The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)

PG   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Romance


The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) Poster

In Vinegaroon, Texas, former outlaw Roy Bean appoints himself the judge for the region and dispenses his brand of justice as he sees fit.


7/10
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25 August 2007 | Bunuel1976
7
| The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean (John Huston, 1972) ***
This was Paul Newman’s third of four films about legendary figures of the American West – the others being William “Billy The Kid” Bonney in THE LEFT HANDED GUN (1958), Butch Cassidy in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) and William “Buffalo Bill” Cody in BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, OR SITTING BULL’S HISTORY LESSON (1976) – and his first of two in a row with director Huston – the other being the espionage thriller THE MACKINTOSH MAN (1973; which, incidentally, was partly filmed in Malta).

The last three Westerns all came at the tail-end of the genre and, apart from being in a decidedly comedic vein, can also be dubbed “Revisionist”. Newman essays the titular figure as a character part, with his handsome features hidden behind a scruffy beard (his hair has all gone white by the end) and little display of his trademark ruggedness and mischievous charm. Ironically, despite the phenomenal box-office success of movies like THE STING (1973) and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), the Seventies weren’t particularly distinguished for Newman as an actor and his performance here is arguably his best work of the decade!

The film is generally elegiac in mood (especially during its last act when the Old West is all but vanquished in the name of progress) and episodic in nature, with a plethora of stars turning up for just one sequence or scene: Anthony Perkins as a preacher, Tab Hunter as a convicted murderer, Stacy Keach as an albino badman who terrorizes the town, John Huston himself as the owner of a sideshow attraction (an amiable beer-guzzling bear which eventually comes in handy to the Judge), Roddy MacDowall – who has the largest role of all is an ambitious lawyer (he’s subsequently appointed mayor and eventually becomes an oil tycoon), Anthony Zerbe as a mugger, and Michael Sarrazin – whose “participation” extends merely to sharing a photo with Jacqueline Bisset (as the Judge’s daughter)! The latter, then, provides undeniable eye-candy along with Victoria Principal (radiant in her film debut) as Bean’s Mexican lover and Bisset’s own mother – while Ava Gardner’s Lilly Langtry only shows up at the very end after Bean himself, who worshiped the celebrated actress, has died; Ned Beatty is also quietly impressive as the most loyal of Bean’s gang (who actually prefers tending bar to performing his duties of deputy!).

The best/funniest bits are: Bean assuming control of the town after a near-lynching, Principal shooting repeatedly at a whore (a potential rival for Bean’s affections) and being thrown to the ground with the force of each blast, Bean’s entire gang shooting in unison at a drunkard who dared take a potshot at Lilly Langtry’s portrait, Keach’s cartoonish demise, and Bean and Gang’s epic Last Stand. As had been the case with BUTCH CASSIDY’s Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, the film features a recurring song motif in “Marmalade, Molasses And Honey” (music by Maurice Jarre, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) – which also ended up nominated, but is nowhere near as memorable as that Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic (though Jarre’s score, in itself, is quite good). For that matter, neither is Huston’s film up to the George Roy Hill masterpiece – though it’s certainly better than the talky Robert Altman-directed Buffalo Bill pic.

By the way, William Wyler’s THE WESTERNER (1940) had been another film which centered around Judge Roy Bean: played as a semi-villain by Walter Brennan, that characterization had led to his third Oscar. I own it on VHS but, since this month’s schedule is absolutely crammed with movies I need to watch in tribute to someone or other (including JUDGE ROY BEAN itself to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Huston’s passing!), I couldn’t possibly fit it in...

Critic Reviews



Did You Know?

Trivia

After killing Bad Bob the Albino, Judge Bean attempts to quote scripture: "the righteous are gonna rejoice and triumph over the wicked, whose teeth are blunted like lions, and they get carried away by whirlwinds and such, while God judges on this earth, through me". The passage is Psalm 58: "The wicked are estranged from the womb... break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord... he shall take them away as with a whirlwhind... The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance... So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth".


Quotes

Rev. Mr. LaSalle: What has happened here?
Judge Roy Bean: These men tried to hang me. They have been killed for it.
Rev. Mr. LaSalle: How many of 'em are there?
Judge Roy Bean: A lot of 'em.
Rev. Mr. LaSalle: Who did the killing?
Judge Roy Bean: I did. They were bad men, and the whores weren't ladies.
Rev. Mr. LaSalle: Vengeance is mine sayeth, the Lord!
Judge Roy Bean: It was. I'm waiting...


Goofs

When Bean visits San Antonio to see Lilly Langtry several steel drums are visible in the alley behind the theatre that are of a design not available until the early 1930s.


Alternate Versions

German version is cut ca. 20 minutes.


Soundtracks

Marmalade, Molasses and Honey
Lyrics by
Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman
Music by Maurice Jarre
Sung by Andy Williams
[The song is played as background to the montage with Judge Bean, Maria Elena and the Watch Bear immediately after the bear's arrival in town]

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Comedy | Drama | Romance | Western

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