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The Westerner

5.0 1
Director: William Wyler,

Cast: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Doris Davenport


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The town of Vinegaroon, TX, is the home to Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan), who calls himself "The Only Law West of the Pecos." Bean keeps a saloon, where he also conducts trials, using his office to get fat on fines and the seizure of property, and hanging most of those who get in his way, sometimes more than one a day. Cole Hardin (Gary Cooper) is a saddle-tramp


The town of Vinegaroon, TX, is the home to Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan), who calls himself "The Only Law West of the Pecos." Bean keeps a saloon, where he also conducts trials, using his office to get fat on fines and the seizure of property, and hanging most of those who get in his way, sometimes more than one a day. Cole Hardin (Gary Cooper) is a saddle-tramp brought in on a charge of stealing a horse belonging to Bean's chief stooge, Chickenfoot (Paul Hurst). Hardin's conviction by a jury made up of Bean's hangers-on (with the undertaker, played with low-key comic zeal by Charles Halton, waiting eagerly for the verdict and the hanging) seems certain, despite his contention that he bought the horse from another man, until Hardin recognizes the judge's obsession with the English actress Lily Langtry. Hardin feigns having seen, met, and known Miss Langtry intimately, and he cons the judge into delaying the death sentence until Hardin can send for a lock of the actress' hair that he supposedly has in El Paso -- that's long enough for the real horse thief (Tom Tyler) to show up and get killed. By the time the dust settles, the judge, for all of his warped sense of justice and corrupt nature, finds himself genuinely liking Hardin as something of a kindred spirit, as bold and daring as he was in his youth, and feeling something like friendship for him. But Bean also tries to shoot Hardin when he decides to cast his lot with the homesteaders, led by Jane-Ellen Mathews (Doris Davenport) and her father, Caliphet (Fred Stone), who have been fighting for survival against Bean and his cattle-rancher allies every step of the way. Hardin tries to appeal to the better nature within the judge, and also saves him from an attempted lynching, but when that fails, and a corn crop is burned and Mr. Mathews killed, he sees no choice but to take action. He gets an arrest warrant sworn out and is deputized by the county sheriff. Taking Bean in his saloon or anywhere in his town (renamed Langtry by the judge, in honor of the actress) is impossible, but then it's announced that Lily Langtry will be appearing in Texas, a long day's ride away from Bean's stronghold. The judge, dressed in his full Civil War regalia and with his men in tow, rides to see the performance while Hardin gets ready to try and arrest him. The kind of climactic shoot-out that follows has been done to death in the decades since, but it was something new and revelatory in a Western in 1940, and still plays beautifully on a dramatic level, capturing in full the complexity of the relationship between these two antagonists.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
You don't have to love, or even like Westerns to love William Wyler's The Westerner -- to appreciate it, all one has to do is appreciate great directing and superb acting, and gorgeous cinematography. The directing is by William Wyler, who took the opportunity afforded by a great script, mixing drama and wit in equal measures, to make one of the most beautifully restrained films seen in the Western genre since the advent of talking pictures. The Westerner is such a quiet movie, its performances so low-key that it is almost a genre-destroying effort -- even John Ford's Stagecoach, made the year before, is so extroverted in its sensibilities as to look almost crude by comparison. There's a psychological darkness that hangs over the action and characterizations in The Westerner that made it much more serious viewing than even Stagecoach had seemed, though it also possesses a great deal of humor -- also much more so than Stagecoach. Wyler, who had rushed through the making of Westerns during the silent era, decided to show the world what could be done with a carefully made Western, done with restraint and an eye for quality in the performances and photography. He was aided and abetted in this goal by producer Samuel Goldwyn, who only made quality pictures -- and who believed any movie worth making by him was worth making well -- and by his two leads, Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. Cooper could always be relied upon to under-act -- it was part of his charm -- but Brennan was the real miracle here, his acting so internalized and natural that his every breath and every flick of an eye-lid is riveting. It is impossible not to believe completely in his Judge Roy Bean's warped sense of justice, his obsession with Lily Langtry, and his sudden, hopeful (yet erroneous) recognition of Cooper's Cole Hardin as a kindred spirit -- or his sense of betrayal when Hardin rides away, declining his offer to join the judge in his larcenous activities. Indeed, the script and the movie offer as complex a relationship between two men as any movie of its era. Cooper's character is convincingly wary yet respectful of Brennan's Judge Bean, and sees some sign in the corrupt, murderous judge of something potentially decent; Hardin is also compelled to save the judge from a lynching party, even knocking him out cold for his own good. In many respects, this was the first modern buddy movie, paralleling elements of Each Dawn I Die, and its relationship between the James Cagney and George Raft characters. The scene in which Hardin pulls out the long-awaited lock of Lily Langtry's hair is played so beautifully and carried so long that it's humorous in what it says about filmmaking. Cooper may crack Brennan's neck once too often for the joke to work, but the movie still manages to maintain a careful balance between humor and seriousness throughout. Alfred Newman's score (credited to Dimitri Tiomkin) is nicely restrained until the sentimental finale, where the composer can indulge his most romantic impulses, such as scoring the scene of the dying judge going to meet Miss Langtry to "The Unquiet Grave" (also known as "Dives and Lazarus," or "Diverus and Lazarus"), with "Dixie" accompanying his actual demise, in keeping with the old dress uniform she is wearing from better days. And the photography by Gregg Toland is filled with gorgeously lit and composed shots, interiors and exteriors alike, making this movie 100 minutes well spent for the eye as well -- what's more, Wyler's directing and Toland's shooting of the prairie fire sequence is one of the great spectacles of 1930s cinema, as well as an incredibly exciting scene.

