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The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick Recap

In Hallelujah, New Mexico, a man robs a Wells Fargo office at night. He shoots the clerk and rides off past several townspeople. The townspeople check on the clerk and a posse rides off after the robber. The robber rides through the hills and makes his way to the town of Elbow Bend. Limping from a shot he took in the leg, the robber hides in the shadows as Bret rides into town. He goes to the stable, and the robber looks at him and gets an idea.

The robber follows Bret to the hotel where the gambler checks in. The man then sneaks into Bret's room while he's asleep and puts some of the stolen money in Bret's wallet. He then takes Bret's gun and replaces it with his own, switches hats, and leaves the way that he came. The posse rides into Elbow Bend and the next morning, find Bret as the stranger in town, go to his room, and arrest him.

At Bret's trail, the gun, money, and hat are entered into the evidence. All of the townspeople identify Bret as the robber, and soon Sheriff Chick Tucker is setting up the gallows. At the saloon, people bet on whether Bret will reveal where the money is hidden.

In the jail, Chick tells Bret that the mayor and townspeople are coming to see him. When they arrive, the mayor asks Bret if he'll reveal where the stolen money is. Bret points out that if he could tell him where the money is, he would have done it at the trial. The mayor notes that it might have hurt Bret at his trial and appeals to his conscience. Bret says that he can't, telling him that Wells Fargo will pay back the widows and orphans. He insists that he didn't steal the money, and the mayor dismisses him as incorrigible and leaves with the committee.

The next morning, Chick serves Bret breakfast and says that he can't imagine Bret wouldn't give up the money. He tries to convince Bret give up the missing $40,000. Chick admits that he could use the $5,000 reward money and offers to split it with Bret. Bret isn't impressed, but claims that he knows where the money is. However, he refuses to tell Chick where it is and says that he hid the money real well. He plays on Chick's greed and asks for a cigar.

Chick gets a cigar for himself and Bret lights it for him. The sheriff suggests that he could fix it so Bret wouldn't hang if Bret tells him where the money is. He offers to fake the hanging since the bottom of the gallows is shrouded, and coroner Oliver Poole is the only one authorized to go beneath the shroud and confirm Bret is dead. Bret says that he needs $5,000 for himself, and Chick and Oliver can keep the remaining $35,000. Chick agrees and figures Oliver will go along for him and the money.

Oliver refuses to go along with the scheme, worrying that someone could find out and there isn't time. Chick has extra mattresses in a nearby shed, and says that Oliver will have to do it. As they argue, the mayor and his committee come in early. The mayor says that there to pay their last respects to Bret, and see if he has anything to say to them. Bret refuses to give up the money's location, and Oliver goes to get the wagon to take away Bret's body. The clock ticks down to the time for the hanging, and at 9:00 Chick takes Bret up the stairs to the noose. Chick suggests that Bret tell him where the money is, but Bret refuses. The mayor fires a gun and Chick pulls the lever.

The townspeople retire to the saloon to collect their bets on whether Bret would say where the money was. One man, Claude, notes that Bret took the hanging real nice. Oliver takes the "body" out of town on the wagon, and the townspeople gather to give Bret a sendoff. Chick is with Oliver and says that the townspeople should be ashamed of themselves because Bret was an unrepentant sinner. Oliver agrees and Chick insists that Bret doesn't deserve last rites. The mayor agrees, saying they should set an example for other towns.

At the cemetery, the two men open the coffin. Bret emerges and says that he's not happy that Chick spoke badly of him. Chick draws his gun on him, and has Bret and Oliver put a log in the coffin to fake Bret's weight. Once they do, Chick holds Bret under guard until Oliver buries the coffin. Oliver will go the county seat to file the report and return at nightfall with a horse for Bret.

Once Oliver leaves, Bret congratulates Chick on getting rid of the coroner so now he doesn't need to split his share. He prompts Chick into coming up with the idea of letting Bret go after Bret gives up the money. Chick points out that there's only one horse, and Bret says that the money is five miles away and they can ride double. Bret cons Chick onto getting up onto the horse first, and when he does he has Bret get in front of him. Bret shoves him off and rides off.

Later when Oliver returns, they bury the coffin. Chick comes by to make sure there were no slip-ups, and Oliver quickly pays off the gravediggers. The sheriff tells him what happened, saying that Bret is gone for good, and figures that Bret won't reveal himself because he can't show himself without being arrested again. He assures Oliver that they're out the $35,000 but no one is the wiser.

Later that day, Ollie calls Chick out to see that Bret's "widow" has arrived in town. Ollie worries that she'll claim Bret's body, revealing their scene. The two men go over to the stage and introduce themselves to the widow: Molly Clifford. Molly says that first she wants to visit her husband's grave. The mayor comes over and says that they only did what they had to do. Molly says that Bret didn't mention her because he wanted to protect her. Chick offers to take Molly to Bret's grave, saying that Bret claimed that he didn't want to be moved out of Hallelujah.

