Tribute to a Bad Man

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Tribute to a Bad Man
Tribute to a Bad Man FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Robert Wise
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
Written by Jack Schaefer (short story)
Michael Blankfort
Starring James Cagney
Don Dubbins
Stephen McNally
Irene Papas
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Robert L. Surtees
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 13, 1956 (1956-04-13)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.8 million[1]
Box office $2 million[1][2]

Tribute to a Bad Man is a 1956 western film starring James Cagney about a rancher whose harsh enforcement of frontier justice alienates the woman he loves. It was directed by Robert Wise and based on the short story "Hanging's for the Lucky" by Jack Schaefer, the author of Shane.


Rustlers rob horses belonging to wealthy Wyoming rancher Jeremy Rodock and shoot him. He is found by young cowboy Steve Miller, who digs out the bullet, saves Rodock's life and is offered a job at the ranch.

Rodock believes in lynching rustlers personally without arrest or trial. His wrangler McNulty describes it as "a hanging sickness" to Rodock's woman, Jocasta Constantine, a former dance-hall girl ashamed of her past.

McNulty makes a pass at Jo. A jealous and suspicious Rodock sees them leave a barn together and jumps to the wrong conclusion. He fires McNulty, then beats him viciously before ordering him off the ranch.

Rodock sets out to find the men who stole his stock and murdered Whitey, a ranch hand. He rides to former partner Peterson's spread and demands to know if Peterson and son Lars were involved. They deny it, but Rodock soon comes to believe that Peterson and partners Hearn and Barjak are the thieves. He kills Peterson and hangs Hearn.

Lars vows to avenge his father. He joins up with McNulty and Barjak and plan to steal every horse Rodock owns. Steve is sickened by watching a man hang and Jo urges him to speak with Rodock about his vigilante ways. Steve has fallen in love with her and begs her to leave with him, but she will not.

Valuable horses are stolen and McNulty files down the hoofs into bloody stumps. Rodock catches up to the three thieves, makes them dismount and remove their boots. At gunpoint, he forces them to walk to jail through sand, rock and cactus. Barjak ultimately passes out and McNulty begs for mercy.

Rodock comes to his senses. He lets the other rustlers go and returns Lars to the Peterson ranch, where he offers to make restitution. Upon returning home, he finds that Steve is leaving forever and taking Jo with him. Rodock can't blame either, but when he rides out to bring her some jewelry she left behind, Jo has a change of heart and stays with Rodock after all.



Columbia Pictures loaned Robert Francis to MGM so he could appear in the movie. It is unclear what role he was supposed to play in the film, but Francis died in an airplane crash just over a week before he was to head to Wyoming to begin filming.


According to MGM accounts the film earned $1,193,000 in the US and Canada and $849,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $1,623,000.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Domestic rental information at 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957

External links[edit]