Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.
A Perfect Representation of the American Psyche in 1940
"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.
- May 11, 2008
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