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Classic Western Drama.
jpdoherty12 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Warner Bros. THE HANGING TREE (1959) is something of an unsung classic western. But over the years cultists have been drawn to it and it just gets better and better with each viewing! A "sleeper" of 1959, nobody thought it would turn out as good as it did. Based on a story by Dorothy Johnson it was fashioned into a splendid screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles. Gary Cooper headed a fine cast which consisted of Karl Malden, the strikingly beautiful Maria Schell, George C.Scott in his first picture and newcomer Ben Piazza (resembling a young Victor Mature). Produced by Cooper's own company Baroda Productions (named after the street where he was raised) it was solidly directed by the ever underrated Delmer Daves and as usual with Daves' outdoor pictures richly photographed in Technicolor, this time, by ace cinematographer Ted McCord ("Treasure Of The Sierra Madre"/"Johnny Belinda"). The lavish Art Direction by Daniel B.Cathcart was superb with a whole mining town built on locations near Yakima, Washington which would double for the mining fields of 1880's Montana.

The story revolves around Dr. Joe Frail (Cooper) who arrives in the rough mining town of Skull Creek to set up practice. Since the area is bereft of any sort of law enforcement the only deterrent to lawbreakers is symbolised at the town's entrance by the presence of a great ugly and ghostly looking tree complete with a hanging noose ("Every new mining camp's got to have its hanging tree - makes folks feel respectable" a new entrant declares).

The enigmatic doctor is a man with a hidden past! Stories abound about him years before setting fire to a house with a man and a woman inside ("The woman was my wife and the man was my brother - and I have no right to forget"). But in Skull Creek things are not working out so good for him in the new life he is attempting to carve out for himself. Firstly he falls in love with a beautiful Swiss immigrant Elizabeth Mahler (Schell) when she becomes his patient after being temporarily blinded by the sun. Then he falls foul of an unscrupulous and licentious town wastrel (Karl Malden giving an excellent performance). The picture ends with an exciting but bloody shootout and Frail being frogmarched by the townspeople to the hanging tree just before Elizabeth arrives and offers the mob her newly acquired riches of gold and even her goldmine to stop the lynching. ("Know what? She wants to buy her man! If she wants him that bad let her have him").

Adding immeasurably to the picture is Max Steiner's extraordinary score! It boasts a wonderful central theme for Doc Frail! Heard in different guises throughout the film it becomes a ravishing love theme and is touchingly rendered in the scene where Frail removes the bandages from the eyes of the blinded Elizabeth. Later when she stands on a cliff edge and opens her eyes regaining her sight for the first time Steiner's arresting theme makes it a remarkable sparkling moment! The great composer also provided some exciting action cues such as those for the townspeople pursuing a sluice robber and also for a stagecoach hold-up. A song by Mack David and Jerry Livingstone was sung over the opening and closing credits by Marty Robbins and was nominated for an Oscar. Steiner cleverly interpolated the song into his score and is heard to best effect in the final scene when Frail is being dragged to the infamous hanging tree.

THE HANGING TREE is a splendid drama in an unusual and atmospheric western setting. Eclipsing his Will Kane in "High Noon" Cooper gives one of his very best and most likable performances in what would be his final appearance in a western. A genre he made all his own! It would also be his third last film!

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A Western gem
matchettja24 May 2006
Little known, this Western gem has not attracted the attention or appreciation it deserves. Gary Cooper's Doc Frail is to me the most interesting of his Western heroes, much more complex than the Will Kane of "High Noon." He is a man of sharp contrast, kind but domineering, compassionate but unyielding, a healer but a killer, strong but at the same time frail. He draws people towards him, only to keep them at a distance when they get too close because of a tragic incident in his past, one he can neither forget nor allow to ever happen again. He is a vagabond, moving from gold camp to gold camp to set up his services as a doctor, without hope of ever settling down. Into his life come two key figures bound to change it. One is Rune, a young thief whom he rescues from the hanging tree, and they are bonded together. The other is Elizabeth, a young woman from Switzerland who has come with her father to find a new life in the gold camps. After a stagecoach accident, Doc Frail must cure her, both body and spirit, and she loves him for it, a love he cannot accept. He would send her back to her country; she stubbornly refuses and eventually partners in a gold claim with Frenchy (played by the marvelous Karl Malden), a man with lust in his heart for both gold and women. The emphasis on character lifts this film above the realm of the ordinary. Add to that a memorable title song sung by Marty Robbins, an appealing music score by Max Steiner, a no-nonsense script based on a story by Dorothy Johnson and on location filming in the mountains outside of Yakima, Washington, and what you have is one really fine Western.
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If I could sling a gun like Doc here, I'd be the biggest man in Montana Territory.
Spikeopath31 August 2011
The Hanging Tree is directed by Delmer Daves and adapted to screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles from a story written by Dorothy M. Johnson. It stars Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Karl Malden, Ben Piazza and George C. Scott. A Technicolor production, film was shot on location at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Yakima, Washington, with Ted D. McCord on cinematography duties, and Max Steiner scores the music.

