The Hanging Tree 1959
A little known western directed by Delmar Davis who had a good run in Hollywood and is mostly known for his sugar sweet teen romance movies of the early 60's like “Parrish”, “Susan Slade”, “Rome Adventure” and his most most “A Summer Place all of which starred that great thespian Troy Donahue. He also made the very good Bogart Bacall noirish film in the late 40’s “Dark Passage” with a terrific shrewish performance from Agnes Moorehead and a slew of westerns including the highly regarded 3:10 to Yuma.
Here we have a late performance from the great Gary Cooper who would be gone in 3 years but was still impressive and attractive (he had major plastic surgery a year before filming started) as a secretive and closed off Dr. Frail who rides into the rough and tough thrown together gold mining town of skull Creek and takes up residence in a log cabin and begins his medical practice.
This is a pretty good movie thanks to strong casting including a couple of baddies played by Karl Malden and George C. Scott in his film debut as a reckless dangerous bible touting crazy religious fanatic son of a bitch. Notable also is the beautiful Maria Schell as a victim of a stagecoach hold-up who winds up lost in the desert and is found near death suffering from burns and blindness caused by the sun.
Cooper takes charge and puts her on the mend, but is removed and callous with her. Also in the mix is a young Ben Piazza who makes a strong debut as a drifter and a thief and is taken under the protection of Cooper for a price. Piazza who was handsome and intense didn’t do many films after this one, but had a hefty tv career sadly dying in 1991 from AIDS related cancer. The film looks good in its widescreen technicolor on location footage splendor, but suffers from a somewhat rushed ending which is too pat and unconvincing. The characters have some funny names like Frail, Frenchy, Grubb, Society Red, Wonder, Edna Flaunce & Rune and this adds some off beat zest to the proceedings and the terrible title song actually got an Oscar nomination losing to the equally terrible “High Hopes”.