Tall in the Saddle (1944): Martin’s Western, Starring John Wayne

RKO Radio Pictures

In the fast-paced, simple but entertaining Western, Tall in the Saddle, directed by Edwin L. Marin in a functional but impersonal way, John Wayne plays Rocklin, a tall, taciturn cowboy arriving in Santa Inez to become a ranch foreman.

On this picture, which was scripted by Michael Hogan and Paul J. Fix, Wayne’s friend, who had appeared with him in “”In Old Oklahoma” and “The Fighting Seabees,” among others, the Duke took a more active approach, urging RKO producer Robert Fellowes to make the saga as a star vehicle for him.

Upon realizing that Red Cardell, his prospective employer, had been murdered, and that the ranch is now run by women, Clara (Audrey Young) and her aunt Miss Martin (Elizabeth Risdon), Rocklin initially declines to work for them. “I never feel sorry for anything that happens to a woman,” he proudly declares.

However, gradually, Rocklin helps Clara foil the plot of her corrupt aunt to take the ranch away from her and turn it over to the dubious Judge Garvey (Ward Bond). Clara, a delicate woman from the East, is contrasted in the film with Arly Harolday (Ella Raines), an independent and aggressive woman. Raines, dressed in a Western costume, fires a pistol and even flings a knife at Wayne when she is irritated. He, however, wards her off, “You might as well know, no woman is going to get me hogtied and branded.”

It turns out that a hot-headed gambler by the name of Clint had been killed by Arly’s stepfather Harloday (Don Douglas) because he knew too much about Cardell’s murder. Some family secrets are disclosed through some missing letters, when Miss Martin reveals that Rocklin is the lawful owner of the ranch, because he was the nephew of Cardell.

In the film’s happy ending, Clara goes back to the East, a safer place for women, but not before urging Rocklin to claim Arly, because she is his type of woman.


Produced by Robert Fellows.
Associate Producer: Theron Warth.
Directed by Edwin L. Marin.
Screenplay by Michael Hogan and Paul J. Fix, based on an original story by Gordon Ray Young.
Camera: Robert de Grasse.
Editing: Philip Martin.
Art direction: Albert D’Agostino, Ralph Berger.
Music: Roy Webb.
Musical director: C. Bakaleinkoff.
Assistant director: Harry Scott.
F/X: Vernon L. Walker.

Running time: 89 Minutes
Release date: September 29, 1944


In May 2005, a DVD Collection titled “The John Wayne Legendary Heroes,” came out, containing five films: Blood Alley, McQ, The Sea Chase, Tall in the Saddle and The Train Robbers, will be available on DVD for the first time. The films will be available individually for $14.97 SRP while the boxed set will sell for $49.92 SRP.

DVD special features: John Wayne trailer gallery

Wayne: The Duke

Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, John Wayne first worked in the film business as a laborer on the Fox lot during summer vacations from U.S.C., which he attended on a football scholarship. He met and was befriended by John Ford, a young director who was beginning to make a name for himself in action films, comedies and dramas. It was Ford who recommended Wayne to director Raoul Walsh for the male lead in the 1930 epic Western The Big Trail, and, although it was a box office failure, the movie showed Wayne’s potential.

For the next nine years, Wayne worked in a multitude of B-Westerns and serials in between bit parts in larger features. Wayne’s big break came in 1939, when Ford cast him as the Ringo Kid in the adventure Stagecoach. Wayne nearly stole the picture from his more seasoned co-stars, and his career as a box-office superstar began. During his 50 year film career, Wayne played the lead in over 150 movies, an as yet unsurpassed record, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning the Best Actor award in 1969 for his performance in “True Grit,” directed by Henry Hathaway.