Good Day for a Hanging
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Six men think they saw Eddie "The Kid" Campbell (Robert Vaughn, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) shoot down Marshal Cain in cold blood. But only respected lawman Ben Cutler (Fred MacMurray, The Caine Mutiny) would swear to it in court. For Ben was determined to see The Kid hang for his crime. But was it because Campbell was a murderer or because Cutler's daughter (Joan Blackman, Blue Hawaii) was The Kid's sweetheart, and no father would ever let his little girl marry an outlaw? Sentenced to the gallows, Campbell's sensitive demeanor soon convinces everyone that he's been framed. Everyone, that is, except for Ben Cutler. for only Ben knows whether The Kid's truly guilty or not, and justice will be done, even if he has to take the law in his own hands.
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However, as much as I enjoyed it, there was a serious flaw in the writing that brings my evaluation down from 5 stars to only 4. I felt that the writers failed to make the story as believable as it could have been. The entire town was against him as the Marshal, and didn’t want to believe what he said regarding what he saw in a gun fight. There should have been at least a few who agreed with the marshal to make it a little more realistic. Even his daughter hated him for what he said he saw.
The writers waited until the last scene in the move to make him look good, and that wasn’t acceptable for me.
A gang of outlaws holds up a bank and escapes, with the popular town marshall and a posse in hot pursuit. During a shoot-out in the hills, the marshall is shot dead by one of the gang. The youngest member of the gang, Eddie Campbell ( Robert Vaughn in a terrific performance ), is wounded and brought back to town by the posse. Posse-member, Ben Cutler ( Fred MacMurray ), is sure that young Eddie is the outlaw who shot the marshall, although he convinces townspeople that there should be a fair trial, rather that a quick lynching. Ben reluctantly agrees to take over as marshall, which soon causes problems with his bride-to-be, Ruth Granger ( attractive Maggie Hayes ), and his daughter, Laurie ( petulant Joan Blackman) who has a crush on Eddie
( Ben is a widower ). This, however, is a horse opera not a soap opera--there are fisticuffs, gunfights, a very tense trial scene and an excellent showdown at the end of the film.
Today I suspect most people remember Fred MacMurray as the affable and immensely likeable star of TV's "My Three Sons", and a number of Disney films. Film buffs know that,in fare such as "Double Indemnity" and "The Apartment", Mr. MacMurray could also be effective in less sympathetic roles. In "Good Day", he certainly has an edge to his performance, and gives us a convincing western hero. In addition to the intense Mr. Vaughn, we have a "pre-Virginian" James Drury as Dr. Ridgely, doting on Laurie Cutler, but unable to distract her from her obsession with young Eddie. Western fans will spot such actors as Denver Pyle, Gregg Barton, William Fawcett, Harry Lauter and the ubiquitous Tom London in supporting roles.
I see that the movie was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Nathan Juran, better known for their collaboration with stop-motion effects master, Ray Harryhausen.
I found the widescreen, colour picture quality to be excellent--the sound typical for films of this vintage.
If you like westerns, Fred MacMurray may not be the first name you would think of. However, he was a fine actor, and was right at home throwing punches or lead ! "Good Day for a Hanging" delivers a "good" ninety minutes of western suspense and excitement. Recommended.