Good Day for a Hanging

Overview

The Springdale, NE, bank is held up and robbed by a well organized gang. One of the members is Eddie Campbell Robert Vaughn, a onetime resident of the town and orphan who was brought up in part by Ben Cutler Fred MacMurray, an ex-lawman-turned-rancher. While pursuing the robbers, the town marshal, Hiram Cain Emile G. Meyer, is shot dead by Campbell, who in turn is wounded and captured by Cutler. The town council appoints Cutler as temporary marshal, and the prosecution seems like an open-and-shut case -- he ...
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Overview

The Springdale, NE, bank is held up and robbed by a well organized gang. One of the members is Eddie Campbell Robert Vaughn, a onetime resident of the town and orphan who was brought up in part by Ben Cutler Fred MacMurray, an ex-lawman-turned-rancher. While pursuing the robbers, the town marshal, Hiram Cain Emile G. Meyer, is shot dead by Campbell, who in turn is wounded and captured by Cutler. The town council appoints Cutler as temporary marshal, and the prosecution seems like an open-and-shut case -- he begins to see signs of trouble when his own daughter Laurie Joan Blackman, who was raised with Campbell and was once his sweetheart, refuses to believe that he's guilty of the crime. Ben's fiancée, Ruth Maggie Hayes, also feels the boy deserves leniency, but the real trouble starts when Campbell's attorney, William Selby Edmon Ryan, shows up; he first tries to compromise the jury pool by ingratiating himself with the asking the townspeople what we would now call "push" questions, about Campbell's being an orphan and a hard-luck case all of his life, under the guise of building his case. He's also just clever enough at the trial to shake the testimony of the five other witnesses to the shooting, but Cutler's testimony is enough to put the jury into the guilty column. Then Campbell starts working on the sympathy of Laurie and the townspeople who've been persuaded by his lawyer -- it's also been a long time since there's been a capital case like this in the state, and Cutler discovers that the townspeople and even the law may not be as ready to execute a killer as common sense says they should be. Cutler's and Ruth's romance is jeopardized, and he is pushed to the point of resigning when matters come to an explosive head.
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Special Features

Closed Caption
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Nathan Juran wasn't known for his Westerns, but he did well by the genre on Good Day for a Hanging (1958). Of course, he was fortunate in having a good script, by Daniel B. Ullman and Maurice Zimm from a short story by John Reese, which owes a fair amount to High Noon. And Henry Freulich's color cinematography (non-anamorphic widescreen) never looks too pretty, attaining a decent level of realism that fits well with the raw emotions of the plot. The script and Juran manage to have some fun inverting the conventions of the genre from the scene over the opening credits, depicting a group of what are obviously outlaws observing a stagecoach crossing the prairie -- at the risk of spoiling the movie, let it be said that little that is seen in this movie will play out according to the dictates of the typical western genre, or what we would consider common sense, but it almost all makes perfect sense; the major exception is Joan Blackman's portrayal of Laurie Cutler, the daughter of reluctant lawman Ben Cutler (Fred MacMurray) -- she is so resolutely stupid and naïve, that one suspects that her character is intended to be mentally challenged, or just plain unbalanced; that this isn't the case leads to a moment that audiences in theaters tend to cheer, when her character is knocked out cold with a punch to the face. But everything else works well and logically, and disturbingly so at times -- the violence at the end is a little too savage by the standards of the time to be considered cathartic, though there is ample provocation of the audience to elicit this reaction. In the end, it's a sad little movie with a lot to say about the dark side of human nature and some very persuasive performances by MacMurray and Robert Vaughn, and a memorable, poignant (and unexpected) co-starring turn by Kathryn Card (best remembered as Lucy's mother on I Love Lucy), as the widow of a murdered lawman.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/2/2013
  • UPC: 014381861020
  • Original Release: 1958
  • Rating:

  • Source: Image Entertainment
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:25:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 23,295

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fred MacMurray Ben Cutler
Maggie Hayes Ruth Granger
Robert Vaughn The Kid
Joan Blackman Laurie Cutler
James Drury Paul Ridgely
Wendell Holmes Tallant Joslin
Edmon Ryan William Selby
Stacy Harris Coley
Kathryn Card Molly Cain
Emile G. Meyer Marshall Hiram Cain
Bing Russell George Fletcher
Russell Thorson Landers
Denver Pyle Moore
Phil Chambers Avery
Howard McNear Olson
Rusty Swope Midge
Harry Lauter Matt Fletcher
Gregg Barton Frank
Michael Garth Pike
William Baskin Man
Robert Bice Griswald
Paul Donovan Citizen
William Fawcett Farmer
Ed Hinton Citizen
Tom London Farmer
Technical Credits
Nathan Juran Director
Henry Freulich Cinematographer
John P. Livadary Sound/Sound Designer
Robert A. Peterson Art Director
Charles H. Schneer Producer
Jerome Thoms Editor
Dan Ullman Screenwriter
Maurice Zimm Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Good Day for a Hanging
1. Start [7:40]
2. Eddie Campbell [5:42]
3. New Marshal [8:38]
4. "I Believe You" [5:29]
5. William P. Selby, Attorney [7:27]
6. First Witnesses [9:47]
7. The Verdict [6:45]
8. Conscience [9:12]
9. A Sideshow [5:47]
10. Petition for Clemency [7:31]
11. Help for the Kid [3:59]
12. Bullet Time [7:30]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Good Day for a Hanging
   Play Movie
   Scene Selections
   Play Previews
   English Subtitles
   Japanese Subtitles
   Subtitles: Off
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