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Samuel Goldwyn's The Westerner would be considered a good western about
that old familiar topic in westerns, the cattlemen versus the
homesteaders. Gary Cooper is his usual tall in the saddle hero whose
presence brings about a general righting of wrongs.
Except that Mr. Goldwyn had the presence of mind to cast Walter Brennan as Judge Roy Bean, local head honcho of the area around Vinegarroon, Texas. With William Wyler directing Brennan etches an unforgettable film portrayal of a man who's both ruthless in enforcing his will on the territory and a likable sort of cuss once you get to know him.
Brennan has one weakness, as the legends have it in the west, he's crushing out big time of famed English actress Lily Langtry. When Gary Cooper is brought into Brennan's courtroom which in off hours is also a saloon, a little quick thinking on his part upon seeing Langtry's portrait over the bar saves his life.
Despite Cooper's friendship with the judge, he's also taken an interest in homesteader Fred Stone's daughter, Doris Davenport. It's inevitable that Cooper and Brennan come to a parting of the ways.
Wyler who is not a director of westerns per se has directed a couple of good ones and this is one of them. There are some good action scenes here, there are some scenes laced with humor when Brennan is around, and the romance is nicely handled.
Dana Andrews and Forrest Tucker got their first notice in The Westerner as well in small parts. But it's Brennan's show.
Walter Brennan won his third Best Supporting Actor Oscar with this film. This was the fifth year the Supporting Player categories were being awarded by the Academy and Brennan won numbers one and three previously.
Western fans will like The Westerner in any event and others will watch it to see a master craftsman in Walter Brennan at his job.
I first watched this movie because of Gary Cooper (after seeing "The Pride of the Yankees," the man could do no wrong in my book). While Coop is great in "The Westerner," it is -- lock, stock and blazing barrels -- Walter Brennan's performance as Judge Roy Bean that steals the show. What a deeply nuanced character! Here's an example of an actor making a villain a likeable, endearing character. Brennan richly deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
I saw the film again after a gap of 25 years recently, and it really is as good as i remembered it. So good in fact it almost made it into my list of top ten westerns. Everything about is top notch-the performances, the photography, the humour and the screenplay. It is only let down by the contrived ending. The fight scene between Cooper and Tucker is as realistic as you will see anywhere, and the scene where Cooper cuts off a lock of Davenports hair is erotically charged. Of course the two main plusses are the performances of Brennan and Cooper-each fills the frame with their presence even when they have no lines, and Brennans portrayal of Judge Roy Bean results in one of the more memorable characters in westerns. In the hand of another actor the result could have been a caricature but Brennan treads the very thin line between parody and homage perfectly.
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.
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.
This movie contains what has to be one of the great performances by Walter Brennan as Judge Roy Bean. Indeed, the title of this movie should have been "The Story of Judge Roy Bean" starring Walter Brennan. For it is obvious that this movie was a vehicle for Walter Brennan, not for Gary Cooper, who actually was cast in a supporting role in this movie. It is obvious that someone in the studio saw potential in Walter Brennan to star in a major motion picture in which Brennan, who was normally cast in supporting roles, carries the movie. What makes the movie even better is that it is based on a person who actually lived, which made the role even more challenging. Walter Brennan carries this movie and transforms what would have otherwise been just another western into a classic.
This intelligent Western contains many a wily comment on the savage mindset of frontier times. Walter Brennan as Judge Roy Bean thoroughly deserved his Academy award though it beats me why he picked up a supporting Oscar instead of a full one. After all, his part is about as long as Gary Cooper's. That aside, Gregg Toland's photography is a gem and the dialog well ahead of its time. The best thing about it all, though, is Wyler's disciplined direction. Yes, some would argue that the film does not accurately reflect history, that Judge Roy Bean died much later and not in a shootout but frankly there is enough prejudice, malice, and quirky humor in this film for one to know outright that Wyler never intended it as a historical account but, rather, as a comment on the difficulties of bringing law to the West. Some of it might be dated but Brennan will startle you, Cooper is darned slick, and it will keep you riveted. Don't miss it!
This film focuses on the relationship between Judge Roy Bean and a stranger who rides into his town against the backdrop of conflict between homesteaders and cattle men. While Cooper has one of his best roles, Brennan steals the film in a marvelous performance as Bean that brought him his third Oscar in four years. Cooper and Brennan have great chemistry, and the film is at its best during the earlier parts when the two are engaged in witty banter about Lily Langtry, the actress than Bean is obsessed with. Davenport, who would make only one other film before retiring at age 23, is fine as Cooper's love interest. As usual, Wyler's direction is impeccable.