At the cemetery, Molly mourns at Bret's grave and breaks into tears. The mayor offers to give Molly the $1,000 bill Bret had pinned in his jacket. Molly says that every penny Bret owned was stolen money. The mayor says that the town council was thinking of using the money to build a better jail. Molly says that Bret would have liked that and so would have Cliff. Chick asks who she means, and Molly says that Bret's real name was Cliff Sharp. Cliff has a price on his head across Texas.

The townspeople figured that having "Cliff" buried in Hallelujah will put the town on the map. Soon they change the name on the grave, while Ollie worries some more. Ollie calls Cliff out to reveal that Bret has ridden into town, wearing a mustache. Bret claims that Bret is his brother, and wants to see the man who said they saw Bret do the killing. The three witnesses--Henry, Claude, and Stanley--identify themselves. They're unsure, and Bret says that his brother was taller and better looking. He accuses the town of hanging an innocent man, and says that he came there to clear his brother's name so he could clear Bret's name and his.

The mayor says that Bret's widow came to town and told us that Bret is Cliff. Bret has no idea what he's talking about, and the mayor figures that they should hold Bret. Bret points out that he has a right to clear his brother's name even if he was Cliff, and asks to see Molly. Claude helpfully points out that Molly left town on a stage a half hour ago. Chick whispers to Bret that he knows who he really is. However, he tells Bret to get out of town when Bret threatens to reveal the truth.

Bret catches up to the stage at a waystation and gets onboard next to Molly. Molly doesn't recognize Bret, and Bret claims that his name is Brad Richards. He makes small talk with Molly, asking if their fellow passenger is a relation. Molly says that she's heading for Santa Fe to meet her husband, and Bret claims that the stage line hired him to make conversation. He quickly denies it, and Molly smiles, charmed despite herself.

The stage pulls into the next town, and Bret and Molly have dinner at a restaurant. She insists that he's a married woman and will pay her own check, and Bret suggests that they cut for high card. Molly agrees and Molly "wins". She's surprised that Bret didn't rig it so he'd get high card and pay the bill, and tells him that she figures that he's not the type to wear a mustache. Bret says that he grew it to look older.

At the next town, Bret escorts Molly to her hotel room. She kisses Bret and says that their being together has to end. Bret goes to his room and there's a knock at the door. It's Molly, who comes in and kisses him. She asks Bret to take her with him, and says that she doesn't want to go back to her husband because he's no good. Molly claims that she's afraid of him, and Bret says that he'll be with her and they'll face the man together. She wonders if she was thinking clearly, but gives in.

The stage pulls into Santa Fe the next day and Molly says that her husband will be at their place outside of town. Bret rents a buggy and they go out to the place, and Molly tells Bret that there's still time to change his mind. She draws a gun on Bret and figures that he's not the noble type, and has concluded that he's a lawman. Molly admits that she's the real Cliff Sharp's wife and Bret used her to find Cliff. Bret points out that she was going to ditch Cliff and run off with him, but Molly figures that Cliff will believe her.

Molly calls Cliff out. He's the robber, and opens fire on Bret when he recognizes him. Cliff yells to Molly that Bret is the man they were supposed to hang after he framed him. Bret takes cover, and Cliff tells Molly to shoot at Bret. Molly doesn't, and Cliff hears a horse neighing. He runs out, shooting at Bret, and Bret returns fire and takes him down. Bret calls to Molly, advising her to stay neutral, and then goes over to Cliff. Cliff is alive and shoots at Bret, and Bret takes cover in the barn. Cliff comes in after him and Bret finally shoots him dead.

When Molly enters the barn and trains her gun on Bret, Bret tells her that if she didn't use it earlier than she won't use it now. Molly gives him the gun and says that she had nothing to do with Cliff's stealing. She went to Hallelujah on Cliff's orders to make sure that they executed Bret. Bret says that they have to go back to Hallelujah and it would go easier on her if they brought the $40,000. She finally tells Bret that it's in the house, and Bret figures that he deserves the $5,000 reward.

Later, Bret and Molly ride into town. Chick and Ollie are surprised to see Bret, and Bret collects the reward after returning the stolen money and having Chick and Ollie arrested. Bret smiles at the nervous Chick, and the mayor says that Molly will have to stand trial for pretending to be Cliff's widow. Bret points out that she's his widow now and he cleared his name. The mayor insists that she's guilty for something, and Bret pays to get her a good lawyer. As he goes, Bret says that he would have hung if Molly hadn't cleared his name, and echoes the mayor's words that there's a little good in all of them.

Written by Gadfly on Sep 8, 2019

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