One man fights for justice while another dictates it in this mega hit: “Hang ’em High.” Clint Eastwood never failed to impress in his movies. He was always depicted as the one man dynamo.
Even though ‘Make my Day” seemed to make him a household name, the stare in “Hang em High” sent dangers through and pierced the very soul of those he went after. Most viewers even felt the intensity.
“Hang ’em High” gives us more of the macho male desired in westerns. Clint Eastwood played the role of Jed Cooper with that stare that penetrated the very soul of his victim. He was rugged, handsome, strong and determined. Never demonstrating but minimal amounts of emotion until he falls for co-star Inger Stevens. Coopers driving force is to revenge the wrong done to him by nine vigilantes bypassing the law to avenge murder. They hung the wrong man! Cooper seeks justice and justice in his own fashion. Yet, one man stands between him and the force driving him: Revenge.
The strong wills of two men: Jed Cooper and Judge Fenton make several scenes more about will and determination than about the law or revenge. ‘Who will back down’ is the question. In the end, both win, but with equal determination.
As the movie rolls out, Jed Cooper, thought to be a cattle rustler, is accused, tried, found guilty and sentenced on site by nine men. When he tries to explain, they refuse to listen and hang him. Before death takes over, Cooper is found and cut down from his hangman’s noose by U.S. Marshall Dave Bliss played by Ben Johnson.
Bliss, not knowing if Cooper is guilty or innocent, takes him to Fort Grant for a trial and conviction. While there, Judge Fenton played by Ed Begley who has sole control to try and convict determines that Cooper is not guilty of anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He then convinces Cooper to take up the cause as his Marshall to bring the men who hung him to justice legally.
Cooper decides to do so. With strong determination he sets out to find the men who hung him. One by one, he brings them in, but on the way, he also has to fight for justice by apprehending cattle rustlers who include one of the very men who hung him. Even Cooper lets his guard down. This is when he is met with another attack by the very men who hung him as they try to prevent him from completing the charge to bring them to justice.
When Cooper is shot multiple times, he is cared for and nursed back to health by Inger Stevens playing the role of Rachel Ward. Rachel meets every wagon of criminals to see if she can find the men who assaulted her and killed her husband. Only when she nurses Cooper back to health and spends a night with him does she finally release the hate and end her search.
The staunch stare after being hung is one reason the role of Marshall Jeb Cooper is such a hit in this movie. Known for other roles such as Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide”, Blondie in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and Philo Beddoe in “Any Which Way You Can” among others, but none were more profound than the stare in this one.
Clint Eastwood went on to star in more than one hundred movies with 4 Oscars, 137 wins and 92 nominations. His record is fascinating. For more information regarding his life and history, see Clint Eastwood and his life.
Clint Eastwood – Marshal Jed Cooper
Inger Stevens – Rachel Warren
Pat Hingle – Judge Fenton
Ben Johnson – Marshal Dave Bliss