|The Hanging Tree
"How long will I have to work as your
servant before we'd be even?"
In synopsis: Doc Frail saves Roan's life by removing a bullet from his chest. As Roan has no funds with which to pay for Doc's services, Doc requires him to become his bond servant. To ensure that Roan is agreeable, Doc threatens to produce the distinctive bullet removed from his chest which identifies him as the would-be sluiceway robber and a sure candidate for the hanging tree. What Roan does not know is that Doc has tossed the bullet away, never having any intent of using it.
The Hanging Tree stars George C. Scott as Grub, the backwoods preacher who gets his spirit from a bottle; Maria Schell as the lucky lady-- lucky because she is the sole survivor of a stage coach robbery, who becomes temporarily blinded by recall of the horrific robbery and her near-death experience, who is cared for by Doc Frail and falls in love with him only to be rejected; Karl Swenson as the storekeeper who knows a little about Doc Frail's past and seems to understand his heart; Karl Malden as Frenchy, the untrustworthy gold prospector who catches Roan robbing the sluiceway and shoots him. It is Frenchy who finds the lucky lady and later attempts to have his way with her; Ben Piazza as Roan, who becomes Doc Frail's bond servant after Doc digs-out Frenchy's bullet; and Gary Cooper as Doc Frail.
Except for the storekeeper who knew him before his arrival in the gold mining camp outside of Skull Rush, Doc Frail is viewed as a harsh man. Roan sees him as a man with the devil on his shoulder. The lucky lady cannot understand why he is not interested when all others are. Grub is fearful that Doc offers real hope for the ailing while he simply extorts what funds they have for his laying on of hands with no real hope for a cure and no chance of the miracles he claims.
They all knew his charity, but they focused on his harsher qualities: he gambled; he drank; he was reputed to be the fastest gun around; he kicks the stuffing out of Frenchy when he finds him attempting to take advantage of the lucky lady. They did not think long about the Doc Frail who accepted a little girl's kiss as payment-in-full for a bill her parents could not pay, or practiced medicine for the most part on credit. And when Roan and the lady finally strike out on their own, the storekeeper does not tell them that Doc Frail is secretly underwriting their efforts at gold mining, an effort begun by their desire to be rid of Frail, a man who never allowed himself to need anyone.
But Roan and the lucky lady do strike it rich. And in the end it is their wealth, given to the greedy men of the town, that keeps Doc from the hanging tree.
But now, a few more good lines:
And the Genesis of this project:
Deuteronomy 30:19 (KJV) I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: