Have to disagree on this one. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it but have watched and enjoyed it a number of times over the years.
I’d agree that the Westerner is probably a better film overall but then most films compared with it would fall a bit short in my opinion. It is a true classic. It has Walter Brennan in it for a start, and at his very best too. The Westerner I think also has the benefit of two strong characters that play off each other and create conflict, therefore more opportunties for development and drama. But the Westerner is also a perfect example of how a mixture of comedy and drama can coexist successfully. That film constantly switches between snappy banter and dark menace and climaxes with the inevitable showdon between the two main protagonists and the death of the tragically flawed but likeable rogue, Roy Bean. If anything it has more of a comedy / drama mix than ‘The Life and Times’.
For me, any film that deals with the character of Bean has to play it as a mixture of comedy and drama because he was such a mixed up personality. The alternatives are to lionise him as a hero (which he clearly was not) or make him an all out evil villain which leaves little room for character development.
All in all, I think Huston’s film stands up well and Newman’s portrayal is solid. The action sequences are well played and the cameos by Stacey Keach and Anthony Perkins are suitably quirky for the times in which the film was produced. It certainly isn’t a top ten list kind of film but I’d still recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.