The Gold Trail, Montana 1878. Joseph Frail (Cooper), Doctor, Gambler and Gunslinger, arrives in the Gold mining town of Skull Creek looking to settle down and make a living. However, his past haunts him and after medically aiding Rune (Piazza) and Elizabeth Mahler (Schell), subsequently changing their lives, Frail finds this town and its people are less than enamoured with his presence.

Slow but compelling, The Hanging Tree has a unique feel to it on account of its interesting location setting, the Gold Rush backdrop and the multi stranded characters that form the story. Not given much support at the box office on its release, it's a film that has gained a cult following over the years and it's now often referred to as an intelligent Western. The performances are smart, from a very good cast, and the story manages to steer away from conventional Western movie pitfalls. But what marks it out as a must see for Western fans is the work of Daves (and Malden who stepped in while the director was hospitalised with ulcers), where the expansive scenery is utilised for both authentic impact on the narrative, and also for the emotional conditioning of the characters.

Personally I think it falls some way short of the great intelligent and psychological Westerns crafted by Boetticher and Mann. Yes there are complexities to the characters, but the script doesn't quite dig deep enough into them, which is particularly galling as regards Cooper's portrayal of Frail (an appropriate name given Coop's ailing health at the time). It's credit to Cooper that he still manages to bring the viewer into his pained world, helping to make the impact of the finale far better than it had any right to be if taken as written on the page. But it still rounds out as a thoroughly absorbing picture, one that's beautifully shot and scored with gusto by Steiner. Lovely hummable title song from Marty Robbins as well. 7/10
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An Unconventional and Great Western
Claudio Carvalho1 February 2012
In 1873, in the Gold Trail, Montana, the mysterious and controller Dr. Joseph Frail (Gary Cooper) arrives in the small town of Skull Creek with miners in a gold rush. Dr. Frail buys a cabin on the top of a hill and he sees the smalltime thief Rune (Ben Piazza) wounded and chased by a mob that wants to hang him. Dr. Frail helps and heals Rune; but in return, he demands that the young man becomes his bond servant. The alcoholic healer and preacher George Grubb (George C. Scott) tells to the locals that Dr. Frail, who is an excellent gambler and gunfighter, is a devil, but nobody gives attention to his words.

Sooner the stagecoach is robbed by thieves that kill the passengers but the coachman survives and three days later he reaches Skull Creek. He tells that the horses had speed down the hill with a young woman inside the stagecoach. The men organize a pursuit and the rude Frenchy Plante (Karl Malden) finds the Swedish Elizabeth Mahler (Maria Schell) burnt and blind. Dr. Frail and Rune take care of her and they learn that Elizabeth and her father, who was killed in the heist, had come to America to settle down.

When Elizabeth is healed, she falls in an unrequited love with Dr. Frail and she decides to stay in Skull Creek to seek gold with Rune. They form a partnership with Frenchy and Dr. Frail secretly helps them to begin their business with The Lucky Lady Mine. When Elizabeth learns that Dr. Frail is helping her, she is disappointed but she promises to pay her debt with him someday. During a heavy rain, a tree falls down and the trio of partners finds a fortune in gold underground. Frenchy drinks with the locals and when he is drunk, he takes an attitude that will affect the lives of the locals and Skull Creek, mostly of Dr. Frail, Elizabeth and Rune.

"The Hanging Tree" is an unconventional and great western with a dramatic story supported by complex characters in a small town in the gold rush and not in shootout and other usual themes in this type of film. The lead characters are intriguing, with Gary Cooper performing a bitter character with a hidden past but also a good and fair man. Rune is also a good man that had robbed only due to his needy situation. Maria Schell performs a sweet and well-educated woman, capable to greet everybody and also tough in a negotiation. Karl Malden is fantastic as usual and the scum Frenchy Plante is one of the most despicable characters I have ever seen. Virginia Gregg has a minor but effective performance and her character Edna Flaunce is an example of how sickening and nauseating a human being can be.

