Last week, as you'll recall, that Hockensmith feller got so worked up about the "Oscar" awards he went and predicted who'd win every single one right down to "Best Shot of a Character Holding a Soda Pop or Beer Bottle with the Label Facing the Camera" and "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Supporting Role" (that's the ones that support the supporters, y'see). So I moseyed over to his place Sunday night and gave the thing a try, but I'm afraid it didn't do much for me. In fact, I fell dead asleep somewhere between the words "Good evening" and "ladies and gentlemen."
Still, when I woke up, I did find myself in a movie-watching mood. So I fired up the ol' BVD and popped in a couple flicks -- albeit ones Hockensmith's pal Oscar probably wouldn't think much of.
First up was The Tall T starring Randolph "Not So Great" Scott. I pinned Not So Great with his nickname after seeing him out-acted by his own horse in a couple other films. Heck, there were hitching posts with more charisma. But I reckon I'll have to start calling him something else now. "Good Enough" maybe. Because that's just what he was in The Tall T -- and the movie was "Danged Good."
Good Enough plays a small-time rancher who stumbles into a stagecoach stick-up gone sour and winds up a hostage. A swaggering so-and-so named Richard Boone pops up to wear the biggest of the various black hats, and he sports it with great panache. I particularly liked how his character hates his dim-witted, bloodthirsty gang-mates but really likes Good Enough -- though he knows (or thinks) he's going to have to kill the guy sooner or later. On the surface, it's a simple story simply (and well) told, but there's enough going on beneath the surface to satisfy you if thinking's your thing.
Among the gristle it leaves you to chew on: What exactly is "The Tall T"? The words are never spoken nor seen in the film, leaving one to wonder why it was used as the title. I mean, someone calls their movie Lead-Spitting Guns of Death! or Sex Patrol or Fart Boy in Ha-Ha Land or whatever and you get a pretty good idea what they're up to. But The Tall T? It sounds like it ought to be fifty seconds long and run right before Elmo's World.
One fellow I don't blame for the confusion over the name is Burt Kennedy, who wrote the script (from a story by one "Elmore Leonard"). He was obviously a crafty cuss, based not only on The Tall T but the other movie I BVDed, Support Your Local Sheriff!. Burt got to call the shots on this one -- literally. He directed it. And directed it well.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (or SYLS!, as its fans know it...not that I know any other fans) is what old-timey folks like myself would call a "hoot." Whereas The Tall T doesn't have a funny bone in its lean little body, SYLS! is funny bone from head to toe. James Garner plays a drifter who...well, I think I can just stop right there, because the plot doesn't really matter when this Garner fellow's around. He's one of those actors with so much easygoing, effortless charm you'd watch him even if the plot synopsis was "James Garner plays a drifter who sits on a log and whittles sticks for three hours before settling in to take himself a nice long nap."
I will give this much description, though: SYLS! is a comedy, some of the humor's a bit broad (though not Blazing Saddles broad) and the music has an unfortunate tendency to pummel one over the head with a rubber chicken screaming "Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!" It won't be everyone's cup of tea. Oscar's, for instance.
But me -- I could drink it by the gallon.
Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer
February 25, 1893