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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Posted by admin on July 16, 2013


Nobody likes a bully. They have the worst of attitudes and like to show off. Why? Just to prove that strength is power. What I hate about these people is that there was a time where maybe they could have channeled their strength into something more positive. But like plenty stupid people, they only see the weak as a target to take out their frustrations on. What I find sickening about some of them is that they end up enjoying the pain they’ve caused. But once started, just going after one person is not enough and he must have other people to go after.

The best era that probably had more bullies then anything was the old west. Out in the desert, strength was measured by how well someone could handle a pistol. The best shooters were either enforcers of the law or bandits. Nothing felt more powerful to those crooks, then by holding up as many as a trains worth of people to show that the weapon rules the west. But rather then becoming the rulers of the plain, most bandits were not that smart and relied too much on their gun to save them. The enforcers were strong in gun slinging and in heart, allowing the west to win. Heart of the man over the pistol is more evident in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

An old U.S. Senator named Ransom Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) has arrived back to his old western town of Shinbone to attend a funeral of a friend. At the same time, his wife Hallie (played by Vera Miles) visits the house of the same friend, which has now become abandoned and overrun with cactuses. As Ransom is looking into the coffin of his friend, the local newspaper asks him for a story. Ransom agrees and tells him the story of his coming to the west.

As a young graduate, Ransom came to the west to start a law firm, yet just as his stagecoach is pulling in, he is robbed and left for dead by the bully of a bandit, Liberty Valance (played by Lee Marvin). He’s rescued by his friend mentioned earlier, a local rancher named Tom Doniphan (played by John Wayne). Ransom wakes up in a local restaurant where he learns that the town is afraid of this bandit, including the local marshal. Doniphan is the only one willing to face Valence, and tells Ransom to either buy a gun or leave. He does neither and Ransom vows to be a man of the people stand his ground.

The movie was directed by John Ford, who was famous for many western classics like Stagecoach and The Searchers. While most of his films were large and grand, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a smaller and darker picture. This is a prominent example of a western-noir movie. The black and white cinematography creates a more gritty image of the west, not to mention that the use of shadows here is better then another western to do so.

With all of this in account, that makes this movie really interesting. Jimmy Stewart anf john Wayne play their usual likable selves. There may not be much surprise from them, they are friendly enough for us to follow along with the story. In fact speaking of the story, I’m not afraid to refer to this as a western version of another Jimmy Stewart classic; It’s a Wonderful Life. Both share the subject of telling a life story about how one individual can have a lot of effect on another and both are about standing up against bullies.


I’ll give this five cactus roses out of five. If The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is gold, then the recent Lone Ranger is a phony. Take some time to enjoy a classic, and see what a real western should be. 


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