This is the first time that I see this film, recently released on DVD by a small Brazilian distributor, and it was a magnificent surprise for me since I am not a fan of the conventional Western genre. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Árvore dos Enforcados" ("The Hanging Tree")
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Hanging Tree DVD
jem-939 February 2007
WB claims the negative is in very sorry shape, no word on whether they will spring for a restoration. Odd thing is, though, that WB has a DVD out in Europe, region 2. Perhaps WB has contempt for Europe and has released a shoddy print.

But I agree about this film. One of the best westerns ever made. The auteuristas don't care for it -- Delmer Daves is not among their favs -- so that may be one reason there isn't much push for a DVD.

Brilliant cinematography, Max Steiner's score is one of his finest, tight script, direction is flawless (pax to the auteur theory claque) and the acting -- from Cooper and Schell and Maldin all the way down to the smallest part -- is pitch-perfect.

Alas ...
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A sadly overlooked classic western--one of the best!
rufus-t- firefly14 September 2002
This movie should be right up there with "High Noon", "The Searchers", "The Magnificent Seven", and other classic westerns. The cinematography and fantastic outdoor location alone make it a must see. Gary Cooper plays a gun-toting frontier doctor, with a mysterious past, Maria Schell, a determined immigrant, who becomes his patient. Karl Malden, a ruthless miner, who becomes her partner. The supporting cast is excellent, including a very slender young actor by the name of George C. Scott, whose performance is compelling. This is one of Cooper's last movies, and one of his best. I'm not really sure why, but this movie has not been enjoyed as much as it should, or received the praise it deserves. If you're a fan of the genre, and you have not seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
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A fascinating Western of the Gold Rush wave!
Nazi_Fighter_David16 July 1999
There was stars and superstars, and then there are the handful by whose success one may understand the nature of the movies' massive appeal to the public... One of these rare people was Gary Cooper, a forever reliable cowboy who remained the strong fairly silent, man of action...

Cooper plays Doc Joe Frail, a frontier doctor running away from a personal tragedy... He now takes his Hippocratic oath with a little gambling and gunfighting in Skull Creek, a wild gold camp in the territory of Montana...

Cooper saves an accused thief from a posse and, after healing the young Rune (Ben Piazza), they become friends... Next the Doc treats a young Swiss girl, Elizatbeth Mahler (Maria Schell), for shock and blindness suffered from exposure to the sun after a stage holdup...

After succeeding in getting her sight back, Elizabeth was already in love with Frail... The doctor tries not to sound his feelings about her... Something was troubling his conscience deeply... He certainly hides a mysterious past...

Frail aids Elizabeth in a grubstake and, with her partners Frenchy and Rune, she soon strikes it rich... Frenchy tries to force his attentions on Elizabeth, but just then Doc Frail rides up...

Karl Malden is excellent as Frenchy, the hypocrite opportunistic, the person without scruples willing to make Elizabeth believes that he cares for her, and is after her love, not after her gold... Malden is very good as a supporting actor... He proved it in "The Gunfighter," with Gregory Peck, in "One-Eyed Jacks," with Marlon Brando, and in "Nevada Smith," with Steve McQueen...

In his film debut, George C. Scott portrays the poisonous bible-punching drunk who incites and excites the whole town to carry Cooper to the hanging tree...

Jerry Livingston's Title Song won an Academy Award Nomination...
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Good setup but poor ending
grantss13 August 2015
Good setup but poor ending.

A doctor, Dr Frail (played by the legendary Gary Cooper), moves into a gold rush town in Montana in the 1870s. He's a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails type with a few skeletons in his past. Then a stagecoach is robbed nearby and its female occupant becomes a patient...

Interesting and intriguing from the word go. Gary Cooper is obviously the hero, but for once he is less than perfect. Good action and a hint of romance.

Decent, but not great. The story is often uneven, going on tangents, and the plot not always consistent. The ending is so random and silly it almost ruins the movie.

Solid performance from Gary Cooper in the lead role. Good support from Maria Schell, Karl Malden and Ben Piazza. George C Scott appears in his first cinematic role (though he had appeared in TV series and a TV movie before this).

Only really worth watching if you're a Gary Cooper fan.
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Gary Cooper and Maria Schell.....they made it seem real!
Stormy_Autumn15 April 2006
Gary, for that movie, was Doc Joe Frail. Maria, sister of Maximilian Schell, became Elizabeth Malher. Everything that happened to Frail seemed real. He healed Elizabeth's blindness but feared loving her because of his past. There was the guilt from the tragedy he carried, the fear of someone finding out. The jealousy and anger of people waiting and wanting to take Doc's life for his past and, mostly, the fortune.

