It’s a memorable line from the classic western, “Ride The High Country”. The 1962 MGM film was released with little fanfare. Hard to figure because it starred two long-time movie cowboy heroes, Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea and was directed by the maverick, Sam Peckinpah.

“High Country” also introduced the spunky Mariette Hartley. The supporting cast reads like a who’s who of top-notch character actors: James Drury, Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, John Anderson, John Davis Chandler, Edgar Buchanan and R.G. Armstrong (no, not a relation).

Another classic western, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” was released the same year and overshadowed “Ride The High Country.”

“All I want to do is..enter my house justified” is Joel McCrea’s summation of his very ethical lawman who’s grown old and, with little money to show for his estimable career, but refuses to abandon his ethics for a grab of the money he’s transporting from a mining town to the bank that hired him  based on his reputation.McCrea is sharing his belief in honesty with longtime pal, Randolph Scott who temporarily has been seduced by greed and plans to steal the money. It’s against typecasting to have Randolph Scott as the former lawman on the verge of becoming a thief — at the expense of his life-long and honorable friend, Joel McCrea.  When I saw the film in ’62, I found it hard to grasp Randolph Scott as a bad guy.

He does a very believable job as the ambivalent villain wannabe. Scott’s old and jaded gunfighter is exasperated by a lifetime of upholding the law with very little money to show for all the bullets he’s taken. It’s the old west take on “show me the money.”

Joel McCrea’s insistence on honesty and taking the high road despite many obstacles is a parable for our current political world where ethics and honesty have become a sham and a bad joke leveled at people blinded by our P.T. Barnum Commander-In-Chief.

Can you imagine a Presidential tweet saying, “All I want to do is enter my house justified”?  The unfolding impeachment proceedings mock any pretense at ethics and honesty in the Oval Office. The McCrea line also flies in the face of all the Gordon Gekkos in our public arena where “greed is good” is the unofficial mantra.

Think of the high-profile celebrity parents facing the music and jail time for trying to buy a college diploma for their kids.  You don’t enter your house justified with that as your moral code. Our political and moral swamp is spilling over instead of being drained.

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea

It’s taken a while for me to see “Ride The High Country” as more than just an excellent western.  Its underlying message about moral codes is clear to me now.  The same can be said for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” the movie that gave us the iconic (yes iconic) line:

“This is the west, Sir. When fact catches up with myth,
you print the legend.”

There’s a lot of legend printing going on these days. Come to think of it, there are a lot of Liberty Valance wannabes trying to muck with our Constitution and standards set by the men who wrote it. To be fair, some of those guys liked to print the legend too. But, that’s another story.

Randolph Scott sees the light in a memorable shoot out, teaming up with Joel McCrea, to take down execrable killers at the end of “Ride The High Country.” Spoiler alert?

Marriage parade in a mining camp

Nah. Would you expect anything less from Randolph Scott?

We could use Scott and McCrea right now to run the current gang of miscreants out of town and out of the country — with some jail time thrown in.

They will never enter their house justified.

Categories: film, Film Review, Garry Armstrong, justice, Politics, western movies

Tags: , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. “Draw, you tin horn!” Oh, sorry, I got carried away. A lot of old westerns took the moral hign ground. Now it is Hign Noon and the train is a-comin. Will the aging sheriff shoot the varmit dead, or will there by more years of misery for the old west?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lots more years of misery for EVERYBODY. And no moral high ground, either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rich, thanks for reminding me about THAT line. Speaks heaps about the divide between the McRea and Scott characters.
      When Hartley asks WHY he’s not giving Scott a chance to reform (as he did Scott’s wet-behind-the-ears young sidekick), McCrea explains “the kid” is trying to turn his life aound and desrves a chance — But Scott was his FRIEND — who abused sacred ground. So much said in so few words. Both veteran stars were so great at UNDERplaying their roles. They were always wonderful to watch in sometimes pedestrian westerns.. They always made those vehicles better with their very presence.

