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Good Day for a Hanging (1959)

Passed | | Western | January 1959 (USA)
After claiming his daughter's childhood-sweetheart killed the marshal, one man finds himself in conflict with his daughter, his fiancée and many of the townsfolk.


Nathan Juran


Daniel B. Ullman (screenplay), Maurice Zimm (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred MacMurray ... Marshal Ben Cutler
Margaret Hayes ... Ruth Granger (as Maggie Hayes)
Robert Vaughn ... Eddie Campbell
Joan Blackman ... Laurie Cutler
James Drury ... Paul Ridgely
Wendell Holmes Wendell Holmes ... Tallant Joslin
Edmon Ryan ... William P. Selby, Attorney
Stacy Harris ... Coley
Kathryn Card ... Molly Cain
Emile Meyer ... Marshal Hiram Cain
Bing Russell ... George Fletcher
Russell Thorson ... Harry Landers
Denver Pyle ... Deputy Ed Moore
Phil Chambers ... Deputy William Avery
Howard McNear ... Olson


It's been more than twenty years since Ben Cutler (Fred MacMurray) wore a badge, but when the town's bank gets robbed, he joins the posse. After the chase, where he saw Marshal Cain (Emile Meyer) get killed, he can't say "no" when the town asks him to take over the Marshal's duties. However, that same town starts to turn against him when he takes his new duties seriously by arresting and testifying against the killer... a boy, Eddie 'The Kid' Campbell (Robert Vaughn), who grew up in this town and comes from a broken home, garnering the sympathy of the townsfolk, who'd rather believe one of the other escaped bank robbers shot the sheriff. This is compounded by his daughter, who still has a crush on Eddie, even though after his mother died two years ago, he left town with not a word to her since. She, too, is convinced that Eddie is still that good little boy everyone remembers, and can't believe he's been changed, by his new life of riding with outlaws. Written by AzRanger {ArizonaRanger @ Hotmail . com}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HANGING'S TOO GOOD FOR A RAT LIKE THIS! (original print ad - all caps) See more »




Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

January 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Dois Passos da Forca See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


Color (ColumbiaColor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


According to Robert Vaughn in his memoirs, Fred McMurray was the frugal type. He always brought his sandwich for lunch on the set and was also the stingy kind for many details. See more »


At the climax, the lamp hanging from the ceiling of the jail swings with a period of about 2 seconds which mean that the rope from which it hangs was 1m long (which makes for an unusually tall ceiling). Shortly after it swings with a period of 1 second which would mean the rope was shortened to 0.25m. See more »


Ruth Granger: Eddie is just a boy. Tom was killed by a hardened criminal.
Ben Cutler: Do you think this kid is any less hardened? Since when is a young rattlesnake any less poisonous than an old one?
See more »

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User Reviews

Curiously routine
14 December 2003 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Seeing this today -- an inexpensive 1958 undistinguished Western with talent in the declining years of their careers -- is a curious experience. The studios ground out hundreds of these in the 1940s and 1950s until inundated by the flood of TV westerns that were even cheaper. Towards the end of their life trajectory there was some attempt to distinguish them from TV fare by calling them "adult Westerns," meaning that the plot was more than twenty-one years old.

But it's instructive to watch something like this from a distance of almost half a century. A few points leap out at the viewer unbidden. One, for instance, is that this particular piece owes an awful lot to "High Noon," a highly successful inexpensively made Western with an aging star, released eight years earlier. The marshall begins his career with the support of the entire town, loses it, and winds up standing alone, even against the wishes of his family. The ticking off of Gary Cooper's sources of support -- relentlessly, inexorably, one by one -- in "High Noon" was sometimes a bit hard to swallow, but the arguments against supporting Marshall Kane (there's a "Marshall Kane" in this one too, the writers not having stretched too much) at least involved sometimes rather complex motives. They wanted Cooper out of town for various reasons, but all of them more or less plausible. Here, a couple of drinks from the defense counsel and all the aldermen and town councilmen ("the town's most respected citizens") are against hanging the kid. Nobody seems to think very hard. Oh -- and the defense counsel is a sight to behold, personally insulting MacMurray and having a fist fight with him, wearing a perpetual sneer, and using oily and insinuating locutions. (No penalties for overacting.)

The second things that leaps out at the viewer is the script. We've grown so accustomed to hearing period speech in recent Westerns that it comes as a shock to find not even a perfunctory nod to periodicity in this movie. Every character speaks as if it were 1958 instead of 1888. And as if they were all middle-class screenwriters living in Hollywood. The grammar is eighth-grade perfect and there is not a regionalism in sight. You get the impression that if someone had said anything like, "I don't know nuthin' about that -- I laid down the snaffles under the ramada by the remuda," everyone around him would be frozen into tonic immobility.

The acting is, for the most part, okay. MacMurray is a competent professional, Robert Vaughan does an excellent psychopath while breaking into tears during the trail in order to gain the jury's sympathy. Emil Meyers is always good, although his part here is too small. His widow is overplayed by the actress. And, as I say, the defense counsel belongs in a Cecil B. DeMille movie.

I'm glad I watched it. It's a genuine period piece. They no longer turn out Westerns like this. They turn out cheaply made slasher flicks in their stead. I think I prefer Westerns like this.

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