The Proud Sheriff - Gary Cooper

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coopsgirl
Posts: 99
Joined: July 14th, 2008, 9:39 am
Location: Texas

The Proud Sheriff - Gary Cooper

Post by coopsgirl »

John Mulholland (film historian) recently sent me a copy of an extended treatment that Gary Cooper purchased for his Baroda production company in the late 50s. It was called The Proud Sheriff and was written by Alan Marcus and was based on the novel by Eugene Manlove Rhodes.

It is 75 pages and is written like a short story and is very detailed for a treatment. This is gonna be a long post though so I just mainly hit the high points so you can get the gist of the story. The neatest thing though is this copy Johh made came from Gary's estate and you can see where he scratched stuff out and rewrote certain words/ lines. It’s really pretty neat . Unfortunately, Gary became too sick with cancer to do the film before he passed away in '61.

Principal characters:
Spinal Maginnis – Gary Cooper
Buck Logan
Spencer Allen
Louise Bowman

It was set in 1905 in a small settlement in New Mexico called Silver Valley. This was at one point a bustling place due to the silver mines. They were now beginning to dry up though and many people were out of work as they waited to hear some news from the mine owners as to what their plans were for the future. Similar to Hadleyville in High Noon, Silver Valley was kind of wild until Maginnis was elected sheriff and cleaned the town up.

When the story begins, Maginnis has been sheriff for 11 years and while we are never given his age, Gary would have been in his late 50s or early 60s had he lived and made the film and I imagine his character would have been somewhere in the mid to late 50s age range. Buck Logan, his young deputy who is similar to Lloyd Bridges in High Noon, is acting sheriff since Maginnis is recovering from the flu.

In the opening scene Maginnis and the town doctor who are old friends are bantering back and forth as the doc gives him a checkup. He is for the most part back to full health but it still taking a few more days to rest. He jokes about retiring and this will be a running theme throughout the story.

Maginnis is single and he tries to get the doc to stay and eat dinner with him (beans, since that seems to be about all he knows how to cook) but the doc has other patients to see and he leaves. We get some exposition about how Maginnis is a pretty solitary man and while he is very much revered in the town, very few people feel like they really know him as he keeps to himself mostly but has a pleasant personality.

We find out later that he was married once but his wife was killed in a wagon accident only a month after they got married. A bunch of young punks were riding towards her in their wagon and they shot off their guns in the air and it spooked her horses which is what caused the accident. It was after that he decided to run for sheriff and clean up the town.

Buck Logan, Spencer Allen (another young man who recently moved to the town), and Louise Bowman (a young nurse who has been recently widowed and has been in town about 4 months) make up a love triangle as the two men vie for her affections. Louise has a young daughter Amy (seven years old), and she is not happy about her mother spending time with Buck and Spencer. She’s a pretty spirited girl and runs away quite a bit. She’s very fond of Maginnis and he is usually the one who finds her when she runs away.

In one scene early on he is riding his horse back home and he spots Amy walking down the street with a knapsack over her shoulder. She tells him she’s going to El Paso and she’s either gonna get a job or get married. He offers to take her as far as he is going and once they get to his house he convinces her to come in and have dinner. While they are eating Maginnis gets his housekeeper to go fetch Louise and tell her he has Amy. The two of them have a cute conversation as Amy asks how old he is and he tries to change the subject. When Louise gets there she finds Maginnis sitting in a rocking chair on his back porch asleep with Amy also asleep on his lap. At this point she begins to have feelings for him and I can’t say as I blame her. The way the scenes are written between Maginnis and Amy are very sweet and they kind of remind of the scene in The Hanging Tree where Gary’s character is doctoring a sick young girl. He’s very sweet with her and it just makes me melt.

Louise decides to go back in and wash up their dishes and this wakes up Maginnis and he’s surprised to see her doing that. He lays the sleeping Amy in Louise’s wagon and fills Louise in on the conversation they had. Amy got it set in her mind that her mother should marry Maginnis so he warns her to be prepared if Amy talks about that when she wakes up. Maginnis says something like “crazy idea huh?” but Louise begins to flirt with him and says “Is it?” and then drives off leaving him very confused.

Meanwhile the main plot of the movie begins to unfold. A group of Apaches come in to town and they are carrying one man on a stretcher who looks very sick. The doctor has gone out of town to investigate a possible case of meningitis so the townspeople are trying to run the Apaches off before they contaminate everyone. Spencer feels sorry for them and tells them they can stay on his property. Buck thinks he is crazy for doing this and the animosity between these two begins to show.

At Buck’s insistence they recently got a telephone installed in the sheriff’s office but one of the old men in town who is kinda crazy has just cut down the phone poles so they cannot make or receive any calls. At first this is played for comedy but it will become more serious as hysteria grips the town and they are cut off from everyone.

They cut to the group of Apaches doing a ceremonial dance around the sick one and then in contrast they cut to a dance in town. One of the older men in town has recently married a much younger woman and they have just arrived back home so the dance also doubles as a wedding celebration. Most of the other older men in town, including Maginnis, think it’s ridiculous for this man to have married such a young woman but Maginnis decides to go to the dance anyway to pay his respects. He gets all gussied up but as he walking towards the schoolhouse for the dance, he feels embarrassed and nearly goes back home. Louise had teased him earlier by asking if he was going and he had told her he wasn’t. He ends up dancing with Louise but he feels as ridiculous as the old man and his young bride look, so he leaves.

