Having created an instant classic the previous year with their superlative production of Wuthering Heights, producer Samuel Goldwyn, director William Wyler, and cinematographer Gregg Toland reunited for this classic Wester... more »n from 1940, which earned Walter Brennan his record-setting third Academy Award. Gary Cooper reportedly hesitated to take his role, knowing that Brennan would likely steal the show with his splendid portrayal of "hanging" lawman Judge Roy Bean, but Wyler persisted and Cooper signed on as the drifter who faces Judge Bean under the false accusation of stealing a horse. Cooper smooth-talks his way out of his hanging by claiming to be a close friend of stage star Lily Langtry, with whom the judge is unabashedly smitten, but tensions rise when Cooper comes to the defense of a group of struggling homesteaders that Brennan is trying to drive away. This leads, of course, to a classic showdown in true Western tradition, and under Wyler's able direction The Westerner takes its place among the finest examples of the genre. And while Brennan does indeed steal the show, Cooper needn't have worried--he's every bit the hero in a battle with one of the silver screen's most memorable villains. --Jeff Shannon« less
"This is one of the most unusual and delightful Westerns ever made. What sets it apart is the relative lack of action, the way that director William Wyler shifts most of the interest onto the relationship and interpersonal interplay between Cole Hardin (Gary Cooper, in one of his finest Western roles) and Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan). The way the two move from instant enemies, to unexpected friends, to uneasy opponents, to reluctant enemies, and finally back to sympathetic friends is masterfully portrayed. As fine as Cooper is, much of the credit lies with Brennan, who became the first person to win three acting Oscars by picking up his third Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Unlike his other Oscar wins, this role was essentially a lead role. Although many actors have portrayed Judge Roy Bean over the years, Brennan's is the definitive one, despite being the least historically accurate. If his version isn't the most faithful, it is the most compelling. He manages to be utterly absurd, dangerously unpredictable, and utterly likable at the same time.The story essentially falls into two halves. The first involves Gary Cooper's accidental identification in Judge Bean's saloon as a horse thief, his trial and conviction, and clever manipulation of the Judge to gain a reprieve. The second half concerns Cooper's taking sides in a range war, siding with a lone female farmer against cattlemen. Both halves are brought together nicely in Cooper and Brennan's final struggle that ends the film. Along with Walter Brennan and Gary Cooper, the real star of this film is Gregg Toland, whose cinematography rivets the viewer's attention on the screen from beginning to end. Toland, who died tragically young in 1948 at the age of 44, is universally regarded as one of the very greatest cinematographers of all time, and THE WESTERNER was one of his finest efforts in a very, very great streak of films over a relatively short period of time. In the period running from 1939-41, Toland was responsible for filming such extraordinary classics as WUTHERING HEIGHTS, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE WESTERNER, and CITIZEN KANE. Has any cinematographer ever had a two-year period matching this one? I saw THE WESTERNER years before I knew who Gregg Toland was, but I long retained the memory of several of the amazing shots Toland framed. He was a favorite of director William Wyler, who would employ him often during Toland's tragically short career.Toland's photography manages to give this film an epic feel and scope, while the tensions in the relationship between Cooper and Brennan make it a highly intimate film. This is easily one of the most unique Westerns in the history of Holly, and one of the best."
Icepick | Castroville, CA USA | 11/21/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's a very good film but I knock the score down for the shoddy quality of the DVD. Graininess is apparent throughout. There are also some bad scars on the film that show up. Most annoying was a frequent change in contrast. The film would jump to a faded condition, sometimes in the middle of the scene. This movie would be a real prize with a restored print on DVD. Let's hope they get around to it."
Cooper cracks necks with the best of em'
Maddox | United States | 12/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Westerner is simply one of the best westerns ever made. It starts of course with Gregg Toland's incredible cinematography. "The Westerner" has all of the classic elements of the genre, the lonesome drifter (Cooper), the half-evil judge (Brennan as Judge Roy Bean), the "searching-for-a-real-man" woman, the gang of thug rustlers (played by a gang of various thugs), the wimpy farmers (played by a bunch of wimpy farmers), the raunchy bar-room singer (played by a lock of golden hair), and the climatic shoot-out (Cooper versus Brennan). The scenes that steal the movie are those in which Cooper kindly agress to gently crack Judge Roy Beans stiff neck with a quick twist. You can hear the pops and also feel the relief as you watch."
The NEW 2008 version is MUCH MUCH better than the OOP HBO is
Richardson | Sunny California USA | 05/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not going to review this dead bang CLASSIC...Gary Cooper at his prime, William Wyler at his....nuff said. What I am going to inform everybody is I just viewed the new MGM 2008 DVD against my long out of print HBO copy that I paid a fortune for and the differences are striking...I thought the original DVD was very good for its age...a bit grainy but with some good contrast and bite...but this new DVD looks like a print right off the original negative!!!! I can't believe they are not touting the amazing improvement but the first DVD was early in the DVD era and was obviously in retrospect a transfer from an inferior source. the verdict..If you are a classic film or western fan or a fan of Gary Coopers...this WILL be the best $10 you EVER spent!!! Yee Haaa!"
Classic Cooper/Brennan Western
Terence Allen | Atlanta, GA USA | 03/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Take a real life Western character (the notorious Western judge Judge Roy Bean), add one of the genre's sturdiest heroes (Gary Cooper), and you have the makings of a Western movie classic.
"The Westerner," starring Cooper and his good friend and frequent co-star Walter Brennan as Judge Bean, does what Hollywood does so well - take a pinch of truth, a heap for fiction, and mixes them for a pleasing theatrical stew. Cooper plays a wandering cowpoke who runs afoul of Bean's kangaroo court, and gets accused of horsestealing (a hanging offense in most courts, but definitely in Judge Bean's horse thieves). The cowpoke gets off by convincing the judge he knows famous actress and Lilly Langtry, who the judge desperately wants to meet. Cooper strings Bean along to keep himself out of trouble, but gets back into trouble when he sees that Bean and the townspeople are trying to run a group of homesteaders out of the country. Cooper decides to help the homesteaders, putting himself on a collision course with Bean.
Brennan won one of three Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for this film, and it's no mystery why he won. Both charming and contemptible, his Judge Roy Bean is quaintly naive and corruptibly sinster. His interaction with Cooper throughout the film is masterful in its complexity and psychology. Cooper is his usually solid, quiet hero who says a lot with few words. Backed by solid Western supporting stars like Chill Wills and Forrest Tucker, "The Westerner" is a wonderful Western, and great to see it rereleased on DVD."