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The Westerner (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Westerner (1940)

In director William Wyler's A-list entertaining western saga that starred Walter Brennan (who won a record-setting third Academy Award for his supporting role) and Gary Cooper - it was set in the era of vicious range wars between cattlemen and homesteaders in the post-Civil War period - in 1882:

  • drifter cowboy and saddle tramp Cole Harden (Gary Cooper), on his way through Texas to California, rode into Vinegaroon, TX (later renamed Langtry) run by notorious, self-appointed, despotic hanging Judge Roy Bean (Oscar-winning Walter Brennan), who called himself "the Law west of the Pecos"
  • Harden was falsely accused of stealing a horse (claimed by the Judge's sidekick Chickenfoot (Paul Hurst)) after buying a horse from a horse thief (Tom Tyler), and was taken before the infamous justice of the peace for a mock trial, and sentenced to hang
  • Harden talked his way out of being hanged by convincing the judge of his friendship with the obsessive judge's idol, English stage star Lily Langtry (Lilian Bond).
  • the quick-thinking Harden sweet-talked homesteader Jane-Ellen Mathews (Doris Davenport) for a lock of her hair, and gave it to the Judge and convinced him that it was really from Lily Langry
  • Harden and hanging Judge Roy Bean also engaged in a drinking bout
  • Harden ended up defending homesteaders on the opposite side from the judge in a bloody and violent range war and land dispute; an exciting scene showed a devastating cornfield fire set by the Judge's men to run off homesteaders
  • in the final showdown and shootout scene, Harden confronted the judge in a gas-lit opera theatre in Ft. Davis, Texas with guns drawn before a Langtry performance; when the theater curtain opened, it revealed deputized Harden standing on stage and ready for a gunfight with Judge Bean (the sole audience member) rather than a performance by British actress Lily Langtry (Lilian Bond) - 'the famous Jersey Lily'; the Judge was lethally wounded during the brief gunfight
  • backstage, the dying Judge was wide-eyed as he glimpsed the fantasy woman of his life; she blurred in his vision as he fell dead

Hardin's Request of a Lock of Hair From Jane-Ellen Mathews

Fire Set by the Judge's Men

The Langtry Performance

The Judge's Backstage Meeting with Langtry


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