Frenchy Plante is played by Karl Malden. He is a fortune hunter with a drinking problem. Karl was one of two directors who made this film. Delmar Daves was in charge of the beginning and middle. Karl did the finishing work. By that time, Mulden had 20 movies under his belt.

George C. Scott is Dr. George Grubb, a Bible toting, Scripture spouting fiend. He is not a particularly nice person. He targets Doc Frail and goes after him. This is Scott's first credited role and he carries it off very well.

Jerry Livingston does the title theme. "The Hanging Tree". It was sung in the movie by one of my favorites, Marty Robbins. He, also, made it popular to the public through radio and records. Now I have a CD of "The Best of Marty Robbins" that I have introduced to my grandson. I want him (and our other grandkids) to know about something besides today's music.

Just for some aside information: The only cast member, of this movie, still living is Karl Malden. He turned 94 in March of 2006. Wow, what a life he's had!
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It amazes me....
jim626327 March 2005
It's still amazing me that excellent films such as "The Hanging Tree" and Arthur Penn's "Four Friends" (to name but two) are NOT made available on DVD -- esp. LONG before such crap as "My Mom's A Werewolf" (to name but one example)!!! Others commenters here have already summarized the story well, and this is one of the very best and detail-memorable of the western genre, esp. when one discounts the epic westerns and certainly one of Cooper's best. Co-star Karl Malden is excellent as always, and this is the time I recall noticing George C. Scott on film, in a small but scenery chewing role. I've not seen this film in at least 10~15 years, sad to say, but I hope to again. MAKE A DVD OF THIS FILM!!!
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Mixed Results
dougdoepke16 February 2013
No need to recap the sprawling plot.

For a western, the movie is generously produced. The Washington state locations are scenic as heck and a great backdrop to the rushing crowds and boisterous miners. In fact, the gold camp recreation is one of the most realistic I've seen. Then too, the production has one of the most underrated directors of westerns of the period, Delmer Daves, whose list includes such classics as 3:10 to Yuma (1957), Jubal (1956),and the generally overlooked Cowboy (1958). All of these are tightly written and efficiently directed little gems.

But I have to say that despite the first-rate production values and a first-rate cast, this more epic sized western doesn't achieve the impact of Daves' smaller movies. The problem is a loose script and a dawdling camera that stretches out the dramatics and the movie's length to a sometimes tedious degree. I'm guessing that Warner Bros. wanted a production equal to Gary Cooper's iconic standing. I suspect they were also promoting newcomer Schell's career, and thus much time is split between her, Cooper, and the always reliable Malden. All perform well, but add up to bits and pieces that don't fit together very well, while padding the screen time unnecessarily.

I wish Scott's truly fearsome religious zealot had gotten a bigger role. He might have made the movie memorable, so strong is his spotty presence. Something I don't usually notice in films is the movie score. But here the music is blended nicely into the screenplay, without overdoing it. Perhaps revealingly, this is Daves' final western. From here, he went on to teenage fare, such as the blockbuster A Summer Place (1959) that despite its teen angst of the day is not without notable compensations. Anyway, this film's a scenic delight at the same time the narrative unfortunately is not, which adds up to a very mixed result.
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Gary Cooper's Best
Art La Cues9 February 2002
"High Noon", move over. "The Hanging Tree", in my estimation, is by far the better picture. The story, characterizations, acting, and musical score put this movie in the class of "Shane", "The Big Country", and "The Magnificent Seven". Cooper portrays Dr. Joe Frail as only he can. He is perfectly cast as a man with "frail hope" and, yet, has the strength and caring to help and protect others. As others have commented, this film is not even available new in vhs format, let alone dvd. The last time I checked The Western Channel and Turner Classic Movies it was not scheduled for viewing.

If you want to enjoy a realistic story and superb acting from a great cast I recommend the "Hanging Tree."
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The Hanging Tree has strong roots.
st-shot28 April 2012
Gary Cooper looking a little brittle in his last western more than summons up enough of his courageous stoicism to take on vicious country bumpkin Karl Malden in this better than average western that builds to an exciting conclusion. In many ways it foreshadows Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Dr. John Frail makes his way to a mining town intent on putting his past behind him. Less than amiable and quick with his fists he keeps his distance from all including those he saves. Things get complicated however when a Elizabeth Mahler (Maria Schell) a Swiss immigrant finds herself badly injured and stranded under his care. Once well she is determined to strike it rich mining and takes on the iniquitous Frenchy Plante (Karl Malden) as a partner. When they hit pay dirt new problems arise however and chaos builds to a fever pitch.

