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The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

Screening on Film
Directed by John Huston.
With Paul Newman, Ned Beatty, Victoria Principal.
US, 1972, 35mm, color, 124 min.

The wily soul of John Huston – as well as an actual appearance by the director in the role of Grizzly Adams – cavorts mischievously through the exaggerated tale of Roy Bean, a bloodily self-appointed king of a lawless square of land west of the Pecos. In an era of revisionist Westerns, Huston’s epic romp is less a rethinking of the Western than a nostalgic satire of the mythic origins of American civilization.  As a string of peculiar characters and vignettes parade before Paul Newman’s megalomaniacal Bean, his unconventional empire rises and falls, only to rise again in the even more outrageous frontier of Legend. Huston’s bemused film takes on the scattershot spirit of the Old West from lawless, off-kilter angles – even collapsing that ramshackle fourth wall when necessary.

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