Later on Amy and a couple other little girls are playing on Spencer’s land when they see the sick Apache. They got pretty close to him before they saw a group of townspeople coming and they hid behind a barn or some other building. They heard the adults talking about how bad he was and they got scared and ran back home. Later that day as the sick Apache got worse his fellow tribesmen leave and Spencer chases after them. Now one of the girls begins to think she is sick and the town becomes outraged that Spencer let those Apaches stay and they assume that when he saw how bad the man had gotten he also abandoned them.

Louise examines the girl and tries to tell them there is nothing wrong with her but the older women in town who practice folk medicine don’t trust this young nurse and her new fangled ways. They are anxious for the doctor to get back and we find out that the meningitis scare was a false alarm and the doctor is casually making his way back since he is unaware of the emergency in town. He hitches a ride with the workers from the telephone company who are putting the poles back up so his progress back home is quite slow.

Buck is letting the power of being the acting sheriff go to his head so Maginnis steps back in even though he was seriously beginning to contemplate retiring and leaving the town in Buck’s hands. Meanwhile the sick Apache has died and there are several of the men from town just standing around his body afraid to bury it. Louise knows it has to be done so she grabs a shovel and starts digging. Maginnis comes by in time to see this and he takes the shovel from her and does the job while the others just stand around feeling ashamed. His feelings are beginning to grow for her but he thinks that he is too old to get married again to anyone, let alone someone as young and pretty as Louise. I like how they put that doubt in his character instead of just putting the older man together with the younger woman automatically, which was (still is) typical for a lot of films.

Maginnis goes back to town and begins to put up signs telling people not to congregate and to stay at home just in case something may be going around. He tries to get people to stay calm and tells them to just wait until the doctor gets back so he can examine the girls who believe they are sick. Many of the younger men ignore him as they are now lining up behind Buck who is trying to take power for himself. He shows his immaturity as he tries to incite the townspeople to turn back to the old ways and basically run around a mob dishing out justice as they see fit.

Eventually Spencer rides back into town and Mr. Blackman, who is the father one of the girls who believes she is sick, chases after him and finally catches up with him in the sheriff’s office where they get in a terrible fight and Spencer manages to grab a gun and shoots Blackman in self defense, killing him. This causes even more of an uproar in the town with one group wanting Maginnis to smuggle Spencer away until he can be tried and another group ready to lynch him. So Maginnis comes up with a plan as he tries to avert further panic. He tells Spencer to pretend to be holding him at gunpoint and they’ll ride out of town to await his trial. Spencer refuses at first but eventually goes along with it. When they go outside they find Buck and his men waiting and as Maginnis and Spencer get on the wagon, Buck slowly walks towards them menacingly until Spencer fires. The gun was empty however and Spencer pushes Maginnis off the wagon and takes off. Louise has seen all this and she realizes that Maginnis was willing to risk his own career and reputation to help Spencer and the town. Buck and his men chase Spencer into one of the mines where Spencer crashes and dies.
Finally the doctor arrives back in town as Buck is explaining what happened to Spencer and he pronounces all the girls healthy. Upon hearing that two men had died for nothing, Maginnis and Buck get into a fight in the street and Maginnis whoops his sorry butt.

Next we cut to a man answering the phone in the sheriff’s office since the lines have been fixed. The caller asks for the sheriff and the man tells him he retired and they are temporarily without a sheriff. Then we cut to Maginnis, Louise and Amy riding off to their new home together. Amy asks if there will be any young people where they are going and Maginnis jokingly says “aren’t I young enough for you?” Amy teases him saying nobody would call him young. Then he says “Watch this!” as he grabs Louise and kisses her good while Amy laughs and their dog barks. Amy tells the dog to hush up and that newly married people always do crazy stuff like that.



Here are a couple pages that I scanned where Gary scratched stuff out and made some notes. I'm just including the links since the pages are big.

http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t163 ... iff023.jpg

http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t163 ... iff012.jpg
“I never really thought of myself as an actor. But I’d learned to ride on my dad’s ranch and I could do some roping stunts and working as an extra was better than starving as an artist nobody wanted on the West Coast.” - Gary Cooper
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knitwit45
Posts: 4720
Joined: May 4th, 2007, 9:33 pm
Location: Gardner, KS

Re: The Proud Sheriff - Gary Cooper

Post by knitwit45 »

Wow! what a movie that would have been, perfect for Coop. His bumbling, endearing ways with children was one of his best features. Thanks so much for sharing.
coopsgirl
Posts: 99
Joined: July 14th, 2008, 9:39 am
Location: Texas

Re: The Proud Sheriff - Gary Cooper

Post by coopsgirl »

He loved kids and it really shows in his scenes with them like in The Hanging Tree and with Shirley Temple in Now and Forever. Just reading the parts with his character and “Amy” turned me into a puddle of goo. :P

This character would have been great for him; kinda like a mix of some of his earlier Western characters like Will Kane (High Noon) and Cole Hardin (The Westerner) which are two of my faves.

What I liked the best though was seeing the notes and changes he made. It’s neat to get to see what an actor thought about a part or a story and how they went about studying over it. Since he purchased this for his own production company I can imagine he would have had some say over it and I’m curious what the finished product would have been like.
“I never really thought of myself as an actor. But I’d learned to ride on my dad’s ranch and I could do some roping stunts and working as an extra was better than starving as an artist nobody wanted on the West Coast.” - Gary Cooper
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