Tree's erratic pace develops its storyline slowly as the laconic Frail warms up to no one and his murky past remains a mystery. Malden's Frenchy, is an energized villain however who displays his ignorance like a badge of honor and along with co-villains George C. Scott and John Dierkes provide enough mischief to break Frail out of his indifferent torpor.

Malden's performance borders on over the top but he still walks away with the acting honors. Cooper 's cynical man of principle remains the film's moral center and few do it better. Maria Schell also registers well holding her own in scenes with both men. Director Delmer Davies and cinematographer Dan McCord do an excellent job of establishing atmosphere and creating a mood utilizing the townspeople and its mindset as a key component allowing the film to be both a rousing entertainment as well as a parable.
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Not The Paint Your Wagon Kind Of Mining Camp
bkoganbing14 November 2007
Unless one wants to count They Came To Cordura as a western which also came out in 1959, The Hanging Tree was Gary Cooper's farewell to the western genre which he did so much to popularize. Although in his career Cooper played a variety of roles, he is probably most identified with the western. Certainly that second Oscar for High Noon cemented that identity.

Cooper is a doctor/gunfighter/gambler, a rather interesting combination of professions. But he needs all of them to survive in the gold mining camp where he's set up practice. It's a temporary home for the camp is a temporary town. Unless a mother lode is found, when the stream is panned out, the miners move on.

The miners are an interesting lot, the usual men with needs, the usual women who satisfy them for a price and some married folk with some puritan like wives. Oh, and there's a crazy religious fanatic walking around played by George C. Scott.

Cooper gets a pair of interesting patients who he takes more than a proprietary interest in. One is a young man who was shot robbing a sluice box played by Ben Piazza. Cooper patches him up and will not reveal who he is to the camp if he acts as servant to him. If The Hanging Tree had been made a decade later, one of those services no doubt would have been sex.

The threat is real for Piazza, with no law of any kind, the miners make their own law and enforce it with liberal use of an old gnarled oak called The Hanging Tree. One apparently is mandatory these camps. These guys aren't the Paint Your Wagon type miners.

Karl Malden does an excellent job playing one of those miners with some real needs. And he thinks he's got it made when he finds a sunburned and blind Maria Schell who survived a stagecoach holdup that killed her father. But she likes the strange and brooding doctor who saves her. She can't get close to Cooper however because of some things in his past.

The Hanging Tree was the first time that George C. Scott and Karl Malden worked together. Eleven years later they would team up for Scott's career role in the title role of Patton. Both Scott and Ben Piazza made their American film debuts in The Hanging Tree.

Karl Swenson and Virginia Gregg run the local mercantile. Swenson is one of the few in the town who befriends Cooper, but Gregg is the self appointed leader of the town morals committee. If Maria Schell wants to live in sin with Cooper, she ought to be with the other working girls at the saloon.

The Hanging Tree is photographed beautifully on location in Washington State serving as gold rush Montana of the 1870s. And the title song, sung by Marty Robbins was Oscar nominated for Best Song, but lost to High Hopes that year. Robbins had a hit record out of it as did Frankie Laine.

Delmar Daves, a most underrated director, does a fine job with his cast and story. This is a must for Gary Cooper fans.
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Why is it not the best
przgzr5 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Most comments - I'd say all posted so far - agree that this is a great movie. A classic western, sometimes even beyond that.

But they also ask why is it not so well remembered, not a member of the usually quoted giants, even without a DVD release.

Maybe there are small reasons that can be ignored when you love the movie, see its qualities (and that's an easy task), but for someone more cold these small imperfections can be a reason to vote for High Noon, The Big Country, Rio Bravo, Cimmaron, ...Yellow Ribbon, Searchers or ...Liberty Valance.

Doctor Frail. The secrets that main characters keep are very usual in westerns. So many mysterious gunfighters rode through screens. This can be solved either by revealing the secret or keeping it hidden till the end (when the hero dies, or more frequently, rides away as a mysterious stranger he was from the start). But doctor Frail's secret is not so well hidden, because several people know him and know at least something from his past - yet for some reason the authors decided to give us information a teaspoon every twenty minutes. And at the end it is not a complete secret anymore, but we still have to imagine some pieces of the puzzle.