      Left unsaid – the sheer joy of seeing those long time movie cowboy heroes of my youth — in the SAME movie. Adversaries as well as old pals. Hard for then 20 year old Garry to absorb. Randolph Scott, a baddie?? Say that — and you’ll have hell to
      pay, Pilgrim.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Rich. Just again watched “The Virginian” – ’48 version with Joel McCrea and Sonny Tufts as the title character and pal, Steve, the cattle hand, who gets hanged because of cattle rustling with smarmy Trampas (Brian Donlevy). Way closer to Wister novel than the TV series – which I enjoyed for different reasons.
      McCrea and Tufts have the same relationship as McCrea and Scott did — but with more deadly resolutions. McCrea’s low key, believable honesty — apparently reflection of actor in real life, I am told.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember the movie, but the TV show more. James Drury was the Virginian. I think he appeared in plenty of Westerns.

        Liked by 1 person

        • ONLY westerns. His father was an oil mogul and he was very wealthy. He actually didn’t have to work at all, but he was raised on a ranch and just loved horses. He also retired early. He got tired.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, Drury appeared in a number of westerns — as a younger actor, he worked with Randolph Scott, Richard Widmark and Joel McCrea in 50’s features. He did some other TV shows beFORE “The Virginian”. Good choice as “The Virginian”, given time to develop the character. Always wondered about complete revision of Wister’s “Trampas” character — from arch villain — to nice guy side kick of the star. Doug McClure was a delight as TRampas.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Virginian was one of the few long running 90 minute shows. I can remember any other Westerns of that length.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Rich, I recall watching “The Virginian” in COLOR on the big, new RCA color TV I bought with my early earnings as a childrens’ shoe salesman. My Dad went ballistic!

              Liked by 1 person

              • I couldn’t wait until we got a color television. I think it was late 60’s for us.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Wuz early 60’s when I got that big color set. Of course, it was too expensive for my earnings but you couldn’t tell me anything. As I said, Dad was very unhappy with me.
                  When the set died, it remained as a catch-all table at the house for many years — long after I moved out to pursue my career. Don’t recall how long it was a fixture there.
                  I can see and hear vsitors listening to my Dad explain, “This elephant was purchased by my hard-headed oldest son ____ years ago. YES, I love him but sometimes he made me so mad”.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. I so loved these movies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for the reminders. That’s what I found so special about the oldies but goodies, there was always a moral to be found. I think it encouraged people to live better lives with honesty integrity instead of greed and veracity to get ahead. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peckinpah was not known for morals … but he fit one into this particular movie!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn, Sam was WELL known for his violence penchance. — exhibit A — “The Wild Bunch”. I don’t watch this one often.

        “Ride The High Country” and “The Ballad Of Cable Hogue” were two westens where Peckinpah leaned on character more than violence. Might throw in the underrated TV series helmed by a young Peckinpah, “The Westerner” with Brian Keith as a roaming cowhand. Dave Blassingame, who weekly fought against twisted windmills in the old west. Keith did some of his best work in this series which has a cult following with culters like me. Guess Ol’ Sam found violence brought in more ka-chings than character driven films.


    • ABSOLUTELY, Covert. THAT’S why I love returning to these movies at day’s end. Helps me relax — with a reminder of those values. Think FRANK CAPRA. And, now, I also have my mind right — after 40 plus years of dealing with the good, the bad and the public arena.
      Yes, Boss Man, I got my mind right.


  3. The white hats and the black hats have now blended into the gray hats that focus on”What’s in it for me?” It’s a sad, sad time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All I can do is hope that’s is a temporary stage in our development.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, yes. I must admit and, maybe it’s my 20 year old naive youth speaking here, I loved those white and black hat morality plays. That belief mucked with me a bit when I had to deal with hucksters during my early professional years. I was fortunate to have the likes of LBJ and Tip O’Neill to steer me straight. Always very grateful.


  4. Precisely, we need statesmen whose prime concern is the welfare of the little people in country.

    Liked by 1 person

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