The veteran director and the rugged actor made some great westerns together.
When western fans talk about fortuitously teamed actors and directors — dynamic duos such as John Wayne and John Ford, or James Stewart and Anthony Mann — the conversation inevitably turns to the prolific partnership of Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher. Between 1956 and 1960, these two Hollywood legends brought out the best in each other while making no fewer than seven notable westerns, including some that are regarded as enduring classics of the genre. Their legacy includes:
Seven Men from Now (1956)
Originally conceived as a vehicle for John Wayne, this gritty western drama — written by genre specialist Burt Kennedy — proved to be an auspicious (and aptly titled) start for the Scott-Boetticher partnership. Ben Stride (Scott) is a man on a mission, furiously determined to track down the seven outlaws who killed an innocent clerk — Stride’s wife — while robbing a Wells Fargo freight station. Lee Marvin steals every scene that isn’t nailed down as a former nemesis who’s surprisingly helpful to Stride — but only up to a point.
The Tall T (1957)
Ramrod-turned-rancher Pat Brennan (Scott) and copper mine heiress Doretta Mims (Maureen O’Sullivan) are held captive by a sly stagecoach bandit (Richard Boone) and his thick-witted cohorts, while Doretta’s cowardly husband seeks a ransom from his wife’s wealthy father. A nice touch: The bandit refrains from killing Brennan primarily because he’s desperate for intelligent conversation. But their budding friendship is soured by the bandit's determination to start a new, more respectable life with the ransom money.
Decision at Sundown (1957)
Easily the most downbeat of the seven collaborations. Bart Allison (Scott) rides into Sundown to kill the tyrannical town boss, whom he blames for his wife’s suicide. Thanks to his crusade, just about everybody, including the villain of the piece, gets a shot at redemption. Everybody, that is, except Allison, who’s last seen drunk and embittered, and unable to answer an accusatory question: “How can you get revenge for something you never had?”
Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)
In a small Tex-Mex border hamlet run by a corrupt family, Tom Buchanan (Scott) befriends a young Mexican who avenges his sister’s honor by fatally shooting the spoiled son of a politically ambitious judge. The judge is more than willing to free his son’s killer in return for a hefty campaign contribution. But the money can’t be held by anyone for very long — and thanks to Buchanan, neither can the killer. Almost, but not quite, a black comedy, Buchanan has an understated but richly satisfying flavor of self-parody.
Ride Lonesome (1959)
The best of the Scott-Boetticher westerns finds bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Scott) bringing a captured outlaw (James Best) across Indian territory. Two semi-reformed bandits (a pre-Bonanza Pernell Roberts, whose cocksure preening suggests a Wild West version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and a callow James Coburn) want to wrest control of Brigade’s captive in order to claim an amnesty offered for their past crimes. But Brigade isn’t interested in amnesty, or even a reward. Rather, he wants to lure the outlaw’s older brother (Lee Van Cleef) into a forced feeding of just desserts.
Although it’s arguably the least of the seven movies in the cycle, this Warner Bros. production offers a fair amount of straight-shooting action as Capt. John Hayes (Scott) battles bandits and Confederate sympathizers to maintain gold deliveries by the Overland stagecoach line during the Civil War. Veteran character actor Michael Pate plays an especially despicable villain — even women and children are not safe from his murderous rampages — so it’s more satisfying than usual when Scott’s hero ultimately terminates the bad guy.
Comanche Station (1960)
The final Scott-Boetticher collaboration is a straightforward western drama with an affectingly melancholy aftertaste. Jefferson Cody (Scott), obsessed with finding the wife who was kidnapped by Comanches more than a decade ago, barters with Indians for the release of another white woman (Nancy Gates), the wife of a man who has posted a huge reward for her dead-or-alive return. Hearty outlaw Ben Lane (Claude Akins) tries to muscle in on the transaction, but Cody won't be dissuaded from completing his chivalrous task. He remains true to himself, even though his noble gesture brings him no nearer a closure. The ending suggests he will never stop searching. Which, of course, makes him the quintessential Budd Boetticher hero.