Randolph Scott and Paul Newman loom large in two outstanding westerns airing Saturday on TCM.
We’ll be riding the Twitter range again this weekend to provide running commentary as two outstanding westerns air on Turner Classic Movies: Ride Lonesome (1959), Budd Boetticher’s gritty tale of revenge and redemption, starring Randolph Scott; and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), John Huston’s fanciful account of a larger-than-life legend, starring Paul Newman.
Look for the hashtag #ciTCMWesterns on Saturday when TCM presents Ride Lonesome at 4:15 pm ET/3:15 pm CT, and Judge Roy Bean at 5:45 pm ET/4:45 pm CT.
Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher collaborated on seven memorable sagebrush sagas between 1956 and 1960, but Ride Lonesome is considered by most aficionados (including yours truly) to be the best of the bunch. Scripted by Burt Kennedy — who went on to direct several entertaining westerns, including three (Young Billy Young, The Good Guys and The Bad Guys and Support Your Local Sheriff) in 1969 alone — the film finds Scott perfectly cast as Ben Brigade (Scott), a bounty hunter who’s implacably determined to transport a captured outlaw (James Best) across Indian territory.
Two semi-reformed bandits (a pre-Bonanza Pernell Roberts and a callow James Coburn) want to wrest control of Brigade’s captive in order to claim an amnesty offered for their own past crimes. But Brigade isn’t interested in amnesty, or even a reward. Rather, he wants to lure the outlaw’s older brother (Lee Van Cleef) into a forced feeding of just desserts.
Tab Hunter, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins, Stacy Keach, Victoria Principal (making her film debut), Anthony Zerbe and John Huston himself are among the notables featured in the all-star cast of Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. (Also making a special guest appearance: Bruno, the black bear who had previously played the title role in the 1967-69 TV series Gentle Ben.) Directed by Huston and scripted by Jeremiah Johnson screenwriter John Milius, the movie offers a seriocomic take on Wild West mythology, with Paul Newman giving an aptly overstated performance as the title character, an outlaw turned town tamer who metes out rough justice as “the law west of the Pecos.”
Vincent Canby of The New York Times raved in 1972: “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is six parts movie carnival, complete with a performing bear, and one part somber chronicle about the promise and disillusion of an especially giddy American Dream. Any movie that dares cover so much ground and draw attention to its historical significance, has to be out of its mind in this day and age. It leaves itself wide open to charges of pretentiousness. Yet The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is so entertaining and so vigorously performed, especially by Newman in the title role, that its pretensions become part of its robust, knockabout style.”