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>
Opening credits: "After the Civil War, America, in the throes of rebirth, set its face West where the land was free. First came the cattlemen and with them "Judge" Roy Bean, who took the law into his own hands, administering justice according to his lights. That he left his impress on the history of Texas is tribute to his greatness. Then into his stronghold moved another army, the homesteaders, who ploughed the soil, fenced in fields, to bring security to their wives and children. War was inevitable, a war out of which grew the Texas of today." See more »
Top Notch Western from Hollywoods' Golden Era May be Coop's Best
The Westerner will seldom make it on anyone's top ten westerns list, even one compiled by those of us who haven't succumbed to the garlicky charms of the Man with No Name. But this is one of the top notch hay-consumers of all time, make no mistake.
What can you say about Gary Cooper that has not already been voiced over and over. His beautifully understated acting style, the subtle twitches and raised eyebrows. His bearing. The way he sits a horse, as only someone who grew up on a Montana ranch can. The sure enough Western accent. Had he discovered the ear-pull yet, I didn't notice it in this one. Until watching this movie on a newly restored DVD tonight, I had not seen it in 20 years, and had come to think of it as more of a Walter Brennan movie. I was wrong. Brennan was there with all his fine tools, all right, and he royally deserved his best-supporting award, but that is what his role was. When it's a Gary Cooper movie, it's a Gary Cooper movie. Never having been a fan of High Noon, I had thought maybe Dallas or Vera Cruz were Coop's best westerns. But The Westerner gives us the definitive Gary Cooper.
The movie is handsomely turned out in the sensuously luminous black and white cinematography, fluid editing and silky-smooth scene changes we have come to accept as standard for top studio productions of the late 'thirties, 'forties era, and every cinematic effect is enhanced by a stirring Dimitri Tiomin score. The sets and costumes are superb with a much more authentic look and feel for the old west than most westerns before or since. The clothes of both the men and women, both the cowboys and the farmers, the gun leather, and the buildings, are all unusually accurate to the time and place. Refreshingly, the heroine of our piece, sensitively and strongly played by the beautiful but obscure Doris Davenport, wears a long, feminine dress and uses a wagon for transportation, rather than wearing men's jeans and riding astraddle a horse with her Tangee lipstick blaring as we see in so many great and small westerns. All the other characters, both male and female, come off like real 19th century men and women, not products of the time in which the film was made. William Wyler's direction is virtually flawless with just the right blend of action, tension, and humor. But considering the acting talent, the cinematographers, lighting specialists, art directors, and other technical help any director in the awesomely efficient big studio systems of the time had available, maybe he just knew how to stay out of the way.
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