Movie Review: Good Day for a Hanging (1959)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1959 western starring Fred MacMurray and Joan Blackman.

Synopsis: After he captured the outlaw who murdered their marshal following a bank robbery, the residents of a small Nebraska town don't hesitate to hand Ben Cutler a badge. However, when the outlaw is convicted of the murder solely on his testimony and sentenced to hang, Cutler quickly finds himself at odds with most of the townsfolk, his fiancee and daughter.


I came across this film on one of our movie channels a few days ago and, since I saw it starred Fred MacMurray (who is originally from my home town), I decided to record it so I could watch it over one (or two) of my lunches. I actually ended up watching it this past weekend and, as it turns out, it was a pretty good film.

The thing I found I liked about this movie is it wasn't nearly as predictable as many other classic westerns. Ben Cutler (MacMurray) started out as the hero of the town and seemed to want to do the right thing, including letting the outlaw, Eddie Campbell (Vaughn) have his day in court when many in town wanted to lynch him. But, the way his reputation was quickly brought into doubt made me wonder if his desire to do the right thing would come back to haunt him.

The way his reputation was tarnished was also interesting. Between a fast-talking defense attorney (Edmon Ryan), who was looking to create reasonable doubt, and his own daughter (Blackman), who believed her childhood sweetheart would never be able to commit murder and did her best to convince everyone else of that too, I don't think Cutler stood a chance.

In fact, when his fiancee (Hayes) had her doubts too, I probably wouldn't have blamed him if he threw his star in the dirt and left town. After all, if he were REALLY trying to get revenge on Campbell because he disapproved of his relationship with his daughter, why bother with the trial?

In addition to a well-written plot, the movie also had a good mix of good old fashion western action, complete with horse chases, fist fights and shoot outs. These helped keep the movie from becoming too bogged down but were kept to just enough of a minimum to allow the main story to progress.

Good Day for a Hanging

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 MacMur...

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Final Opinion

I'm not a huge fan of classic westerns but do come across the occasional one I enjoy watching. This is one of those movies and one I would recommend.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 05/01/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/03/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Everyone in Wisconsin associates Fred MacMurray with Carroll College, where he studied at the same time as Dennis Morgan. Can you imagine the lucky person who sat between them in classes, where students were seated in alphabetical order?

But the Wikipedia article describes him as from Kankakee, Illinois.

The library system does not have this film among its Blu-ray and DVD collections: What a surprise! But I may have seen it from another library's collections.

Who would be a good candidate for MacMurray's part in the event of prequels, remakes or sequels?

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