she emerges from self-pity’s well, dress coming off shoulder, hair loosed down and radiating a fire akin to Prometheus unbound as she is pressed up against the pure, granite-hard, phallic form of Randolph Scott.
Scott’s character is one of his most interesting and fully developed in the Boetticher cannon. The film opens with Scott visiting friends at the Way Station. Upon Scott’s departure, the young , amiable, grandson of the station manager gives the laconic cowboy a penny for some rock hard candy from the town store. Naturally, the good-natured Scott promises to do so. However, on the way back to the station, Scott, more animated than normal, loses his horse in a bet in a scene evoking archetypal good old boy western humor. The calm before the proverbial storm.
Taking a stagecoach on the way back to the station, Scott has a bit of camaraderie with old buddy and stagecoach driver Arthur Hunnicutt (a character favorite in dozens of westerns, he typified the grizzled sidekick) who is transporting newlyweds O’ Sullivan and her louse husband;,John Hubbard (surprisingly, a standard stock coward, nowhere near as developed as Walter Continue reading THE EXQUISITE CHAMBER WESTERNS OF BUDD BOETTICHER, PART TWO: THE TALL T (1957)