The Tin Star – About

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The Tin Star

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anthony Mann
Produced by William Perlberg
George Seaton
Written by Joel Kane
Dudley Nichols
Barney Slater
Starring Henry Fonda
Anthony Perkins
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Loyal Griggs
Edited by Alma Macrorie
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • October 23, 1957
Running time
93 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.4 million (US rentals)

The Tin Star is a 1957 American western film based on a short story, directed in VistaVision by Anthony Mann and starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Perkins, in one of Perkins’ first roles. The film became one of the few low-budget westerns to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story or Screenplay. Since its release, the film has become one of the classics of the genre.


Bounty hunter Morgan Hickman (Henry Fonda) arrives in a small town with the body of an outlaw, seeking the bounty. While the general townsfolk openly abhor Hickman, young sheriff Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins) admires the man for taking everything in stride and knowing how to handle dangerous situations.

Hickman tells Owens that he was once a sheriff himself, but Dr McCord doubts this. Nevertheless, Owens persuades Hickman to teach him the ways of a lawman, forcing Hickman to face his past and his lost virtues.

Hickman lives on the edge of the town with Nona Mayfield, herself an outcast due to her half-caste son, Kip, who is half Indian. Treatment of Indians acts as a sub-plot including scenes such as the gunning down of an Indian by a white man, under the philosophy of nobody cares.

Things come to a head when Dr McCord is returning home during the night having delivered a baby son to a remote homesteader. He is waylaid by Ed McGaffey (Lee Van Cleef) asking him to treat a gun wound on his brother. This he does, but then McGaffey decides to kill him as he knows too much, despite the pleas of his now recovering brother.

Dr. McCord’s horse and trap re-enter the town on McCord Day: where the whole town has come out to celebrate the doctor’s 75th birthday. To a resounding chorus of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” the town realize he is dead. A posse is then assembled to catch McGaffey. However, the posse split from the sheriff because they see him as too soft. Young Kip rides out after the posse and Hickman and the sheriff team up to track him down.

In finding Kip they accidentally stumble upon McGaffey and his brother hiding in a mountain cave. After a gunfight in which the sheriff receives a bullet graze on the forehead they successfully capture the brothers and lock them in the town jail. However the posse is baying for blood and want to lynch the pair. The posse gets drunk in the town bar, to find the courage to do the deed, urged on by the ringleader. The sheriff stands against the crowd with a shotgun to defend the pair for a legal trial. The ringleader (the man who earlier shot the Indian) has a standoff with the sheriff. The sheriff approaches the ringleader alone, with the mob separating for a gunfight. The newly deputized Hickman holds the shotgun near the jail. The ringleader hesitates as the sheriff approaches. The ringleader appears to back down after the sheriff slaps him, but turns around and draws after going a few steps. The sheriff guns him down. At this point the lynch mob disperses.

Hickman then happily leaves town (with Nona and Kip Mayfield).


See also


  1. Jump up^ “Top Grosses of 1957”, Variety, 8 January 1958: 30

External links


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