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Warner Home Video
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gary Cooper Cole Hardin
Walter Brennan Judge Roy Bean
Doris Davenport Jane-Ellen Matthews
Fred Stone Caliphet Matthews
Forrest Tucker Wade Harper
Lillian Bond Lillie Langtry
Paul Hurst Chickenfoot
Dana Andrews Bart Cobble
Charles Halton Mort Borrow
Trevor Bardette Shad Wilkins
Tom Tyler King Evans
Lucien Littlefield A Stranger
C.E. Anderson Hezekiah Willever
Charles "Heinie" Conklin Man at Window
José de la Cruz Mex
Gertrude Bennett Abigail
Chill Wills Southeast
Stanley Andrews Sheriff
Arthur Aylesworth Mr. Dixon
Hank Bell Deputy
Danny Borzage Joe Yates
Charles Coleman Langtry's Manager
Frank Cordell Man
Jim Corey Lee Webb
Helen Foster Janice
Roger Gray Eph Stringer
Lew Kelly Ticket Man
Connie Leon Langtry's Maid
Art Mix Seth Tucker
Corbet Morris Orchestra Leader
Buck Moulton Charles Evans
Jack Pennick Bantry
Julian Rivero Juan Gomez
Henry Roquemore Stage Manager
Bill Steele Tex Cole
Phil Tead Prisoner
Lupita Tovar Teresita
Blackjack Ward Buck Harrigan
Ted Wells Joe Lawrence

Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
James Basevi Art Director
Niven Busch Screenwriter
Paul Eagler Special Effects
Samuel Goldwyn Producer
Julia Heron Set Decoration/Design
Stuart N. Lake Original Story
Fred Lau Sound/Sound Designer
Dan Mandell Editor
Walter Mayo Asst. Director
Alfred Newman Score Composer
Irene Saltern Costumes/Costume Designer
Blague Stephanoff Makeup
Louis Clyde Stoumen Special Effects
Archie J. Stout Cinematographer
Jo Swerling Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Gregg Toland Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Westerner
1. Main Titles [1:01]
2. War [2:24]
3. The Law West of the Pecos [3:05]
4. Horse Thief [6:09]
5. A Friend of Miss Lily [7:48]
6. The Verdict [1:34]
7. An Innocent Man [4:30]
8. Good Morning [4:37]
9. Hard Promise [5:47]
10. No Place for Homesteaders [1:49]
11. Back From the Dead [3:00]
12. Convincing Cole [3:33]
13. A Noose For the Judge [7:31]
14. They've Got a Right [2:41]
15. A Snake and a Liar [2:29]
16. The Prettiest Hair [4:12]
17. Texas and Miss Lily [4:40]
18. A Nice House [3:42]
19. Betrayed [5:15]
20. A Town For Cattlemen [1:40]
21. Alone [3:19]
22. First Day On the Draw [4:22]
23. The New Deputy [2:41]
24. Bean's Coming [1:26]
25. Audience of One [1:51]
26. Showdown [3:29]
27. Meeting Miss Lily [3:17]
28. The Promised Land/End Titles [1:29]

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The Westerner 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago