- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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Gary Cooper stars in the picturebut this is more Walter Brennan's picture. He brings Judge Roy Bean to life. His third Oscar and it was worth it. Believe he actually had more to do in the picture than Cooper did. Outside of those two, the rest of the cast is pretty undistinguished. The direction by William Wyler, is good. On a scale of 1-100 = 75 based on Brennan's performance.
Gary Cooper an indelible star
Don't agree with those who say Cooper was "wooden." There is a difference between laconic and wooden. He wouldn't have had the hold on the movie-going public for as long as he did if he had been "wooden." He came across as a personality and as a quintessential American, the embodiment, perhaps, of what Scott Fitzgerald called "the eternal American boy-man." New York magazine ran a cover story on Watergate back in 1974 with an icon of Cooper on its cover and the headline -- Where Are You, Gary Cooper, Now That We Need You? He stood for straight-talking, integrity and decency. The great stars were all about their stardom, their ability to invent a persona that defined them from picture to picture, no matter the role they were playing. Wayne was always Wayne, Bogart was always Bogart, Cagney was always Cagney, etc. This ended with the rise of the method, which coincided with the end of Hollywood's cultural relevance. Its deep complicity with the public, its concern to share its values (for better or worse) rather than to challenge them drew to a close and with it the star system. I also rather doubt that Cooper was a "prime donna." Doesn't ring true to me. Capra insisted on casting Cooper in Mr. Deeds precisely because he was, in Capra's words the least narcissistic star in Hollywood.
Starring Gary Cooper
Apparently Cooper's later work has him fixed in memory as one dimensional, this Wyler film is a reminder of just how loose and funny he could be (ditto his earlier work with Capra). The scene where he plays Brennan into delaying his hanging, Cooper is totally seducing the older man - even if it's over a woman, Cooper is totally teasing Brennan's interest in Langtry. It's hilarious to watch his flirtatious con in a 1940 Western - it predates the more famous Monty Clift/John Ireland mine is bigger than yours pistol comparison in Red River by years. I understand star Cooper thinking as written his role was lesser, and indeed Brennan won the (supporting) Oscar. But Cooper's performance fills the role into a star turn. Goldwyn and Wyler did the same thing with Myrna Loy a few years later in Best Years of Our Lives. She refused the small role but accepted star billing and gave one of her most fondly remembered performances (after Nora Charles, of course!). Cary Grant was hired by Paramount as a threat to Cooper, but I think Grant took more than his initials from Cooper - check Cooper's performance opposite Fredrick March and Miriam Hopkins in their menage a trois comedy. Young Cooper was much more fun on screen than old Cooper. The Westerner is so much fun I thought it was a Hawks film - who knew Wyler could do comedy?!
- kevin sellers
From all the hoopla surrounding Gary Cooper's making this film "under protest" 'cause he felt his part wasn't big enough, I was expecting to see 75% Walter Brennan and 25% Coop. Actually, it's pretty much 50/50. That Cooper objected to equal screen time with an actor of Brennan's stature means that you can put "prima donna" next to "wooden" in your descriptions of this guy's professional demeanor. As for the film itself, it's good when Brennan's onscreen and dull as watered down corn liquor when he isn't. This is because the screenwriters and director William Weyler have lavished all their skills of nuance, ambiguity, and quirkiness onto Judge Roy Bean and left everyone else in the movie a caricature. (i.e. The strong, silent hero, the embattled homesteaders, the drunken loutish cattlemen etc) The love scenes between Cooper and a not very talented actress named Doris Davenport (who can do fiery but little else) are particularly forgettable. Let's give it a B minus 'stead of a C for Brennan's performance which, as Red Rain aptly commented, shoulda earned the guy a best ACTOR award from the lame ass Academy. P.S. For the short but extremely crucial role of Lily Langtry, the great producer Sam Goldwyn couldn't come up with someone a bit more, uh, DAZZLING, than some generically pretty contract player named Lilian Bond? Basically, John Huston does it better in his grittier version of the Roy Bean story by casting Ava Gardner, who is many things, but generic is not one of them. In fact, let's just say that Huston does it better than Weyler period.
- Dashiell B.
An entertaining Western from the outstanding team of producer Goldwyn & director Wyler. Brennan overshadows Cooper as the real-life Judge Roy Bean, becoming the first actor to win three Academy Awards. The story is compelling, but drags in the first half, the recreation of Texas in the Old West is amazing. A good Western to see for fans of Cooper. I give it a 4/5.
Not factual but still good film...
Man, did they ever take artistic license with this one! Roy Bean died peacefully in his own bed and was never shot to death by anyone. Wyler knew this but continued on with the film. I find that unforgivable when filming a story about a real-life person. I also do not understand why Brennan wasn't nominated for Best Actor, instead of Supporting Actor, as this film is entirely about his character which he portrayed superbly. My guess is that it was because of Gary Cooper, a huge star at the time, who acted in this film under written protest. In his protest letter, Cooper even recognized his part would be eclipsed by that of Brennan's! Just more proof that the studio system ruled the Academy Awards at the time! Disgusting error by the Academy!
The Bad and the Beautiful?
- Ann Brown
Judge Bean (Walter Brennan) and the cowboy (Gary Cooper) have the sort of chemistry best described as "lightening in a bottle." When producer Sam Goldwyn is thrown in the mix we get one of the classiest westerns ever made. Watching Judge Bean and the cowboy try to get the best of each other is a memorable experience to repeat over and over again. Don't miss this film which is truly classic in every way.
Gary cooper is the greatist actor of all times. He makes the western movies,theydidnt make him!!
This 1940 version a must see and must own.
I saw it again for the very first time a few weeks ago. The acting is superb! I understand Walter Brennen got an oscar. Gary Cooper and Walter Brennen played so well off one another's characters. The writing is great, too. Great lines like, "I once had a pet rattlesnake, but I would never turn my back on him." Walter Brennen plays the pet rattlesnake, Judge Roy Bean. He's mean and he's nuts. It's an amazing physcological western. I have ordered this movie from another source on VHS. I just had to have it.