The Tall Men (1955)

121-122 mins | Western | October 1955

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Tall Man . At the conclusion of the opening credits, a written foreword reads: “Montana Territory 1866. They came from the South, headed for the goldfields…Ben and Clint Allison, lonely, desperate men. Riding away from a heart break memory of Gettysburg. Looking for a new life. A story of tall men—and long shadows.” According to a 13 May 1954 LAT news item and a 4 Oct 1955 HR article, independent producers William A. Bacher and William B. Hawks bought the rights to Clay Fisher’s novel for $10,000 with the intention of selling it to Twentieth Century-Fox. On 13 May 1954, HR stated that Fisher was completing the screenplay for the film, but he receives only a literary source credit in the onscreen credits.
       According to May, Jul and Aug 1954 HR news items, James Arness, Guy Madison and Brad Dexter were cast as Clark Gable’s co-stars, but none of them appear in the completed picture. HR news items include Mexican guitarist Carlos Del Muro, and Jamie Russell, Jane Russell’s brother, in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Contemporary sources report that the snow sequences were shot on location in Sun Valley, ID, and the majority of the rest of the picture was shot on location in Durango, Mexico. A Nov 1955 AmCin article reported that the stampede sequences were shot in the Los Organes Valley, near Durango. According to studio publicity, the 4,000 head of cattle assembled for the picture constituted the largest herd used for a movie.
       According to ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Tall Man . At the conclusion of the opening credits, a written foreword reads: “Montana Territory 1866. They came from the South, headed for the goldfields…Ben and Clint Allison, lonely, desperate men. Riding away from a heart break memory of Gettysburg. Looking for a new life. A story of tall men—and long shadows.” According to a 13 May 1954 LAT news item and a 4 Oct 1955 HR article, independent producers William A. Bacher and William B. Hawks bought the rights to Clay Fisher’s novel for $10,000 with the intention of selling it to Twentieth Century-Fox. On 13 May 1954, HR stated that Fisher was completing the screenplay for the film, but he receives only a literary source credit in the onscreen credits.
       According to May, Jul and Aug 1954 HR news items, James Arness, Guy Madison and Brad Dexter were cast as Clark Gable’s co-stars, but none of them appear in the completed picture. HR news items include Mexican guitarist Carlos Del Muro, and Jamie Russell, Jane Russell’s brother, in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Contemporary sources report that the snow sequences were shot on location in Sun Valley, ID, and the majority of the rest of the picture was shot on location in Durango, Mexico. A Nov 1955 AmCin article reported that the stampede sequences were shot in the Los Organes Valley, near Durango. According to studio publicity, the 4,000 head of cattle assembled for the picture constituted the largest herd used for a movie.
       According to modern sources, Gable received an advance of $400,000 against 10 percent of the film’s gross for The Tall Men , as well as for the 1955 Twentieth Century-Fox production Soldier of Fortune (see above). Gable reportedly received an additional $430,000 for The Tall Men due to its excellent box-office returns. Although a 14 Jun 1955 HR news item indicated that Bacher and Hawks purchased the rights to The Big Pasture , Fisher’s sequel to The Tall Men , no film based on that novel was produced. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Nov 55
pp. 644-45, 668-71.
Beverly Hills Citizen
20 Sep 1955
p. 12.
Box Office
1 Oct 1955.
---
Daily Variety
22 Sep 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
22 Sep 55
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
24 Sep 1955
p. 156.
Hollywood Citizen-News
23 Sep 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1955
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Oct 55
p. 611.
New York Times
12 Oct 55
p. 36.
Saturday Review
29 Oct 1955.
---
Time
7 Nov 1955.
---
Variety
28 Sep 55
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styling
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Chief wrangler
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Tall Men by Clay Fisher (Boston, 1954).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Tall Men," music and lyrics by Ken Darby
"Cancion Mixteca," music and lyrics by Jose Lopez Alaves.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Tall Man
Release Date:
October 1955
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 22 September 1955
New York opening: 11 October 1955
Production Date:
early April--early June 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
22 September 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5777
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
121-122
Length(in feet):
10,929
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17476
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1866, brothers Ben and Clint Allison, disillusioned after fighting with Quantrell’s Raiders during the Civil War, turn outlaw and spend several months committing robberies. The brothers travel to Mineral City in the Montana territory, where they spot entrepreneur Nathan Stark donning a money belt in a saloon. Ben and Clint rob Stark, then, fearing that he will alert the vigilantes, force him to accompany them to a distant shack. The Allisons intend to release Stark the next day, and are surprised when he offers them a partnership in his scheme to drive a huge herd of cattle from Texas, where they can be bought cheaply, over the Bozeman Trail to Montana, to be sold at a huge profit. Although no one has ever driven a herd such a long distance, Ben sees the plan’s potential and, with Clint, agrees to return to their native Texas with Stark. The men begin the long journey to Texas, and during a blizzard, are forced to stop at Timpas Grove. There, they find a stranded group of settlers who were headed for California. Ben is immediately attracted to fiesty Nella Turner, as she is to him. In the morning, when the weather has cleared, the trio of men ride on, but soon spot an Ogala Sioux war signal. Ben orders Clint to continue on with Stark while he rides back to warn the settlers. When he reaches the grove, Ben finds that all of the settlers except Nella have been killed by the Indians. Ben rescues Nella, although another storm forces them to take shelter in an abandoned cabin. The couple fall in love, but as they discuss their future, Ben states ... +


