Film / The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

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A 1972 Western written by John Mikus, directed by John Huston, and starring Paul Newman, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean also marks the film débuts of both Victoria Principal and Steve Kanaly. Also in the cast are Ava Gardner, Jacqueline Bissett, Tab Hunter, Stacy Keach, Roddy McDowall, Anthony Perkins, and Anthony Zerbe.

Outlaw Roy Bean (Newman) rides into a West Texas border town called “Vinegaroon,” only to be beaten, robbed, have a noose tied around him and let Bean’s horse drag him off by the costumers in the saloon. After he's found and helped by a young woman named Maria Elena (Principal), Bean builds a town on the edge of civilization in order to establish his own particular brand of law and order. Appointing himself judge, Bean dispenses justice until time and events pass him by.


Tropes:

  • And Starring: After all the rest of the cast is listed in alphabetical order, Gardner gets an "And Ava Gardner as Lily Langtry" credit, while Principal gets an "Introducing" credit right after that.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Rev. LaSalle is introduced by his character looking straight at the camera and reminiscing about his first meeting with Roy Bean.
    • A mook being led off to be hanged looks into the camera and explains how he came to this.
  • The Cameo: Ava Gardner gets a prominent credit, and all the Lily Langtry posters are practically their own character, but Gardner as Lily only appears in the last five minutes of the movie.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Bad Bob arrives in Langtry and starts screaming horrifying threats about all the creative ways he's going to mangle, mutilate, and kill Roy. Finally he says "I'm ready!" Roy, who has been perched in a barn behind Bad Bob this whole time, calmly shoots him In the Back with a rifle.
  • Could Say It, But...: The whores whom Roy married off to his deputies are working overtime to be seen as respectable society matrons, and wind up being antagonists to Roy. They are enraged when Roy calls them whores and demand an apology. Roy apologizes for calling them whores. He then says "I did not call you callous ass strumpets, fornicatresses, or low born gutter sluts," but he did call them whores, and for that he is sorry.
  • Creator Cameo: John Huston plays Grizzly Adams.
  • Evil Albino: Bad Bob, who comes in to town breathing threats of murder. Roy dispatches him without trouble.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used with still pictures for a comic Time Passes Montage, which shows Roy's posse doing stuff like catching a bad guy in an outhouse and catching another bad guy seemingly about to violate a sheep.
  • I Am the Noun: "I am the law" says Roy, and it's pretty much true, as he sets himself up as king of a little town.
  • The Joy of X
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Roy becomes this, proclaiming death sentences on outlaws, carrying them out, and using the money he takes from them to build his town.
  • Tagline: Two of ‘em –
    If this story ain't true . . . it shoulda been
    Maybe This Isn't The Way It Was - It's The Way It Should Have Been!
  • Twilight of the Old West: About how law & order comes to the West... and then the corrupt businessmen following afterward...
  • Unrequited Love: Bean's obsessive love for actress Lily Langtry, which proves his undoing as it distracts him from his faithful Maria and provides a chance for the corrupt Gass to takeover the town in Bean's absence.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Aye.
  • Vigilante Man: Roy Bean, after nearly being killed by the inhabitants of a badlands bar and brothel. He follows up by becoming a "judge" and using his courtroom to keep his vigilante justice going.
  • Wanted Poster: Roy draws a beard on his own wanted poster.
  • The Wild West


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