The Hanging Tree (1959)

106 mins | Western | February 1959

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HISTORY

According to the film's daily production reports, director Delmar Daves's last day on the production was 25 Jul 1958, after which he became too ill to direct. Karl Malden took over directing the film on 29 Jul 1958 and continued to the end of post-production recording. On 30 Jul 1958 only, Vincent Sherman served as co-director. Although a Feb 1958 LAEx news item stated that James Webb had written the script for this picture, the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined.
       Studio publicity materials contained in the production file for the film in the AMPAS Library add that the film was shot on location near Yakima, WA. The picture marked the screen debuts of George C. Scott and Ben Piazza and the initial effort of the producing team of Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd. A modern source adds Bud Osborne to the cast. Jerry Livingston and Mack David's song, "The Hanging Tree," was nominated for an Academy Award for Best ... More Less

According to the film's daily production reports, director Delmar Daves's last day on the production was 25 Jul 1958, after which he became too ill to direct. Karl Malden took over directing the film on 29 Jul 1958 and continued to the end of post-production recording. On 30 Jul 1958 only, Vincent Sherman served as co-director. Although a Feb 1958 LAEx news item stated that James Webb had written the script for this picture, the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined.
       Studio publicity materials contained in the production file for the film in the AMPAS Library add that the film was shot on location near Yakima, WA. The picture marked the screen debuts of George C. Scott and Ben Piazza and the initial effort of the producing team of Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd. A modern source adds Bud Osborne to the cast. Jerry Livingston and Mack David's song, "The Hanging Tree," was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 59
pp. 112-113, 130.
Box Office
2 Feb 1959.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jan 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Jan 59
p. 8.
Filmfacts
4 Mar 1959
pp. 19-20.
Harrison's Reports
31 Jan 59
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1958
p. 4, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 58
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 58
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
22 Feb 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Jan 59
p. 132.
New York Times
12 Feb 59
p. 23.
The Exhibitor
28 Jan 59
p. 4555.
Variety
28 Jan 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Best boy
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Miss Schell's ward
Cost des
Men's ward
Men's ward
Men's ward
Men's ward
Women's ward
Women's ward
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Radio man
Boom op
Cable man
Cable man
Cable man
P.A. op
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Dial coach
Yakima tech adv
Auditor
Pub
Time checker
First aid man
STAND INS
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novelette The Hanging Tree by Dorothy M. Johnson (New York, 1957).
SONGS
"The Hanging Tree," music by Jerry Livingston, lyrics by Mack David, sung by Marty Robbins.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 February 1959
Production Date:
17 June--13 August 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Baroda Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 February 1959
Copyright Number:
LP15455
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
106
Length(in feet):
9,654
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19138
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After drifting into the goldrush town of Skull Creek, Montana, Dr. Joseph "Doc" Frail buys a cabin on the hill above town from a penniless prospector. Soon after, Rune, a young wanderer, tries to steal a gold nugget from a sluice box and is pursued by a bloodthirsty mob, guns ablaze. Hearing the injured Rune's cries for help, Doc rescues the boy and bandages his wound. In payment for his services, Doc demands that Rune become his bond servant, threatening to expose him as a thief if he refuses. Doc then sets up practice, and although he exhibits compassion for his patients, he can be imperious and severe when dealing with others, prompting Tom Flaunce, the town storekeeper and an old acquaintance, to comment that "Doc carries his soul in his doctor's bag." When Doc is assailed by George Grubb, a raving drunk who accuses him of being the devil, Doc, an expert marksman, drives Grubb off at gunpoint. While at the saloon one evening, Doc strikes a gambler who questions him about burning down a house in Illinois. One day, a stagecoach is attacked by a band of robbers, causing the horses to bolt and the carriage to careen over the side of a cliff. With his dying breath, the driver reveals that a woman passenger, the sole survivor, is trapped in the coach. Frenchy Plante, a lecherous prospector, Rune and Flaunce head a search party for the woman. While camped around the fire for the night, Flaunce informs Rune that Frail is a name the Doc assumed because he felt that it described the state of mankind. Flaunce then relates the ... +


