Cole Harden just doesn't look like a horse thief, Jane-Ellen Matthews tells Judge Roy Bean as she steps up to the bar. Cole says he can't take it with him as he empties all of his coins on the bar to buy drinks for the jury. He notices two big pictures of Lily Langtry behind the bar. Sure, Cole has met the Jersey Lily, whom the hanging judge adores, even has a lock of her hair. Hanging is delayed for two weeks, giving Cole time to get in the middle of a range war between cattlemen and homesteaders and to still be around when Lily Langtry, former mistress of Edward VII who became an international actress, arrives in Texas. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
This western film features several top elements that help make it a classic in its genre. Director Wyler was regarded by many people as one of the all time greats. Cinematographer Toland was also a well-respected presence in his field. Producer Goldwyn was famed for his attention to quality. (This trio had, in fact, just made "Wuthering Heights together the year before.) Then, of course, there is the delightful (and Oscar-winning) presence of famed character actor Brennan as Judge Roy Bean. This is not in any way discounting the work of Cooper who is highly effective and appealing here as well. Cooper plays the title character, a drifter who has the unlucky prospect of having to appear before the notorious "hangin' judge" Brennan. Once his case is settled, he forms an uneasy alliance with Brennan, while also sticking around long enough to help damsel in distress Davenport. Before long, he's in the middle of a range war between cattle ranchers and farmers all being unfairly presided over by Brennan (who has an undue fascination with the actress Lily Langtry.) Cooper is gorgeous in this film and gives a strong performance (despite his documented disinterest in it due to the knowledge that Brennan had the best part.) Brennan predictably steals most every scene he's in in a part that is more co-starring than supporting. Still, his rapport with Cooper is what gives his role meaning. Although riddled with what are now cliches, the script is full of neat touches between the two men. It's not every day a viewer catches Gary Cooper waking up drunk in a twin bed with Walter Brennan's arm around him! This sequence (as well as one earlier when the two men square off over "a drink") is priceless. There's also a memorable showdown in an opera house. Davenport makes a lovely, if unusual heroine (earthier and less slender than many leading ladies of her day.) She would retire shortly after this film. Tucker will be almost unrecognizable to his fans from "F Troop" and other later works of his. Andrews is given very little to do. The film might have been better off with a more apt title as it's less the story of "The Westerner" than it is an observation of the relationship between these two men.
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