Cast & Crew
In Colorado, some years after the Civil War, stranger Larry Venables rides into a small cattle community in search of former Confederate guerrilla fighter Steve Sinclair. Out on the Double S ranch, Steve welcomes home his brash younger brother Tony, who has been away several weeks in Jeweltown, selling cattle and purchasing supplies. To Steve's surprise, Tony has brought along saloon singer Joan Blake, whom Tony declares he intends to marry. When Tony shows Steve a new pistol he purchased in town, Steve warns him that the unofficial head of the valley, Dennis Deneen, has forbidden the use of firearms in the area. Tony scoffs, explaining that since Steve has forsworn his violent past, it is up to Tony to protect the ranch. While Tony practices shooting, Steve tells Joan that his brother is too young to marry and that ranch life is too harsh for a city woman. When Joan assures Steve that she is used to hard work and is sincerely attracted to Tony's boyish innocence, Steve confides that he is grooming Tony to run the ranch. Steve then explains that he was once Deneen's trail boss and that the Double S is part of valley land owned by Deneen. The next day, Steve, Tony and Joan ride into the small town to deposit the money from the cattle sale. When Tony runs into the Double S's former top hand, Dallas Hanson, he invites him for a drink and despite Joan's hesitation, insists that she accompany them to the saloon, while Steve continues to the bank. Shortly afterward, Venables arrives at the bar and although he discovers that Tony is Steve's brother, he insists on talking to Steve alone. Feeling slighted by Venables' attitude, Tony provokes him, hoping for a gunfight. Just as the men are about to draw on each other, Steve arrives and calls out, thus distracting Venables, allowing Tony to outdraw him. Tony is puzzled when Steve berates him for killing Venables. After Steve departs to inform Deneen about the shooting, Joan asks Tony to take her home, but he insists on buying everyone in the saloon a drink instead. At Deneen's ranch, Steve explains that Venables was seeking revenge on Steve for murdering of Venables' younger brother years earlier. Deneen reminds him that since he lost his own son to violence, he has forbidden it throughout his valley and warns Steve that should Tony resort to gunplay again, he will be forced to leave. Riding back to town, Steve discovers Joan alone outside of the saloon while Tony continues celebrating inside. As Steve accompanies Joan back to the Double S, Joan expresses her distress that Tony is acting so immature and reckless. Steve criticizes her naiveté for not understanding that Tony has been shaped by a childhood fraught with the violence of war. When Steve and Joan then see a small wagon train stopped in the valley, Steve investigates and discovers that former Union officer Clay Ellison has returned to land formerly owned by his father, with the intention of farming it. Steve advises Ellison that the land is Deneen's cattle land and not suitable for farming, but Ellison insists that his family and friends intend to settle there. Shortly after Steve and Joan depart, Tony and Dallas drunkenly come upon Ellison and harass him until Steve, hearing the commotion, returns and forces Tony to leave. That evening Ellison calls on Deneen to ask if he can count on the older man to defend his property rights against the angry cattlemen. Deneen admits his aversion for fencing in grazing land, but agrees to give Ellison protection. Meanwhile, when Tony returns to the ranch, Steve chides him for his reckless, brutish behavior and Tony accuses Steve of being jealous of his youth and shooting skills. When Deneen arrives later to inform Steve of his intention to allow Ellison to settle, Tony is outraged, declaring that their ranch is being threatened. Dismayed by Steve's acquiescence to Deneen's decision, Tony decides to challenge Deneen and Ellison. The next morning, Tony confronts Ellison, Deneen and Steve outside the saloon, demanding that Ellison and his family leave the valley. When Ellison refuses, Tony shoots him. Deneen then declares that the Sinclairs must give up the Double S and leave the valley and Steve returns to the ranch to inform his men. Puzzled by Steve's behavior, Tony asserts that he will take over the ranch and fight off Deneen, but the hands refuse to support him. Steve laments to Joan that perhaps he is responsible for Tony's wildness, but she says he has done his best. That afternoon, angry about the hands' disloyalty, but determined to remain at the Double S, Tony patrols the ranch borders. Upon spotting Deneen with barbed wire, Tony threatens him and the confrontation ends with the two men shooting each other. Later, Deneen's foreman and long-time friend, Brick Larson, rides out to tell Steve that Deneen is gravely injured and they are searching for the wounded Tony. Taking his gun, Steve goes in search of Tony and after some hours, finds him hiding. Tony struggles to crawl away, but is too weak, so turns against Steve, determined to fight it out. When Steve draws his gun, however, Tony abruptly shoots himself and, before dying, confesses he wanted to spare Steve from killing again. Returning to Deneen's, Steve reports Tony's death and promises to depart, but Deneen asks him to remain. Steve agrees and returns to the Double S to ask Joan if she will stay on with him.
