starring Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Arthur Hunnicutt
screenplay by Burt Kennedy
directed by Budd Boetticher
by Travis Mackenzie Hoover The Tall T is, on the surface, a fairly unassuming western from the '50s: individualistic loner fights bad guys while standing up for the pioneer spirit. Why, then, did it leave me with such an awful sadness? The reason is that the filmmakers have thought about what loner individuals and bad guys and the pioneer spirit represent, and the conclusions they reach are quietly devastating. Instead of displaying knee-jerk expressions of stock responses, director Budd Boetticher and writer Burt Kennedy truly meditate on why someone would want to embody the cowboy ideal--and realize it's an alienation so great that social life becomes all but unbearable. It's not even a critique of the American dream, but a lament for an alternative that might lead someone out of isolation; The Tall T ultimately finds that a life of productive solitude is better than becoming gnarled in the risks of the outside world.