Hollywood director Fritz Lang once remarked that Cinemascope was only good for snakes and funerals. Perhaps today he would have included snakes on a plane, but at the time he could have just as easily included cattle drives, since the best thing about Raoul Walsh’s The Tall Men (1955) are the panoramic shots of dusty cows stretched across the wide screen.
Problem is, the cattle drive in the picture doesn’t start until halfway through this two-hour movie. We spend the first hour getting to know Ben (Clark Gable) and his brother Clint (Cameron Mitchell), two of Quantrill’s former raiders who are persuaded to work for Nathan Stark (Robert Ryan) rather than rob him. We also meet love interest Nella Turner (Jane Russell) who likewise seems sadly unsuited for Cinemascope. Russell and Gable have a lack of chemistry you could drive a herd of beef through.
There is some fun to be had knowing that Gable’s drovers are a mix of ex-Missouri raiders and vaqueros, but it doesn’t get enough play. The film was produced by William Hawks, brother of Red River’s director Howard Hawks, the script was written by one of John Ford’s regulars, Frank Nugent, and The Big Heat’s Sydney Boehm, and was based on a story by Henry Wilson Allen a.k.a. Will Henry a.k.a. Clay Fisher.
The Tall Men is one of three discs in The Clark Gable Collection, which also contains Soldier of Fortune (1955) and The Call of the Wild (1935). Extras include production stills and a trailer.