• It would take a closer look at Winchester 73’ and The Naked Spur especially, but The Tin Star may be Anthony Mann’s greatest work. For Mann, his resume has always been about the accumulation of the work (he made some fantastic noirs as well) more than the standing of one (or any) masterpieces.
  • In 1957 this is Mann in the same year as Men in War, after his collaborations with Jimmy Stewart in the early and mid-1950s. For Fonda (still just two years removed from his big comeback in 1955—he spent 1948-1955 doing theater) this is the same year (1957) as 12 Angry Men. Undoubtedly, Stewart could have played this role- you could say that about him and Fonda going back decades.
  • Young Anthony Perkins plays the green sheriff and Fonda is the wise old bounty hunter. Dudley Nichols (works as varied as Bringing Up Baby, Stagecoach and Scarlet Street) wrote the screenplay, Elmer Bernstein did the score, and Edith Head did the costumes. This is a talented group.

The opening credits transition into a fabulous tracking shot (with formal counterpoint in the final shot) as Mann’s camera glides behind the columns of the sheriff’s office with Fonda’s character coming to town (carrying a dead body on horseback) with the entire town eying him.

These great, big windows in the sheriff’s office are used by Mann again and again—multiple fields of depth- gorgeous. One highlight is near the opening, another at the 39-minute mark. At the 57-minute mark we’re at the window again- this time Mann pulls the camera back from the window. At the 87-minute mark the mob throws a rock through the window to reveal a perfect arrangement of characters in the deep background. Mann certainly shows an aptitude for geometry here, angles and blocking.

At the 18-minute mark a great shot of Bogardus (played by the sinister Neville Brand) front left and Perkins off to the background right…eventually moving up to center frame/center depth at the 19-minute mark.

  • At the 20-minute mark Fonda is center background facing Mann’s camera with three men flanking him in a diagonal row on each side facing him- a splendid composition.
  • A strong, archetypal western scene of the veteran (aged 52 Fonda) teaching the youngster (Perkins is just 25 here) how to shoot, and even tells him to drink beer instead of whiskey to stay sharp later on- haha.
  • Fonda comes out much better than Perkins in The Tin Star. There is a wonderful little monologue (yep, this is the guy who played Tom Joad—one of the great all-time actors) at the 41-minute mark about his family.
  • During the final shootout the Bogardus character actually falls into the camera – a very nice touch.
  • The final shot makes for a great bookend. It does not have the magnificence (or the layers of meaning behind it) of The Searchers the year before, but Mann tracks along as Fonda leaves town
  • A Highly Recommend/Must-See border film.