Frenchy vs Frail. From the beginning we realize that Frenchy knew doctor Frail and has mixed feelings. He is very curious when he understands that some people can tell more about Frail - is it just curiosity for gossips, or is it a kind of repulsion that some less educated people show towards the intellectuals ("why is he so arrogant, as if he thinks he is better than us"). We never get an answer what in fact Frenchy objects doctor Frail.

Grubb. He is a preacher as so many others, almost a cliché in westerns (and we can see they aren't extinct today as well). But there is something happening between Frail and Grubb, they know each other from before, and we can see that this is not only a faith vs science conflict, also Grubb isn't only after the money that he could earn by his "treatment" if Frail hadn't appeared - this confrontation seems a lot deeper (probably they both know more about each other than they - or the authors - are ready to tell us). But Grubb soon vanishes and reappears only at the end of the movie.

End. Yes, the drunk herd could be expected to change its mind when offered a goldmine, but what about Grubb? He wasn't after gold, he had personal conflict with Frail, he managed to lead the whole village to hang Frail. Wouldn't at least he stay, uncorrupted and full of rage and revenge, trying to stop the others before finishing the task? Edna and Tom. Rather important characters, but simply don't appear near the end, in the situation where they could have done a lot. It reminds me on the movies where some of the actors died before the end of shooting, so his role had to be removed from the rest of the movie. Especially we miss Tom after Edna's attacking Elizabeth in the store.

These are not big flaws, but maybe enough to bother people who like secrets completely revealed (or completely unrevealed), and plot led to a logical end. (Happy-end, of course, but this demand has been fulfilled.)

And all my objections are just attempt to find reasons why this otherwise great movie hasn't achieved a cult status. (It has one in my heart though.)
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Breathtaking western drama
Juha Hämäläinen4 May 2007
The Gold Trail, Montana 1873. A tall man in black rides through a magnificent landscape and a wonderful mood sets in. In this film Cooper is a good doctor who helps a thief and a blinded girl. But he seems to carry a terrible burden that also makes him secretive and quick to use his physical power and burst into acts of violence. Gossip travels fast and makes people suspicious and easily judging, which soon erupts to trouble. Karl Malden as a scoundrel gold miner and George C. Scott in his small, but haunting film debut role as a fake religious "healer" try to make most of the tedious situation.

This is an amazing western with the most handsome natural scenery I've seen in any western from the fifties. The people are almost constantly set against the sky, mountains, woods and rivers making the movie an incredibly beautiful watching experience. The powerful photography of the nature and the settlers among it should really be seen on a big screen, but makes quite an impression on TV screen too. This landscape is "the America people came to look for", the place to hold and take advantage of but never fully won over. The doctor calls the town "an anthill that wind can blow away" and from his hut high on the hill above the town the people and the place are really seen like that. But what happens when a little success can lead to abuse and total madness? The film seems to say: Look what we have got here and what we are doing with it. A strong ecological message seems to hang behind all the feelings and deeds of the human drama. And those feelings and deeds aren't too tame either, but tend to charge the story with strong emotional power.

The film is loaded with intense acting and direction. The scenes are set on perfect locations for this kind of production. The film just seems to get better by every new viewing. This western speaks volumes about acts of civilization and use of freedom by setting somewhat civilized but still restless human nature in the middle of the earth's nature and occasionally against it . Definitely forth to see!
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Awesome performance , rousing score , splendid cinematography and magnificent climaxed
ma-cortes14 February 2012
¨Hanging tree¨ results to be a good western set in a gold-mining camp and remains consistently agreeable and attractive . Set in Montana , 1873 , it takes place at a mining village called Skull Creek where arrives a frontier doctor named Joseph Frain (Gary Cooper as a good guy , as usual , being last western Gary Cooper starred in) . The doctor rescues a young thief named Rune (Ben Piazza) from a lynch mob . The doctor temporarily nurses and devotes his time to Elizabeth Mahler (Maria Schell) a strange girl . Unfortunately, however, the doctor with a dark past (it was left ambiguous whether the doctor had killed his unfaithful wife) may place his patient in considerable risk . The nasty (Karl Malden as a bad guy) attempts to rape Elizabeth but Cooper comes to his rescue . Later on , the townspeople took the doctor out to ¨The hanging tree¨ but this time is helped by his friends .