Paul Lars Henderson
George J. Folsey
Charles K. Hagedon
William A. Horning
John Mcsweeney Jr.
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Saddle the Wind
Adapted from a story by Thomas Thompson, Saddle the Wind involves reformed gunslinger Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor), who has settled into a new life as a rancher, working alongside his former boss, cattle baron Dennis Deneen (Donald Crisp). The harmony of the open range is disturbed when Steve's "gun-happy, loco" kid brother, Tony (John Cassavetes), comes home with a dance hall bride (Julie London) and a hair-trigger Colt revolver.
When Tony encounters a stone-faced gunman (Charles McGraw), who is looking to settle an old grudge with Steve, the "strutting, itchy-fingered little monster" gets the better of the vengeance-seeker in a barroom showdown. Once uncorked, Tony's violent tendencies cannot be controlled. He taunts a group of squatters led by an embittered Civil War veteran, Clay Ellison (Royal Dano), who is looking to farm the land once owned by his father. After Ellison becomes another casualty of Tony's unpredictable rage, Tony commits an unpardonable sin: he turns his gun on Deneen. As a posse is formed to bring Tony to justice, Steve realizes that he too must stand on the side of the law, even if it forces him into a violent confrontation with his homicidal younger brother.
In the biography Serling: The Rise and Fall of Television's Last Angry Man, author Gordon F. Sander suggests that Serling looked at his first movie assignment as something of a lark, mocking Saddle the Wind by calling it "Stop the Fart," and commenting, "I gave better dialogue to the horses than the actors."
It was not the most plum assignment he could have hoped for. Taylor was a serious, inexpressive actor, and it was a challenging task to craft a lively adventure film around his persona. It was reportedly Serling's idea to pit him against the volatile, unconventional Cassavetes. Director Robert Parrish recalled, "I remember once he said, 'Jesus, we got this square star' -- Taylor was square as a post, see? -- 'Let's get this guy I know called Cassavetes. To have him and Robert Taylor in the same picture will either be a total disaster, or it will have something interesting to it."
Serling biographer Sander preferred to call it, "an interesting disaster." Slightly more kind, The New York Times called it, "interesting rather than walloping."
"Taylor wasn't difficult," Sander quotes Parrish as saying, "He was just boring. And the more wooden he got, the more 'Actors Studio' Cassavetes would get, just to annoy him. Cassavetes was always respectful, but you knew he was putting on Taylor all the time."
Like Serling, Cassavetes had come from television, and was cautious not to be seduced by Hollywood's talent-grinding allure. Also like Serling, he did not appear to take the project very seriously.
"He was a terrific pain in the ass in the beginning," remembered co-star Richard Erdman, "John was pretty defiant, kind of paranoid about Hollywood. He was pretty distant until about halfway through."
According to Fine, Cassavetes would impede production if he strongly disagreed about the filming of a particular scene, and describes a specific example from early in the shoot. "Parrish had his location picked out, but while driving to it, Cassavetes spotted a field of wildflowers and declared that this was where he wanted to do the scene. Parrish decided it would be impractical. In retaliation, Erdman remembered, Cassavetes stretched out a tracking shot on horseback to almost twenty takes by mumbling or otherwise refusing to play the scene. Eventually the scene was cut."
Cassavetes's diabolical performance garnered largely positive praise, but viewers couldn't help but feel the New York-born Greek-American seemed out of place in the Old West. Time Magazine called him, "a Stanislavsky-type buckaroo who looks sort of lost in all those wide-open spaces." Newsweek had a similar reaction: "Cassavetes...talks and looks about as Western as a member of the switchblade set."
