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A marshal nicknamed "The Hangman" because of his track record in hunting down and capturing wanted criminals traces a robbery suspect to a small town. However, the man is known and liked in the town, and the citizens band together to try to help him avoid capture. Written by
The Hangman finds Robert Taylor as a relentless U.S. Marshal who pursues criminals with the zeal of Lieutenant Gerard when he was hunting for Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Barry Morse's words from that show could equally have served as Taylor's bywords, "I don't philosophize, I hunt."
Who he's hunting is the last man of a four man gang accused of a holdup where a death occurred. Two guys are already dead and one is sentenced to hang. But nobody knows who number four is or what he looks like.
Taylor in his quest goes to an army post where he finds recent widow Tina Louise and he's authorized by Wells Fargo to offer a reward of $500.00 if she'll come to a town where he's reputed to be and point him out.
When he arrives in town, the object of his quest who turns out to be Jack Lord is about the most popular fellow there. Why he didn't run for mayor or even for Fess Parker's job as sheriff is beyond me. But Taylor gets no help from anybody.
The title derives from the nickname Taylor has acquired for his dogged dedication to duty. The Hangman is a western with very little action surprisingly, but it has a good character study by the mature Robert Taylor. It's a well rounded portrait of a man who'd like to leave the job he's in, but has grown used to it and it's the only living he's known for years.
The Hangman was the first film Robert Taylor did outside MGM since Magnificent Obsession in the Thirties. He has a record, definitely unlikely to be broken now of the longest running studio contract in film history.
The Hangman is a good, not great western besides those already mentioned I did enjoy Mabel Albertson's performance as a dotty old biddy who's eying Robert Taylor like a slab of romantic beef. Well he was one of the biggest screen heartthrobs ever.
Personally, I think Taylor should have concentrated on westerns in his later years the same way Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott did. He liked making them and though he's not primarily known as a western star, films like Devil's Doorway, Saddle the Wind, The Last Hunt and The Law and Jake Wade hold up very well today. The Hangman's not as good as these I've mentioned, but it still has a fine performance from Robert Taylor and the rest of the cast.
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