This first-rate but slow-paced Western draws its riveting tale and power from the interaction of finely drawn roles as well as drama and action . A fine and thought-provoking film in which Daves keeps straight face and magnificent control of rhythm in spite of some highly unlikely situations . Masterfully made and including excellent performances , breathtaking background shots and impeccable close-ups . ¨Hanging tree¨ which look a fairly and realist sighting at a mining camp . It stars genre stalwart Gary Cooper as a doctor-gambler-gunslinger who has a rather sinister past , he is a good professional treating a blind girl and saving a rogue thief . Maria Schell as blind woman is awesome too . Furthermore , George C Scott's screen debut as a fanatic preacher . Good adult Western with exciting battle of wits between an obstinate doctor , a beautiful blind woman and a nasty miner . This laid-back Western contains sensitive songs sung at the beginning and ending by Marty Robbing composed by Jerry Livingstone and written Marck Davis , being deservedly nominated for Oscar , in addition an emotive musical score by the classic Max Steiner . Colorful cinematography by Ted McCord , filmed in State of Washington nearly Yakime , where was expressly built a mining village . Well produced by Cooper and his Production Company called ¨Baroda¨ and some scenes were realized by Karl Malden by illness of Delmer Daves . ¨Hanging tree¨ turns out to be stylish, well paced , solid, meticulous and with enjoyable look . This perfectly acted movie is gripping every step of the way . Rating : Above average , worthwhile watching , still a memorable film

The motion picture was well directed by Delmer Daves - including his characteristic use of landscape- , though he fell ill during filming and Karl Malden took over for several days until Daves recovered. Daves was a Western expert for the reason he lived a long time of his boyhood with the Navajo and Hopi Indian tribes as he realized the notorious trail-blazing ¨Broken arrow¨ the first movie for many years not treat the Indians as cannon-fodder for the cavalry , which made the picture unpopular in some quarters . He went on directing the suspenseful ¨3:10 to Yuma¨, other pro-Indian as ¨The last wagon¨ and about Modoc Indians as ¨Drum beat¨ , the Shakespearian style of ¨Jubal¨ , ¨Return of the Texan¨ and ¨Cowboy¨ which a fairly spectacle about a long cattle drive . From 1959 Delmer Daves becomes embroiled for the remainder of his career with teenage love epics and very popular at the Box-office as ¨A summer place¨, ¨Parrish¨, ¨Susan Slade¨, and ¨Rome adventure¨, among others .
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Another Great Western Performance By Gary Cooper
gerrythree13 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Gary Cooper had starring roles in three more movies after The Hanging Tree, but none showcasing his talents better than this western. While not given a producer's credit for the movie, this movie was the first under Cooper's new production company, Baroda. Just as with Along Came Jones, the only movie Cooper officially produced, The Hanging Tree has great talent in front of and behind the camera, starting with the screenplay writers. The only person now alive who can tell how much of a production role Cooper had is Karl Malden, whom IMDb identifies as an uncredited fill-in director as well as co-star.

Whatever production role Cooper had, this movie looks like it was a real tough location shoot, filming on steep trails and having to create a mining camp set in an isolated national forest. This movie has one interesting distinction, concerning the character of Society Red, one of the miners. (Possible Spoiler) John Dierkes, who played the part and formerly worked for the U.S. Treasury department, has the last full line of dialog in the in the move: "Frenchy said it (the mine) was worth a million." Dierkes, 6'6" and over 7' tall with the stovepipe hat he was wearing, has the best lines in the movie at the very end. It is not often that a supporting actor gets to a chance to end a movie as Dierkes did this time.

The Hanging Tree is a story about people who, for whatever reason, are on the edges of society and trying to make a go of it. The only things this movie needs (as of this writing) are a wide screen restoration and a DVD release in the United States.
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The Life You Save May Be Your Own
wes-connors25 October 2011
After an unfortunate family incident, embittered doctor Gary Cooper changes his name (to Joseph "Joe" Frail) and moves to 1873 Montana. "Doc" sets up shop in the aptly named Gold Rush town of "Skull Creek" with handsome young Ben Piazza (as Rune) as manservant, after saving the robber lad from death by posse. A stagecoach attack quickly provides Mr. Cooper with another housemate, Swiss emigrant Maria Schell (as Elizabeth Mahler). Baked and blinded by the sun, Ms. Schell heals into an uncommonly beautiful woman. As you might expect, patient and doctor are mutually attracted. Why she and Mr. Piazza amount to naught is not explained. Creepy head-capped Karl Malden (as Frenchy Plante) provides villainy...

