67 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


NOTORIOUS DESPERADOES They fought... for a frontier empire! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


This film was the third Oscar win for Walter Brennan, who won three out of the five best Supporting Actor Academy Awards. Despite being nominated the subsequent year for Sergeant York (1941), also with Gary Cooper, he was never nominated again in a very long career. See more »


The town was named for George Langtry, an engineer and foreman who had supervised a Chinese work crew building the railroad, and not for the actress Lillie Langtry. See more »


The Stranger: Have you met Miss Langtry?
Judge Roy W. Bean: No, I never met her. I never met the sun, I never shook hands with the moon, and I've never been introduced to no clouds.
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 Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) See more »

User Reviews

Classic Western about a range war with drifter Cooper defending homesteaders against judge Brennan
11 October 2011 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

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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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

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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