"The Westerner" (1940): Directed by William Wyler, starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennen. On one level, this is a classic tale of the Old West as it struggled through a transition of re-settlement. Depicted as such, it is a beautifully photographed, well acted, gritty, weird, funny, and emotional story. But, this film was also made in 1940. The Germans had begun their sweep across Europe, they were breaking treaties as fast as necessary, and non-militarized countries could not withstand the armed renegade country bent on following no rules but its own. To think that this was not on the minds of "The Westerner's" writers, directors, and audience, would be naïve. It's a perfect representation of current events in Europe, England, and America as of 1940. (1941 would change that.) I found it fascinating from this perspective watching it with something of the same gut level understanding that people in that time would have certainly felt. Cooper was the outsider who had no real attachments and wanted to remain isolated keeping his freedom and avoiding entanglements. The town, run by despot Judge Roy Bean, made their own laws, convicted everyone in their way, and hung them without a second thought. The farmers were seen as an impediment to their expanding ideas which required more and more land and water. Cooper was drawn into the battle of ideologies, and attempted to become the ambassador aiming for peace, not war. He moved slowly, and lost the trust of everyone until it was made very clear to him that the aggressors had no intention of honoring promises. It was time to take sides. It is PERFECT representation of that, and our (we, the Westerners), time.
This is an outdoor epic about land war in which director William Wyler
offers us a solid, absorbent and entertaining film . "The Westerner" is
an intense and rewarding western , which is filmed on location in
Arizona. Nominated for 3 Oscars (actor cast, art direction and original
screenplay), won one (for Walter Brennan who sparkles as judge who
dispenses frontier justice in the days of wild west). The film explores
the tensions and fights faced by the old farmers and new settlers
landowners engaged in the operation of small farms, erected through the
efforts of their work . It focuses on the conflicting interests of the
two groups, their diverse working methods , struggles and different
visions of the country and world . Within this scenario is the showdown
among two two antagonists , a drifter addicted to freedom named "Cole
Harden¨ (featured by an unforgettable Cooper), a sly , soft spoken
cowboy who champions Texas border homesteaders in a range war , Cole is
a former outlaw and become socially integrated while legendary Judge
Roy Bean (Brennan's Academy Award was his third playing a shrew piece
of villainy) known as ¨The law west of the Pecos ¨ sentences Hardin
hang as a horse thief . Cole then falls for damsel Jane Ellen (Doris
Davenport) and stays in the area advocating for the rights of
homesteaders ; Cole has to have an ending confrontation with the judge
. With these characters, the film explores the misery and the greatness
of the human condition. Gary Cooper was 39 years when he played in this
movie and he was a very famous player . The film gave Cooper one of the
best of his laconic , strong characters as the cowboy caught among
opposing factions ; in other hand Walter Brennan composing the reply
and gives a role of cruel judge but that is nice , capable at the same
time, being brutal and relentlessly hanging whatever suspect . The film
describes the institutional and administrative instability that
prevails in wide zones of western border, underscores the friendship,
companionship, honesty, sense of adventure, enterprise and justice
sentence drills by unscrupulous and dishonest people.The narrative is
vivid and vibrant. The story is presented polished, stylish and free of
nonessential items. The dialogues are sharp and funny, peppered with
humor. The film includes spectacular scenes, fast-paced and iconography
amalgam of the old silent westerns with romantic references
characteristic of modern western.It's also a comedy, Brennan and Cooper
have a fun relationship during the first half hour of the movie, you
think we will soon lead to a happy ending, which ultimately will result
but one of the two dead. Furthermore, movie debuts of actors Dana
Andrews and Forrest Tucker. William Wyler exceed film genres and built
an excellent film from the first minutes the feeling of coherence and
emphasis that produces the majority of which went over his career.
Amazing cinematography by Cregg Toland (citizen Kane) places an emphasis on the realism of the action and splendid frames , which is one of the best things of the movie, with spectacular scenes as the fire. Emotive and stirring musical score by the classic Dimitri Tiomkin . Wyler looking camera concealed positions that sees without being seen observed with curiosity and interest and look for the pleasure of seeing. The film, made by a young Wyler (37 years) is solid, absorbing and entertaining.There are moments, like burning down crops that technically is wonderful . Some rides from Cooper or fighting in the middle of the country , so are scenes impossible to forget.
The Bean 's role is based on actual events as Roy Bean (1825-1903) was a near-illiterate frontier justice of the peace who ran a combined court-saloon in the tiny railroad hamlet of Langtry in the West Texas desert between the River Pecos and the Rio Grande . He was known as the ¨Lay west of the Pecos¨ . He was running a saloon in a tent-town for railroad builders called Vinegaroon . Ben , backed by the Texas Rangers and the railroad , was appointed Justice of the peace , although he had never studied law . He managed to keep the peace with a strange brand of common and rough sense , often basing his ruling on a single law book . The stories about him are legion, most apocryphal . The fines usually stayed in his pocket and he acquitted accused on condition that he buy a round of drinks for the boys . The law of the Pecos was a law unto himself . He got himself elected Langtry's justice of the peace , holding court in his crude saloon called the ¨Jersey Lily¨ where he lived till his death in 1903 . In 1896 he brought fame to Langtry by staging the Fitzsmmons-Peter Maher heavyweight-boxing championship. He also performed marriages , ending the short ceremony with the worlds ¨I Roy Bean , justice of the peace , hereby pronounce man and wife . May God have mercy on your souls¨. Bean's ¨Jersey Lily¨ has been preserved by the Texas Highway Department and is now a tourist attraction.
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