In 1866, brothers Ben and Clint Allison, disillusioned after fighting with Quantrell’s Raiders during the Civil War, turn outlaw and spend several months committing robberies. The brothers travel to Mineral City in the Montana territory, where they spot entrepreneur Nathan Stark donning a money belt in a saloon. Ben and Clint rob Stark, then, fearing that he will alert the vigilantes, force him to accompany them to a distant shack. The Allisons intend to release Stark the next day, and are surprised when he offers them a partnership in his scheme to drive a huge herd of cattle from Texas, where they can be bought cheaply, over the Bozeman Trail to Montana, to be sold at a huge profit. Although no one has ever driven a herd such a long distance, Ben sees the plan’s potential and, with Clint, agrees to return to their native Texas with Stark. The men begin the long journey to Texas, and during a blizzard, are forced to stop at Timpas Grove. There, they find a stranded group of settlers who were headed for California. Ben is immediately attracted to fiesty Nella Turner, as she is to him. In the morning, when the weather has cleared, the trio of men ride on, but soon spot an Ogala Sioux war signal. Ben orders Clint to continue on with Stark while he rides back to warn the settlers. When he reaches the grove, Ben finds that all of the settlers except Nella have been killed by the Indians. Ben rescues Nella, although another storm forces them to take shelter in an abandoned cabin. The couple fall in love, but as they discuss their future, Ben states that all he wants is a quiet life on a Texas ranch. Nella bitterly recounts how the hard life of a rancher killed her mother and asserts that she “dreams big.” Ben, who “dreams small,” cannot reconcile himself to Nella’s desire for a grand future in California, and the pair angrily ends their courtship. They then travel to an Army outpost, where they learn that Clint and Stark have gone on to San Antonio. Nella is forced to accompany Ben to San Antonio, as there are no stagecoaches from the post to California, and there she is aggressively courted by Stark. Although Nella is nonplussed by the educated Stark’s attempts to turn her into a lady, she recognizes that he can make her big dreams come true. Stark buys a huge herd of cattle, and Ben organizes the wranglers, who are led by Ben’s devoted friend, Luis Estrella. As they begin the cattle drive, Ben is dismayed to learn that Nella will be accompanying Stark to Montana. Later, the group comes across some settlers, who tell them that they were attacked by Jayhawkers, a renegade group of Kansans who extort huge tolls from anyone crossing the state line. Stark favors paying the toll, but Ben refuses, and when the Jayhawkers confront them, Ben’s men prevail in a gunfight. As the journey continues, the hot-headed, often drunk Clint clashes with Stark, whom he despises. When the herd reaches Ft. Bozeman, the beginning of the Bozeman Trail, Col. Norris informs the Allisons that the trail is closed due to the increased violence of the Sioux. Ben again refuses to be put off course and allows only a few days rest for the herd. One afternoon, as Clint taunts Nella while she bathes in a river, Stark intervenes and shoots Clint’s revolver out of his hand during a fair draw. Clint is angered by the event, and drunk, attempts to shoot Stark later. Ben stands between Clint and Stark, and eventually Clint relents, although he is so embarrassed by his actions that he runs away. Ben searches for Clint for two days to no avail and begins the drive again. Ben finds Clint soon after, and an abashed Clint promises to reform. Clint asks to ride point so that he can avoid Stark, and Ben agrees, although he regrets his decision after Clint is killed by the Sioux. After Clint is buried, the grief-stricken Ben scouts ahead and discovers that the Indians have the group boxed in, forcing them to travel through a canyon to reach Montana. The canyon is perfectly situated for an ambush, and in order to prevent the Sioux from slaughtering them, Ben orders Luis to stampede the cattle through the canyon. Ben and Nella forgive each other for their earlier taunts as they prepare for the dangeous ride, and soon the stampede begins. Ben’s strategy works, and the group survives without losing many cattle. Stark and Nella ride ahead to Mineral City to sell the cattle, while Ben and the men rest the herd. When Ben arrives at Stark’s saloon for his share of the profits, however, Stark tries to have him arrested by the vigilantes in retribution for Ben’s earlier attempt to rob him. Suspecting that Stark would double-cross him, Ben had ordered his men to take over the saloon, and Stark is forced to release Ben. Ben takes only a small portion of the profits, and as Ben leaves, Stark admits that he is the only man he has ever respected. When Ben, Luis and the others return to camp, Luis realizes that Ben’s gloomy demeanor is caused by his lingering love for Nella. Ben quickly cheers up, however, when he finds Nella, who has realized that only he can make her truly happy. Nella sings a song about settling down with Ben in his hometown, then playfully asks Ben to take off her boots. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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