The Hangman was Robert Taylor’s first independent film after leaving MGM. In later years, he would describe it as one of his failures. Like many Taylor movies, it’s an unusual twist on a familiar subject. Mackenzie Bovard, a Deputy Marshal, is famous for his ability to catch criminals who are later hanged. Bovard is cynical and world weary with a poor opinion of his fellow humans. Pursuing a robbery suspect, he meets the young and lovely Tina Louise. Through his relationship with her Bovard gradually regains his faith in humanity and becomes a much warmer and more likeable person. This is far from a typical western–no fight scenes, no gorgeous scenery, no evil villains. As another reviewer noted, it’s a drama set in the old West. It’s about responsibility, right and wrong and personal development and growth. Taylor is excellent, as always, in his understated way. Tina Louise is good as a young woman who changes from a drab loser to a confident woman. Mabel Albertson is wonderful as a middle-aged woman who has the hots for Taylor (who can blame her?). Fess Parker, post Davy Crockett is effective as a town Sheriff and his laid back persona makes a good contrast to the driven, more intense Taylor. Perhaps not a classic but definitely worth watching and owning.
I don’t know why Mr. Taylor disliked the film so much. Perhaps he was uncomfortable working outside of MGM. The film has humor, romance, a moral and some good acting. Robert Taylor wasn’t as well photographed as he was at MGM. Since he was never specific about his dislike, it will be one of many mysteries he left behind.