“Don’t spill none of that liquor, son; it eats right into the bar.”
When Cole Hardin (Gary Cooper) is falsely accused of stealing a horse, he stands before the bench of the infamous Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan). By convincing Bean that he knows Lily Langtry (Lillian Bond), a singer who Bean has an obsessive crush on, Cole manages to save his life, only to get embroiled in the middle of a nasty feud between the local cattlemen and a group of homesteaders.
Response to Peary’s Review:
William Wyler’s historically inaccurate yet “agreeable ‘A’-budget western” successfully joins “standard western themes and confrontations with light comedy.” Gary Cooper — who, as Peary notes, has “remarkable presence as a slow-talking, quick-thinking cowpoke” — is at his laconic best, portraying a man whose very life hinges on speaking just the right combination of words, yet who never loses his cool. Brennan (brilliant and scene-stealing as always) plays the infamous Bean “as someone who is part dictator and part spoiled child– [and] who doesn’t see anything wrong with his murderous forays”. It’s disturbingly easy to laugh at Judge Bean, a real-life sociopath whose kangaroo courts caused the deaths of so many innocent men and women.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Walter Brennan, who definitely “steals the show” as Judge Bean (and deserved his Oscar)
- Gary Cooper as Cole Hardin
- Hilarious rapport between Brennan and Cooper
Yes. All film fanatics should see this humorous, well-written western.