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Newman Hits the Trial in Offbeat 'Judge Roy Bean'

March 04, 1993|JON NALICK

Paul Newman has played some odd characters in his long career, but perhaps none so wildly offbeat as the title character in "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean."

Bean, an outlaw who appoints himself judge in one of the Old West's most dangerous territories, is a comic and tragic hero who promises to bring peace to the area, no matter whom he has to kill to do it.

With a foot-thick legal tome on his lap and a pistol in each hand, Bean metes out quick and mostly self-serving justice when he's not too busy losing at poker.

What qualifies him to dispense justice? "I know the law," he says, "since I have spent my entire life in its flagrant disregard."

He starts one typical "trial" by asking the defendant, "Do you have anything to say before we find you guilty?"

And when Bean orders a pimp out of town immediately, the man responds that he has no horse. "Steal one," the judge commands. "A fast one--remember, we hang horse thieves around here."

The judge, ruled by his emotions and arrogance, is at turns visionary, petulant, tender and cruel.

Rough as he is, he has a soft spot for two women: Maria Elena (Victoria Principal in her first movie role), the woman who loves him, and Lily Langtry (Ava Gardner), the star he worships from afar.

The cast includes Stacy Keach, Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset, Roddy McDowall and Ned Beatty. The director, John Huston, has a cameo as Grizzly Adams, who leaves the judge with a bear, a perfect house pet for such a bigger-than-life character.

"The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (1972), directed by John Huston. 123 minutes. Rated PG.

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