In an interview with Ray Carney, Cassavetes recalled his transformation from city boy to cowboy. "Somebody spread a report I was the greatest rider alive. Why, I couldn't ride at all! They hoisted me aboard this four-legged package of muscled dynamite and I got thrown so fast I bounced before I hit. I got hoisted up again and got bounced again into the wild blue yonder. A third time up, and this time I grabbed that horse's mane and yelled, 'You four-legged so-and-so, I'm gonna ride you and you're gonna like it!' Well, I rode him sure enough, but the way that horse carried on I guess neither of us liked it. Maybe he figured like I did, 'Well, it's a living.'" (Cassavetes on Cassavetes ).
Co-star Julie London was at the peak of her sultry singing career when she appeared in Saddle the Wind. At the time of the film's release, she was named most popular female vocalist for the third consecutive year by Billboard Magazine. Her one song in the film - "Saddle the Wind," music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans - failed to appear on the pop charts.
John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock , Gunfight at the O.K. Corral ) is said to have directed portions of the film, without credit.
Saddle the Wind won respectable reviews, but never rose above the status of a conventional Western made for undiscriminating audiences. "Rod Serling's screenplay is colorful and exciting," Variety wrote, "and director Robert Parrish has kept it keyed high for a fast, exciting picture that will have particular appeal to younger ticket buyers."
Serling's script was frequently singled out for praise upon the film's release. The New York Times remarked, "The emphasis is on talk. And the dialogue -- whether Mr. Serling's or his source's -- is excellent, blunt, thoughtful and scathing, in turn. The picture is worth seeing simply to hear what these people will say next."
Serling's script for Saddle the Wind earned him a $250,000, four-picture contract with MGM. He went on to work on the screenplays of such memorable films as Seven Days in May (1964) and Planet of the Apes (1968), but his heart does not seem to have been in screenwriting. Television was Serling's forte, and to television he always returned, and there his greatest accomplishments were achieved.
Director: Robert Parrish
Producer: Armand Deutsch
Screenplay: Rod Serling
Based on a story by Thomas Thompson
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Production Design: Malcolm Brown and William A. Horning
Cast: Robert Taylor (Steve Sinclair), John Cassavetes (Tony Sinclair), Julie London (Joan Blake), Donald Crisp (Dennis Deneen), Royal Dano (Clay Ellison), Richard Erdman (Dallas Hanson), Charles McGraw (Larry Venables).
C-84m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Bret Wood
Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Film  by Marshall Fine
Cassavetes on Cassavetes
Saddle the Wind
Saddle the Wind - Robert Taylor vs. John Cassavetes in SADDLE THE WIND - 1958 Western on DVD
Smaller studios had successfully hijacked the young movie audience, but MGM's idea of hooking the kids was to hire a director under fifty years of age. Robert Parrish had attracted some industry admirers with the impressive Gregory Peck film The Purple Plain and MGM was perhaps gambling that he'd turn out a commercial hit. At any rate, kids hoping to see "Rebel without a Six-Gun" were instead given a juvenile delinquent cowpoke with few redeeming characteristics.
Synopsis: Ex-gunfighter Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor) has been granted a small plot of land to start his own ranch by the grateful cattleman Dennis Deneen (Donald Crisp), and is eager to keep the peace in the open range. But Steve's younger brother Tony (John Cassavetes) returns from the city with a fiancée, Joan (Julie London). Steve worries about the prospects of Tony founding a cattle dynasty with a saloon singer for a wife. Tony's unstable nature surfaces when he seeks to prove himself as potent a gunman as his brother. He guns down a troublemaker who turns out to have been the well-known pistolero Larry Venables (Charles McGraw). The reckless Tony then harasses some settlers who have a legal claim on a neighboring property known as The Strip. Their leader Clay Ellison (Royal Dano) intends to put up barbed wire. If Steve can't control his brother, the violence-hating Dennis Deneen will dispossess both of them.
