Walter Brennan won his third Oscar from his third nomination for portraying Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner.
Walter Brennan is an actor who before I saw this film was use to seeing him as the friendly, comedic, or wise old guy, or sidekick to the main hero. Here though Walter Brennan portrays a villain, and a pretty cold blooded one at times especially at the beginning of the film.
I found it fascinating to see Brennan actually pretty chilling at the beginning when he condemns sentence on an innocent man, and hangs him. It is surprising but interesting to see Brenna as being a quite effective and cold villain as this. A villain cold enough to later darkly joke about killing the man later on in the film.
After his initial hanging Judge Roy Bean goes to his bar which he also uses for a kangaroo court. Despite being a villain he somehow makes Roy Bean likable anyways with his usual Brennan charm, which does not seem out of the nature for the judge. The Judge again goes to his hanging ways when he comes across a wrongly accused saddle bum Cole Harden (Gary Cooper).
Cole avoids a hanging but manipulating the Judges love for a stage actress Lily Langtree who he claims to have met. These scenes are sort of enjoyable because Brennan makes Roy Bean's love for Langtree an oddly honest, and charming one like a child's crush despite the nature of the character. Brennan completely steals these scenes from Cooper which makes his performance enjoyable but in terms of the film the scene do not work entirely though because the Judge is being manipulated by Cole.
This manipulation does not really work because of Cooper's boring dull portrayal against Brennan charming effective portrayal, really makes me doubt Cole's ability to really get the better of the judge. Even though I fully believed the judge naivety if Miss Langtry is involved thanks to Brennan again, in think the film would have worked better if the Judge actually got the better of Cole. Yes it would have been a completely different film, but it would have been a much better film.
Brennan performance is an enjoyable humorous performance that somehow also makes for an intense villain when he needs to as well. I find it wonderful that he can make him properly villainous, but also a likable character that I actually did feel for him at the end of the film. I find Brennan performance to be simple a perfect supporting performance that up shows everyone else in the film, and is the enjoyable or interesting part of an otherwise boring film. A performance makes me wish the film had been completely about Roy Bean like apparently it was originally.