"The Hanging Tree" looms forebodingly as we learn more about Cooper's contrary character; it's a good role for the aging superstar, in one of his best later years performances. We may be meant to consider the love of Schell providing Cooper with a possible second chance as the main story, but much more interesting is how the story deals with ownership. Cooper "owns" both Piazza and Schell in saving their lives, but is challenged for the latter by Mr. Malden. The proof that Cooper is a good soul is conveyed early, by his tossing of the bullet he took from Piazza and his gift to the malnourished girl. And, "The Lucky Lady Mine" owners believe the ownership of material wealth will bring happiness. Delmer Daves directs beautifully.

******** The Hanging Tree (2/11/59) Delmer Daves ~ Gary Cooper, Ben Piazza, Maria Schell, Karl Malden
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Top notch movie
gobigred331 March 2006
I saw the hanging tree when I was 8. I am now 55. I'll never forget this movie. It left a lasting impression on me. Why is this film not offered as a DVD? I await the glorious day. I have been singing the last verse of the title song, that Marty Robbins sang, all these years. I'll never forget how the song started up when Doc Frail was about to be hung and Elisabeth came to the forefront to buy his life with the title deed to the mine and the gold they had. She was about to walk away, thinking Frail had no interest in her. Then he called out her name 'Elisabeth!' She turned toward him while the song, The Hanging Tree was warming up to the moment! What a moment! After all these years I still feel what I felt when I was 8 years old and watching it for the first time. To bad movie making like that is a thing of the past. Devon Leesley
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Superbly acted, if slightly pretentious western
Bob-4521 March 2011
Delmer Daves, the masterful director who gave us JUBAL, 3:10 TO YUMA and THE LAST WAGON scores again, thanks to near perfect ensemble casting in THE HANGING TREE. Gary Cooper has never been been better as "Doc Frail," formerly "Doc Temple," before a personal tragedy emotionally isolates him from humanity. He rescues and treats "Rune," (Ben Piazza), a sensitive young fugitive trapped by circumstance, then blackmails Rune into becoming his indentured servant. Rune shares the center of the narrative with Doc Frail, becoming his conscience. According to Wikipedia, "runes are attributed with the power to bring that which is dead to life" and certainly Doc Frail's affection for Rune begins his return to his humanity. However, when Doc Frail treats "Elizabeth," the survivor of a stagecoach robbery, he must tap into even more humanity to treat her trauma. This frightens Doc Frail, and he, unfortunately becomes a subsidiary character in the last quarter of the narrative. Fortunately, Ben Piazza as Rune and Maria Schell as Elizabeth are both equally excellent, and their characters are compelling enough to make up for the relative absence of Cooper. The only false note in the performances is Virginia Gregg, who is a bit too brittle as a meddling townswoman.

Superb music, superb photography, superb acting and direction and a better than average story. What more can one ask of a movie? While not quite up to the excellent standards of JUBAL and 3:10 TO YUMA, THE HANGING TREE is definitely a keeper. I give it an "8".
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The bad landers
dbdumonteil17 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Maria Schell had enjoyed a successful career both in France ("Gervaise" ) and in her native Germany (the memorable " Die Letzte Brucke " "Die Ratten") before coming to Hollywood ;it was her second American movie after Richard Brooks' "the brothers Karamazov".She must have been very good since Anthony Mann used her in "Cimarron" It was also to be Daves ' last western ,and probably his last really great movie (can "Spencer's mountain" or " The battle of the Villa Florita" favorably compare with "broken arrow" " dark passage" "the last wagon" or "3:10 to Yuma" ?)

"The hanging tree" is not an action packed western;actually only the last scenes are eventful and violent.The doctor (very well played by a tired Gary Cooper ;his character is called "Frail") is a complex character ,with whom it is very difficult to side with in the first part ("you own me " his bond servant says).Although his past will remain relatively vague ,we know this man has suffered all through his life .He helps his fellow men and does not ask for anything in return ("give me a kiss" ) When the gold diggers become crazy ,he will show the only just around.The last picture shows three characters ,who seem to have escaped from Sodom.

Gary Cooper ,Maria Schell,Karl Malden and Ben Piazza (who sadly never became famous ) are a stellar cast.
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One of the two top westerns ever.
stump6914 January 2002
There are no other western actors to compare with Gary Cooper. His role in High Noon has been conceded to be his best ever. I would put the Hanging Tree right up there at number two. I cannot understand why it is not available on either video of DVD, when High Noon is readily available in any format you want. If it ever becomes available, you will not be disappointed if you rent or buy it. I haven't seen it for so long that I don't remember the details, just that it was a very good film. (No spoilers possible here!).
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