TITLE: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1962
DIRECTOR: John Ford
STARS: Jimmy Stewart, John “The Duke” Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin
EDITOR: Otho Lovering
AWARDS: Edith Head was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1963. This film was also selected in 2007 to be inducted into the National Film Registry.
BOX OFFICE: $8,000,000 (USA)
RUN TIME: 123 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: Netflix Steaming
A senator, who became infamous for the killing of a notorious outlaw, returns home for the funeral of his friend and finds himself telling the truth about the events of that long remembered night.
WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
The four-time academy award-winning director John Ford was at the helm of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford’s westerns help shape what the boundaries of the cinematic west and this film has become one of the most beloved westerns of all time.
The film also brings together two of the most talented actors of their time, John “The Duke” Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. James Warner Bellah and Will Goldbeck’s screenplay allows these two amazing actors to battle with words, not bullets. The verbal sparing that takes place throughout the film makes it impossible to tear your eyes from the screen.
Ford’s exacting use of space illustrates the abandonment and isolation of the American West. His characters have to learn to create a system of justice within the small constraints of Main St. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance depicts the nature of small town politics and the justification of rights and liberties for all men, regardless of their station and creed.
Jimmy Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard, the man full of heart and inspired by injustice, that sets forth to change the dynamics of the town and rid its citizens of their notorious outlaw, who had been causing death and destruction for as long as they could remember. Stoddard sets out to bring Valance to justice with books not fists; he wants to change the laws of the land with words.
But Stoddard must also stand up against the town’s protector, Tom Doniphon (played to perfection by John Wayne) a hard-edged cowboy with the fastest draw in the west. Doniphon is only out to protect the girl in town with who he is in love with. Hallie, played by Vera Miles, finds herself torn between Ransom and Tom. Both men find themselves entwined in the political nature of the changing times and the emotional upheaval caused by their hearts. This is what keeps this film interesting from beginning to end.
Ford creates a stage for his characters, taking each actor to their limits and creates a beautiful dialogue between the old and new west to find a solid ground underneath. Its amazing ensemble cast expertly portrays the tensions in the film and the verbal battles that occur between Stoddard and Doniphon keep the viewer immersed in the action onscreen.
This is a must see for any Western aficionados and for any film geeks interested in expanding their cinematic vocabulary.