Monday, December 5, 2011

Good Day for a Hanging

Although Fred MacMurray is the lead in Good Day for a Hanging, playing a reluctant marshal, Ben Cutler, I was much more interested in watching James Drury (Lom Trevors in the Pilot and Sheriff Tankersley in The Long Chase), who plays a doctor, and Robert Vaughn, who plays a bank robber.

Set in Nebraska in June 1878, Good Day for a Hanging starts off with three men watching a stagecoach travel on a road far below the ridge atop which they are sitting on their horses.  But in a twist, they are not out to rob the stage; instead, they are coordinating their movements with the two men inside it.  Within minutes of each other, they all arrive in the town of Springdale, where the audience is introduced to several other characters in the movie. 

The bank is robbed, the robbers gallop out of town pursued by a posse, men are shot and killed or wounded, and one of the robbers (Vaughn) is caught and jailed.  The remainder of Good Day for a Hanging is about the relationships between the marshal; his daughter (played by Joann Blackman), who is sweet on the robber, her childhood friend; the marshal’s fiancĂ©; the townsfolk; and a couple of lawyers –they all have differing ideas about what they think should happen to Eddie, the young bank robber charged with murder.  There is a trial, a gallows is built, clemency is sought, a jailbreak is planned, a gunfight occurs, justice prevails in the end.

Good Day for a Hanging is a conventional Western that reminded me of many others I have seen.  MacMurray and Blackman acted woodenly; Drury as a self-absorbed doctor was interesting; and it was fun to see Vaughn as a bad guy.  This 1958 movie was a pleasant diversion, an enjoyable way to spend 85 minutes of time, but nothing more.