Saturday, February 20th, 2016
“There is going to be a real old-fashioned lynching on the Rio Grande….”
With these words, the Las Cruces newspaper announced that Clint Eastwood would soon arrive in Las Cruces — to film HANG ‘EM HIGH.
The co-producer of the movie, Leonard Freeman, had been in town for several days and had already found the perfect location for the opening scene: a spectacular, lonely tree on the west bank of the Rio Grande River, about 12 miles north of Las Cruces.
In the opening scene, which appears even before the credits, Eastwood is dragged across the Rio Grande River, and then lynched.
The lynching is the driving event of the movie. Eastwood plays ex-lawman Jed Cooper. He is herding cattle he has just purchased back to his ranch when he is brutally arrested by a citizenâ€™s posse. Unknown to the posse, the person who sold the cattle to Cooper had killed the true owners just prior to selling them to Cooper. The remainder of the movie consists of Cooper ruthlessly pursuing the men responsible for his hanging and enacting suitable revenge.
Formal shooting of the film began June 21, 1967. The hanging scene was filmed June 29. Eastwood did the entire scene himself, except for the swinging by his neck, which was done by his stunt double Walter Scott (shown in photo). The Las Cruces location shooting wrapped July 1.
The tree where Eastwood was hung is no longer standing and the riverbed is now overgrown with thick brush.