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The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is a 1972 American western film written by John Milius, directed by John Huston, and starring Paul Newman. It was loosely based on the life of Judge Roy Bean.[2]

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Richard Amsel
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byJohn Foreman
Written byJohn Milius
StarringPaul Newman
Jacqueline Bisset
Anthony Perkins
Victoria Principal
Music byMaurice Jarre
CinematographyRichard Moore
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Production
company
Distributed byNational General Pictures
Release date
  • December 18, 1972 (1972-12-18)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$16,530,578[1]

Contents

PlotEdit

An outlaw, Roy Bean, rides into a West Texas border town called Vinegaroon by himself. The customers in the saloon beat him, rob him, toss a noose around him and let Bean's horse drag him off.

A young woman named Maria Elena finds and helps him. Bean promptly returns to town and shoots all those who did him wrong. With no law and order, he appoints himself judge and "the law west of the Pecos" and becomes the townspeople's "patrone." A traveling preacher, LaSalle, buries the dead.

Bean renames the saloon The Jersey Lilly and hangs a portrait of a woman he worships but has never met, Lillie Langtry, a noted actress and singer of the 1890s. When a band of thieves comes to town (Big Bart Jackson and gang members Nick the Grub, Fermel Parlee, Tector Crites and Whorehouse Lucky Jim), rather than oppose them, Bean swears them in as lawmen. The new marshals round up other outlaws, then claim their goods after Bean sentences them to hang.

Dispensing his own kind of frontier justice, Bean lets the marshals hang a murderer named Sam Dodd and share his money. When a drunk shoots up a saloon, Bean doesn't mind, but when Lillie's portrait is struck by a bullet, the fellow is shot dead on the spot. A madman, Bad Bob, comes to town for a showdown, but Bean shoots him in the back. Prostitutes are sentenced to remain in town and keep the marshals company.

Maria Elena is given a place to live and fine clothes ordered from a Sears Roebuck catalog. A mountain man called Grizzly Adams gives her and Bean a bear, named "Zachary Taylor" after the 12th President of the United States, but later renamed the "Watch Bear," as a pet. When a lawyer named Frank Gass shows up claiming the saloon is rightfully his, Bean puts him in a cage with the bear.

Bean goes off to San Antonio, leaving a pregnant Maria Elena behind and promising her a music box that plays "The Yellow Rose of Texas." In his absence, Gass and the prostitutes conspire to seize control of the town from the judge's hard rule. A dapper Bean tries to see Lillie Langtry's show, but it is sold-out. He is deceived by men who knock him cold and steal his money.

Upon his return, Bean finds that Maria Elena is dying following a difficult childbirth. He names the baby Rose after the music box's song. He also plans to hang the doctor, but Gass, who has been elected mayor, overrules him. Bean is sorrowful about losing Maria Elena and rides away. Gass brings in hired guns to get rid of Bean's marshals.

Years go by. Oil rigs have been built around the prospering town. A grown-up Rose is surprised one day to look up and find Bean has returned. A shootout follows. Bean, on horseback, chases Gass into a burning building, declaring "For Texas, and Miss Lilly!".

Some time later, a train pauses by the town. Out steps Lillie Langtry. She is told the story of Judge Roy Bean and his feelings toward her by Tector, the caretaker of the saloon, now turned into a museum. She concludes that he must have been quite a character.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

The film was based on an original script by John Milius, who hoped to direct. The script was sent to Lee Marvin who was making Pocket Money with Paul Newman; Newman read the script and became enthusiastic about starring. The producers were not keen on Milius directing and paid a record price to own the script outright - $300,000.[3]

Milius later said he liked John Huston but thought he completely ruined the movie.[4] He was angry at the casting of "cutesy-pie" Paul Newman and felt Warren Oates would have been more suitable.[5]

Milius later elaborated:

Judge Roy Bean has been turned into a Beverly Hills western. Roy Bean is an obsessed man. He's like Lawrence of Arabia. He sits out there in the desert and he's got this great vision of law and order and civilization and he kills people and does anything in the name of progress. I love those kind of people! That's the kind of people who built this country! That's the American spirit! And they say, 'What you've created is a reprehensible man. We've got to make him much more cute.' So they changed it from a Western about royalty and greed and power to a western where Andy Williams sings a song in the middle of the movie and the judge and his girl and a pet bear go off on a picnic. It's incredible. He goes on a picnic and sits on a teeter-totter. It's a movie about Beverly Hills people. About John Foreman and John Huston and Paul Newman.[3]

Milius also said Huston "would explain what he was doing to me all the time. We had a strange relationship. He tortured me constantly, changing things and doing scenes, I thought, deliberately wrong. At the same time, he would explain his options and why he made the decision he made, right or wrong; or the different ways he could have done it. I watched the way an atmosphere was created on the set, watched the way he would respond to an actor resisting him and the way he dealt with an actor going along with him too easily. How he would deal with bad actors. I remember one time when he had someone he said was the worst he'd ever had, and I asked him, what do you do? And he said, "Not a damn thing, I have no idea." He just went back to his trailer."[6]

Milius claimed the experience prompted him to go into directing "out of self defence and a desire to control".[7]

