Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Class Goldwyn Western For 1940


The Westerner a Merge of Fact and Fancy

Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan with Lillian Bond as Lillie Langtry

Sort of a John Ford western directed by William Wyler, The Westerner is cattlemen v. homesteaders, Gary Cooper a wanderer caught in middles. The picture was acknowledged at the time as being stolen by Walter Brennan, who was given Best Support Oscars as a matter of course from the mid-thirties through this one, which was remarkably his third win. Odd that Brennan starred so seldom. Maybe it was discussed and he said no, preferring support in name, but the lead in outcome, as was largely a case here. By the fifties and into sixties, Brennan would headline TV, plus some Disneys, one I saw where he had a dual role (The Gnome-mobile) opposite the Mary Poppins kids. Surprising too that Gary Cooper never worked with John Ford. Surely they met, knew one another. I read that Selznick wanted Ford to use Cooper in Stagecoach at a time when DOS was mulling support of the western, but Ford stood fast for John Wayne. Cooper not associated with Ford is to me like anomaly of Gable missing parlay with Howard Hawks (they were friends in a motorcycle club), or Cary Grant missing Billy Wilder (offered Sabrina, he turned it down). Roads not taken, to history’s regret.






Cooper with Doris Davenport
Wyler tries to keep The Westerner austere under Goldwyn circumstances, excess pushing at edges but averted in favor of character and engaging talk between folks that engage us, in this case Cooper as title man, Brennan as colorful Judge Roy Bean, and a girl (Doris Davenport) who came, appealed (still does), then dropped from films after an auto mishap where her legs were crushed, says IMDB, sad if accurate. She lived till 1980, all that walking with a cane. It can be a downer to dig deep into old Hollywood, but then all of life deals grief, not just movie lore. William Wyler had done westerns at director beginnings, knew the dirt/dust, stages fist work here as if back in silent saddles where he got start. Where a bad hombre is needed, he brings on Tom Tyler, always refreshing to see in A’s, even if briefly. The Westerner goes 100 minutes, a skosh long for a yarn known well even to relative non-fans of outdoor setting. It is personalities that rule, notably an uncertain friendship between the Cooper and Brennan characters. The actors would pair again, be offscreen chums; in fact, Brennan hosted a TV Coop salute shortly after latter’s death in 1961. That hour has turned up nowhere since, or has it? I’ve looked without success.






Cooper was majestic astride (ask horses he rode, or actresses). There are gallop inserts in The Westerner that seize the breath. Crying shame he didn’t do more westerns when at a peak. Postwar ones are good, sometimes better, but by then, we knew Coop was suffering in the saddle, health concerns making hard sits the harder. There seemed too a sadness about him, or was it downer tone of High Noon, Man Of The West, The Hanging Tree, others that dealt him grim hands? Discount The Searchers, and John Wayne in the 50’s seems jubilant beside GC. I went harsh on Cooper some posts ago by saying he shouldn’t have done Deeds for its piling on aw-shucks mannerisms. I read since a marvelous book Richard Griffith wrote called The Movie Stars, where he says Frank Capra, and earlier Ernst Lubitsch, taught the actor those “tricks” he’d use from there on, often to detriment. Seems to me that Capra did much a same thing with Clark Gable on It Happened One Night. Both actors differ pre, and then post, Capra. Before him, they register simpler, leaner, more real somehow. Or maybe it was advantage of precode and freedom it allowed. There can be agreement at least, that Frank Capra exerted great influence upon all of players he worked with.


The Westerner Still Filling Theatre Dates in 1951




The Real Lillie Langtry
Pleasing with The Westerner is Cooper again laconic, less mannered, cute traded for Yup-nope he’d be kidded for, but which in final accounting works best for him. Long parts of The Westerner do without dialogue (inc. Coop to his shock waking up in bed, Brennan’s arm around him). Roy Bean is dangerous enough for there to be tension to their pal-ship, Wyler building to effective showdown finish. Bean/Brennan’s consuming fan-love for Lillie Langtry makes for a moving fade where they finally meet. Factual backstory of Bean/Langtry reveals truth, at least in spirit, of much that is dramatized here. Langtry’s career transcended Old West days; she’d even do vaudeville in later years. Alfred Lunt wrote amusingly of work with her in a fifteen-minute sketch, romantically paired even though she was 63, him 21. “Audiences were … somewhat bewildered,” he wrote, “Usually they began by thinking that I was her son … so it must have seemed a little odd to them when I suddenly began to make violent love to her. But they were really very nice about it all.” (Lunt shared this recollection with Billboard readers in 1936).  The Westerner stayed popular, was reissued multiple times, and pretty much defined an evergreen. There is a DVD, plus HD runs at TCM with a Miramax logo at head and tail. Do they now own a chunk of Goldwyns, or just this one?

6 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

I mistakenly deleted a couple of comments that should have gone up, and now I can't retrieve. Could those who posted possibly try again?

1:50 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

I was just saying I wish Cooper and Hitchcock had got around to teaming on a film. Hitch wanted Coop for SABOTEUR and, I think FOREIGN CORESPONDENT (although on reflection, those two are just fine without him.) Their proposed project in the 50's was THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE, which would have been vastly improved if Sir Alfred had stayed on that job... certainly he could have fixed up that script! More to the point, Hitchcock usually put in some nice neurotic wrinkles when working with iconic leading men... would have been fun to see!

2:45 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

My favorite things about this picture are the Osvaldo Venturi posters for the 1946 reissue by Guaranteed Pictures. They are so good and better than any of the other promotional items. Here they are.

https://i.pinimg.com/564x/f7/72/12/f77212796d71a4d843eb243c9beea044.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7c/00/4c/7c004c6550422634cfa7cedc78e21c8b.jpg

7:20 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I saw this on TV in my teens and loved it. Walter Brennan is irresistible in just about everything. The great animation director Tex (Fred Bean) Avery was descended from Judge Roy Bean.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

"Luke...the barn!"

10:10 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

John Huston's eccentric "Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean," with Paul Newman (produced by the First Artists consortium Newman, Redford and Streisand started as a sort of new United Artists), also made much of Bean's fanboy crush on Lillie Langtry. In this film, they never met, but Langtry (played by Ava Gardner) visits Bean's saloon after his passing and reads a letter Roy left for her.

8:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020