After drifting into the goldrush town of Skull Creek, Montana, Dr. Joseph "Doc" Frail buys a cabin on the hill above town from a penniless prospector. Soon after, Rune, a young wanderer, tries to steal a gold nugget from a sluice box and is pursued by a bloodthirsty mob, guns ablaze. Hearing the injured Rune's cries for help, Doc rescues the boy and bandages his wound. In payment for his services, Doc demands that Rune become his bond servant, threatening to expose him as a thief if he refuses. Doc then sets up practice, and although he exhibits compassion for his patients, he can be imperious and severe when dealing with others, prompting Tom Flaunce, the town storekeeper and an old acquaintance, to comment that "Doc carries his soul in his doctor's bag." When Doc is assailed by George Grubb, a raving drunk who accuses him of being the devil, Doc, an expert marksman, drives Grubb off at gunpoint. While at the saloon one evening, Doc strikes a gambler who questions him about burning down a house in Illinois. One day, a stagecoach is attacked by a band of robbers, causing the horses to bolt and the carriage to careen over the side of a cliff. With his dying breath, the driver reveals that a woman passenger, the sole survivor, is trapped in the coach. Frenchy Plante, a lecherous prospector, Rune and Flaunce head a search party for the woman. While camped around the fire for the night, Flaunce informs Rune that Frail is a name the Doc assumed because he felt that it described the state of mankind. Flaunce then relates the story of a doctor named Temple, who torched his grand house on the river after discovering the dead bodies of a man and a woman inside. The next day, Frenchy finds the missing woman, whom he dubs "Lost Lady." After they carry the unconscious woman to a shack in a nearby meadow, Doc examines her and declares that she is suffering from temporary blindness. He arranges for her to be transported to Flaunce's abandoned cabin, which is situated across from his own, and Rune volunteers to care for her. Three days later, the woman regains consciousness, although she remains blind. After identifying herself as Elizabeth Mahler, she learns that her father was killed in the robbery. When Elizabeth tells Doc about emigrating from Switzerland to the "wonderous" America, Doc cautions her that she will find no glory in the wretched town of Skull Creek. Soon after, Flaunce's wife Edna, a mean-spirited, priggish woman, drives to the cabin to determine if Elizabeth is "decent," and is turned away by Doc. That night, after Doc leaves to play cards at the saloon, Frenchy sneaks into the cabin. When Elizabeth senses his presence, he claims that he has come for his canteen. As Frenchy is about to sexually attack the blind woman, Doc appears and orders him to leave. Later, at the saloon, Doc thrashes Frenchy and threatens to kill him if he ever returns to the cabin, and Frenchy vows revenge. As the days pass, Rune accuses Doc of trying to control people and objects to his isolation of Elizabeth. One day, Elizabeth is on the verge of recovering her eyesight when she lapses back into hysterical blindness. Doc inspires her to see again, but when she embraces him, he coldly informs her that she must leave the next day. Doc then gives Rune his freedom and presents him with a horse. The following morning, Rune and Elizabeth ride into town and Elizabeth shows Flaunce a brooch, an old family heirloom, and asks to use it as collateral for a grubstake. When Flaunce reports Elizabeth's request to Doc, Doc gives him the money to lend to her. Entering into partnership with Frenchy, Elizabeth and Rune establish the "Lucky Lady" mine. A month passes, and Doc continues to funnel money into the mine, unbeknown to Elizabeth. While out delivering a baby one day, Doc stops to say hello to Elizabeth. Jealous of Doc's intrusion, Frenchy manhandles Elizabeth and she decides to move into town. When Elizabeth comes to the store for another advance, Edna cruelly informs her that the brooch is worthless and accuses her of prostitution. Furious, Elizabeth accuses Doc of trying to play with people's lives and he admits that the rumor about the grand house on the river is true and that the man and woman were his wife and brother. In the midst of a violent rainstorm one day, a giant tree near the Lucky Lady is uprooted, revealing a pit filled with gold nuggets. To celebrate the strike, Frenchy plies the townsmen with liquor. While Elizabeth repairs to Doc's cabin with her sack of gold, the drunken revelers below turn mean and set the town on fire. Barging into Doc's cabin, Frenchy hurls Elizabeth onto the bed and assaults her. Doc returns to find the town in flames, then hurries to his cabin and throws Frenchy down the stairs. When Frenchy pulls his gun, Doc shoots him and then kicks his lifeless body over the hillside. Grubb seizes the opportunity to incite the frenzied crowd to lynch Doc, and as they place a noose around his neck, Elizabeth, bruised, hobbles down the hill and offers her gold in exchange for Doc's life. The greedy mob stampedes to the mine, leaving Doc behind. After Rune removes the noose from his neck, Doc bends down and caresses Elizabeth's face and they embrace. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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