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 »
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.
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