The Killer's Smile
It's been many years since Ben Cutler (Fred MacMurray) was a lawman, but when the town's bank gets robbed he joins the sheriff and his posse in pursuit of the robbers. It is after seeing Marshal Cain (Emile Meyer) get killed that Ben returns to being a lawman and arresting the killer. Trouble is the man he arrests is Eddie 'The Kid' Campbell (Robert Vaughn) who grew up in the town where due to coming from a broken home many were and still are sympathetic towards him. And that includes Ben's own daughter Laurie (Joan Blackman) who refuses to believe the boy she had a crush on two years earlier before he left town could be not only an outlaw but also a killer.
One thing western fans will know, if they watch a modern big screen western which tries for authenticity then watch a western from the 1950s you can see clear differences when it comes to the dialogue. It is one of the things which strikes you about "Good Day for a Hanging" as the dialogue has been written in a then contemporary manner which I am sure worked for the western loving audiences of the 1950s but now sounds out of place. But it doesn't spoil "Good Day for a Hanging" as this is simply a 1950s western crowd pleaser where the good guys win, the bad guys lose and there is some gun action along the way.
But whilst "Good Day for a Hanging" is an entertaining but only okay western it does have this interesting storyline of Eddie being the kid who everyone was fond of growing up and they begin to believe his version of what happened because how could such a good kid become bad. And leading this is Ben's own daughter who still has romantic feelings for Eddie and will do anything she can to save his life. Whilst "Good Day for a Hanging" is not in the same league as "High Noon" it does have that similarity of Ben finding himself an isolated man when it comes to upholding the law.
One other thing worth mentioning is that whilst the dialogue ends up feeling wrong Fred MacMurray is in fine dramatic form making Ben a man of experience who finds himself in the unusual circumstance of not only feeling isolated but dealing with his integrity being questioned over his motive for wanting to see Eddie found guilty and therefore hung. We see how with others not seeing what he sees when it comes to Eddie makes him short tempered and that leads to tension between him and Ruth, the woman he is about to marry. It is also worth mentioning hat whilst Robert Vaughn over acts certainly brings out the manipulative and cunning side of Eddie.
What this all boils down to is that "Good Day for a Hanging" is just a solid 1950s western with a nice storyline and some nice action although none of it out of the ordinary. But it is a western which when you watch now you really notice the contemporary nature of the dialogue which would have worked better for audiences back in the 50s than it does now.