68 user 24 critic

The Westerner (1940)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 20 September 1940 (USA)
Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.


William Wyler


Jo Swerling (screenplay), Niven Busch (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Gary Cooper ... Cole Harden
Walter Brennan ... Judge Roy Bean
Doris Davenport ... Jane Ellen Mathews
Fred Stone ... Caliphet Mathews
Forrest Tucker ... Wade Harper
Paul Hurst ... Chickenfoot
Chill Wills ... Southeast
Lilian Bond ... Lily Langtry
Dana Andrews ... Hod Johnson
Charles Halton ... Mort Borrow
Trevor Bardette ... Shad Wilkins
Tom Tyler ... King Evans
Lucien Littlefield ... The Stranger


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 <daleoc@interaccess.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Dangerous... Judge Roy Bean... who called himself "the law west of the Pecos"... the most dreaded man on the frontier! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


According to the New York Times review of the film on 25 October 1940, it opened at the Radio City Music Hall the night before, more than one month after the national opening on 20 September 1940. No reason was given for the apparent delay. Their credited cast list also is identical to the one in the AFI Catalog, including the character name of "Burt Cobble" for Dana Andrews. However, Variety's cast list has Andrews' name correctly as "Hod Johnson," so there is still a mystery concerning which are the original credits. See more »


During the final shoot-out between Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan, Cooper's hat disappears in-between two shots. See more »


Wade Harper: We're goin' back to build our fences.
Judge Roy W. Bean: If you do, you better build coffins with them. Now git!
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »


Featured in The Playboys (1992) See more »

User Reviews

Cooper in a duel with scene-stealing Brennan
18 November 2002 | by Poseidon-3See all my reviews

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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Release Date:

20 September 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Westerner See more »

Filming Locations:

Green Valley, Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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