Jane Russell's Ambitions for Clark Gable
Brothers Ben (Clark Gable) and Clint (Cameron Mitchell) decide to turn bad by robbing businessman Nathan Stark (Robert Ryan), but are talked into an unlikely partnership with Nathan when he asks them to drive a herd of cattle for him from Texas to Montana. Agreeing they set off for Texas but along the way Ben finds himself falling for Nella Turner (Jane Russell), a young woman he rescues from the Indians. Although Nella feels something for Ben he's just not ambitious enough for her and she ends up in the arms of Nathan Stark instead. But on the journey back from Texas to Montana it seems that whilst Nathan Stark is ambitious the real man is Ben, but which one will she choose?
"The Tall Men" starts off leading you to think that it is going to be something more along the lines of a revenge western with brothers Ben and Clint robbing businessman Nathan Stark. But then it doesn't take long to morph into a trail movie as Ben, Clint and Nathan strike up an unlikely partnership. As such, being a trail movie director Raoul Walsh gives us a lot of expected elements such as some nice cinematography of the cattle being driven and crossing rivers, there is also trouble with native Indians and also some opportunist cowboys. All of which it has to be said is very stereotypical of any trail movie, it's all nicely done but it's not anything you haven't seen before.
If "The Tall Men" had remained at just that it would have ended up rather ordinary and even the clever ending covering the trust and treachery between Ben and Nathan wouldn't have made it any more special. But what does make "The Tall Men" more than just another trail movie is the whole romantic storyline which forms when Ben comes to the rescue of Nella Turner and find themselves falling for each other as they hide out in a cabin whilst a blizzard passes over. It's fun stuff and although this is a movie before sex became acceptable there is something quite powerful about the way they flirt with Jane Russell baring her shoulders and showing off her stunning figure.
And "The Tall Men" builds nicely as Ben realises that Nella is a gold digger when she decides he's not ambitious enough for her ending up with her in the arms of businessman Nathan Stark. What follows is just brilliant with Nella trying to make Ben jealous by being all over Nathan but at the same time flirting with Ben. It allows for their relationship to continue on a very antagonistic level and as such there is some really clever writing as the banter flies just as much as the sparks.
As such it is the pairing of Clark Gable and Jane Russell which really makes "The Tall Men" entertaining. There is a real spark between them, chemistry and so not only does it feel believable that deep down Nella really loves Ben but the bickering and snide remarks are full of venom. Aside from the banter and spark you could say that both Clark Gable and Jane Russell were playing to type. Gable delivers the strong handsome cowboy, someone with an eye for the female form whilst Russell certainly has a fine female form and sexy with it too but feisty as well. Aside from the pairing of Clark Gable and Jane Russell, it has to be said that the rest of the cast which features Robert Ryan and Cameron Mitchell are very much over shadowed.
What this all boils down to is that "The Tall Men" is entertaining but for the romantic comedy, bickering and antagonism of Clark Gable and Jane Russell rather than for the actual movie. Without Clark Gable and Jane Russell "The Tall Men" would have been just a mediocre trail movie with little to keep your attention.