67 user 24 critic

The Westerner (1940)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 20 September 1940 (USA)
Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.


William Wyler


Jo Swerling (screenplay), Niven Busch (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Gary Cooper ... Cole Harden
Walter Brennan ... Judge Roy Bean
Doris Davenport ... Jane Ellen Mathews
Fred Stone ... Caliphet Mathews
Forrest Tucker ... Wade Harper
Paul Hurst ... Chickenfoot
Chill Wills ... Southeast
Lilian Bond ... Lily Langtry
Dana Andrews ... Hod Johnson
Charles Halton ... Mort Borrow
Trevor Bardette ... Shad Wilkins
Tom Tyler ... King Evans
Lucien Littlefield ... The Stranger


Cole Harden just doesn't look like a horse thief, Jane-Ellen Matthews tells Judge Roy Bean as she steps up to the bar. Cole says he can't take it with him as he empties all of his coins on the bar to buy drinks for the jury. He notices two big pictures of Lily Langtry behind the bar. Sure, Cole has met the Jersey Lily, whom the hanging judge adores, even has a lock of her hair. Hanging is delayed for two weeks, giving Cole time to get in the middle of a range war between cattlemen and homesteaders and to still be around when Lily Langtry, former mistress of Edward VII who became an international actress, arrives in Texas. Written by Dale O'Connor <daleoc@interaccess.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


THE RAW UNTAMED ADVENTUROUS WEST...LIVES AGAIN! (original print media ad - all caps) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This film is the first of five roles for Walter Brennan in support of Gary Cooper. The last was Task Force (1949) in 1949. See more »


The corn stalks would have to be dead and dry to burn as fast as they did. See more »


Judge Roy W. Bean: Are you an attorney, Miss?
Jane Ellen Mathews: I'm as much an attorney as you are a judge!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: "After the Civil War, America, in the throes of rebirth, set its face West where the land was free. First came the cattlemen and with them "Judge" Roy Bean, who took the law into his own hands, administering justice according to his lights. That he left his impress on the history of Texas is tribute to his greatness. Then into his stronghold moved another army, the homesteaders, who ploughed the soil, fenced in fields, to bring security to their wives and children. War was inevitable, a war out of which grew the Texas of today." See more »


Featured in Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) See more »

User Reviews

Law West of the Pecos.
10 July 2016 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

The Westerner is directed by William Wyler and written by Niven Busch, Jo Swerling and Stuart N. Lake. It stars Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Fred Stone and Doris Davenport. Music is by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography by Gregg Toland.

Story is a fictionalised account about Judge Roy Bean (Brennan), who here rules Vingaroon Town by his own law and punishment. When suspected horse thief Cole Harden (Cooper) comes under his judicial system, they become odd friends due to Harden claiming to know personally Lily Langtree - the object of Bean's worship.

Lots of uncredited work was involved in the making of The Westerner, while Cooper famously sulked about not having the main character role, so much so his part was expanded and he performed under contract but under protest! Fact is is that it is as everyone has said before, Brennan steals the film regardless, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the process. Cooper needn't have worried, he's very good here, turning in a number of various strains to Harden's character, bouncing off of Brennan to the pics eternal benefit.

At the core of the plot is a good old fashioned thread involving Homesteaders versus Cattlemen, with Bean throwing his weight around and Harden forced to reevaluate his standing in the town when he falls for Jane Ellen Mathews (Davenport). The Lily Langtree (Lilian Bond) strand gives the pic an offbeat sensibility, making this a sort of dramatic comedy oater, but it works really well. Toland's photography is superb, sharp black and white sequences are given ethereal qualities, hinting at the fact this at times fun picture might be leading to a darker path?

Davenport is weak and most of the supporting players struggle to make much of an impact, but come the attention grabbing finale you know you have been fed a wholesome western of substance. Propelled by two acting legends. 7/10

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Release Date:

20 September 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Westerner See more »

Filming Locations:

Green Valley, Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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