"Watch Bear" was played by Bruno, an American black bear who had previously played the lead in the 1967-1969 CBS TV series Gentle Ben.[8] Paul Newman thought that Bruno stole every scene in which they appeared together, an opinion shared by some reviewers.[9][10][11]

"My God is Paul Newman a good actor," said John Huston. ""He's just marvelous in this picture. He's never done anything quite like this and yet he's caught something unique and original. The picture definitely says something about a spirit of the past. There's something uniquely American about the judge."[12]

Anthony Perkins had led a predominantly homosexual love life up until this film. During shooting he had an affair with Victoria Principal. He later married Berry Berenson.[13]

"I think we've got a hell of a picture," said John Huston. "I think it will be very popular. Of course I've been wrong before, but there's a grand sort of thing about it. The wind blows through it. The story is a complete departure from reality, a pure fantasy."[12]

ReceptionEdit

The film earned estimated North American rentals of $7 million in 1973.[14]

Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that it "doesn't have much flow and keeps stopping and starting."[15] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "so entertaining and so vigorously performed, especially by Newman in the title role, that its pretensions become part of its robust, knock-about style."[16] Variety wrote, "The two-hour running time is not fleshed out with anything more than scenic vignettes, sometime attempting to recreate the success of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' with an Alan and Marilyn Bergman-lyricked tune and Maurice Jarre's music, sometimes attempting honest spoofing of western, and sometimes trying to play the story historically straight. The overkill and the undertone do it in."[17] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four and wrote, "Not the 'bawdy' gags, nor the 'Marmalade, Molasses and Honey' musical interlude sung by Andy Williams, can hide the essential flaw in Roy Bean: He is a blind, egotistical jerk who gets off by hanging people."[18] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Arguably overlong, arguably self-indulgent on occasion, 'The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean' is nonetheless happily as intent upon being fun as it is in being significant. As Bean, Newman may not seem quite dumb enough but is genuinely moving and has great authority. Surely his performance here is a high point in a notable career."[19] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post declared the film "a big name bummer. I spent the better part of an exceedingly slow two hours fighting recurrent attacks of drowsiness ... The episodic structure is undermined by too many episodes that depend on crude jokes, dumb wheezes and gratuitous killing. As the scenes and the would-be 'colorful' characters flop and repeat themselves, one's interest begins to evaporate."[20] Clyde Jeavons of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Now and again, thanks the choice of an episodic style and the use of an engaging crop of guest stars in cameo roles, there are glimpses of what might have been; moments when the film looks as if it might take off like Butch Cassidy or say something meaningful like Little Big Man ... But these are small oases in a large desert, and no matter how dismissive John Huston may choose to be about his film, it has the air of an elaborate mistake—overblown, tedious and over-emphatic."[21]

The film currently holds a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 8 reviews.[22]

AwardsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  2. ^ Ford, Dan (30 May 1972). "Pure Fantasy of a West Texas Ulysses". Victoria Advocate.
  3. ^ a b Strawn, Linda. Movies: Blood-and-Guts Milius at War With Hollywood Blood-and-Guts John Milius, Los Angeles Times 5 August 1973: n18.
  4. ^ Segaloff, Nat, "John Milius: The Good Fights", Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, Ed. Patrick McGilligan, Uni of California 2006 p 287
  5. ^ Norma, L. B. (January 28, 1973). Movies. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/170336444
  6. ^ Thompson, Richard (July–August 1976). "STOKED". Film Comment 12.4. pp. 10–21.
  7. ^ Murphy, Mary. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Milius Tackles a New Mountain. Los Angeles Times, 11 June 1975: e20.
  8. ^ "Ronald Oxley, 46, Trainer of TV and Movie Animals, Dies." Los Angeles Times, December 30, 1985, accessed May 19, 2015.
  9. ^ Madsen, Axel (March 17, 2015). John Huston: A Biography. Open Road Media. p. 248. ISBN 978-1504008587.
  10. ^ Anderson, George. "'Train Robbers' at Fulton, 'Judge Roy Bean' at Warner" (movie review), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 8, 1973, p. 7.
  11. ^ Billington, Dave. "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: Some Life! Some Times!" (movie review), Montreal Gazette, February 17, 1973, accessed May 19, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Ford, Dan. Legend Tackles Legend: Huston, Judge Roy Bean Los Angeles Times, 28 May 1972: s1.
  13. ^ Goodman, Mark (September 28, 1992). "One Final Mystery". People.
  14. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p. 19
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1973). "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 13, 2019 – via RogerEbert.com.
  16. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 19, 1972). "Newman Stars in Huston's Yarn, 'Judge Roy Bean'". The New York Times. 52.
  17. ^ "Film Reviews: The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean". Variety. December 13, 1972. 20.
  18. ^ Siskel, Gene (February 22, 1973). "John Wayne at his mythical best". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 6.
  19. ^ Thomas, Kevin (December 22, 1972). "Law, Order in Vinegaroon". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 14.
  20. ^ Arnold, Gary (March 10, 1973). "Life and Times". The Washington Post. B9.
  21. ^ Jeavons, Clyde (December 1972). "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 39 (467): 252.
  22. ^ "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 13, 2019.

External linksEdit