Robert Parrish made a few good movies and several ill-fated projects like Fire Down Below and Journey to the Far Side of the Sun; Saddle the Wind fits uncomfortably on the positive side of the scale. Parrish's direction of actors is uniformly good. Cassavetes' acting is refreshingly unpredictable; his Tony is sincere but pathologically out of control. The beautiful Julie London goes through yet another western without smiling. She sings the title tune but and would continue her state of depression through Anthony Mann's Man of the West and Parrish's best western, The Wonderful Country. Parrish nurtures the tentative relationship between Steve and Joan, maintaining character interest even as the plot moves in predictable patterns.
Rod Serling's script reaches for the easy psychologizing of a 50s TV production, presenting brothers in an unhealthy relationship. The patriarchal Deneen abhors violence but it's obvious that his valley wasn't conquered with kind words. The western setup makes a cozy metaphor for the movie industry as envisioned by the conservative MGM brass. The old mogul (Deneen) was a wild boy in his youth but now wants a stable community with a place for loyal "employees" like Robert Taylor. Young punks like Allied Artists and American-International (Cassavetes) are causing a ruckus that could pollute the Hollywood money well. After the hopped up juvenile delinquent self-destructs, both the valley and the girl end up in the hands of the old guard. We can just see the MGM execs assuring each other that Rock 'n' Roll and cheap teen pix were fads that would soon go away.
The movie works best in claustrophobic settings, like the barroom where Tony out-shoots the abusive Larry Venables. The winner ends up buying drinks all around, literally atop the loser's dead body. Cassavetes and the stubble-faced Charles McGraw energize the script, raising hopes that the rest of the movie will be as interesting. Sadly, the outdoors confrontation with the homesteader-squatters is just too generic; by this time Tony's trigger-happy bad judgment is old news. The film's final act sees the characters marking time, waiting for the unstable punk Tony to get blown away.
Stern-faced Robert Taylor remains in charge. In reality, the venerable star's MGM contract would soon expire, leaving Taylor to move on to his own production company and television work. It's interesting that John Cassavetes' Hollywood career never developed farther than favored guest parts as psychos and killers. Perhaps he knew that he could never inherit matinee idol Taylor's white hat, and was already thinking of directing his own independent movies.
A worthy genre effort, Saddle the Wind will appeal more to knowledgeable film fans than the average western buff -- it has the one good barroom confrontation but is otherwise light in the action department. Primetime TV in 1958 offered more of what the audience wanted -- violent gunplay. It would take the entrance of Sam Peckinpah to truly shake up the western genre.
Warner's DVD of Saddle the Wind is a handsome enhanced transfer of this CinemaScope feature; the elements are in great shape. The only extra is a trailer. The composite cover graphic appears to be from a deleted scene, as the action depicted doesn't occur in the movie.
For more information about Saddle the Wind, visit Warner Video.To order Saddle the Wind, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Saddle the Wind - Robert Taylor vs. John Cassavetes in SADDLE THE WIND - 1958 Western on DVD
I tried to bend that kid a certain way. I tried to shape him. He was some kind of tough leather that I had to make soft. But he didn't soften any. He wasn't made that way. He was just rotten leather and he came up hard.- Steve Sinclair
You better open your eyes because I'm not just your kid brother anymore. I'm a full partner and I ride abreast of you. And you're not sitting on me anymore.- Tony Sinclair
I never sat on you; I never tied you down! I only wanted one thing in my life and that was to see you rise up. You only got up as high as your gun belt. And that's a low height for a man.- Steve Sinclair
I know all about the brother and the sickness inside him. He didn't get that from Steve, he was born with it.- Dennis Dineen
I don't think that Tony ever did get born. I think that somebody just found him wedged into a gun cylinder and shot him out into the world by pressing the trigger.- Brick Larson
I'd rather send a son of mine riding and never see him again than have to bury him.- Dennis Dineen
Julie London sings the title song "Saddle the Wind" over the opening credits and reprise it during the film, when "Tony" asks "Joan" to sing to him. Hollywood Reporter news items add stunt men Cal Pitti, Jack Balsh and Clint Sharpe to the cast, but their appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Parts of the film were shot on location near Canon City and Westcliffe, CO.
Released in United States Spring March 1958
Released in United States Spring March 1958