The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Reviews
Jimmy Stewart is Ransom Stoddard- a greenhorn eastern lawyer whose efforts to dispense his brand of justice out in the small western town of Shinbone are hampered by the local menace Liberty Valance, played wonderfully by Lee Marvin. John Wayne plays Tom Doniphan- the toughest and meanest man in Shinbone (next to Valance), who does his best to help Stoddard, despite some complications, namely their methods of how to proceed, as well as the fact that they're both pining after the same lady- the lovely Hallie, who is played by Vera Miles.
This is one of many elegiac westerns that was ahead of its time for trying to demythologize the west before it became popular. It's also maybe the only time in his career where Ford is presenting things with a decent amount of pessimism, something that would also later get popularized a few years later along with revisionism, and demythologizing.
The acting is great, and Ford had a tremendous cast to work with, There's also lots of smaller appearances from way too many genre luminaries to count, and that certainly scores the film some extra points, too.
I love how, even though this was made in 1962, they chose to shoot in black and white, and almost exclusively in interiors. There's a few moments outside, but there's none of the grand landscape shots you might expect. I think it really adds to the mood, tone, and point the film is trying to make about expectations versus reality.The music is also pretty fine as well.
All in all, this is a superb film. Definitely give it a watch.
The film centers on the life of Rance Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) and his return to the Western town where he came of age. In a series of flashbacks, we follow the exploits of Stoddard and his brush with the town's hero Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), and the town menace Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Yet, while this seems to have all the makings of a classic good vs. evil confrontation, Ford plays around with the idea of justice.
As if representing two adverse parts of the brain, Wayne and Stewart are ardent about fighting their own fights in their own ways. For Wayne, justice can be achieved with old-school heroism, a little gunpowder, and a dash of wit. For Stewart, the law of the land is sufficient and he is intent on reshaping the town's attitudes in such a way. Both men mock the avenues taken by their counterpart and blindly follow what they know to be true. They are two opposing forces, both immensely powerful in their own right. However, influence eventually leaks in on both sides and both men seem to come to at least some sort of understanding regarding the importance of their separate ways.
This sense of duality is strongly diffused throughout the picture and Ford highlights this visually by his expert use of shadows. In most shots, the characters shadows are projected on the wall behind them as if to showcase the dual nature that lurks in the hearts of these men. Yet, rather than casting judgement, it seems as though Ford wants to illuminate and understand these two opposing ways of life, and to lament the passing of western way.
Being one of Ford's last films, the viewer gets a sense that he knew the rule of the Western was coming to an end. Although Wayne is just in his own way, his character seems to know that the times are changing. No longer does having the fastest draw bring virtue and success and Wayne's character goes through a heartbreaking acceptance that Stewart's generation is taking over. In one shot in particular, Ford has Stewart's character standing in front of an old stage coach covered in dust and cobwebs. It is an homage to the old west that is both understanding and mournful.
While Clint Eastwood's "The Unforgiven" has long be touted as the definitive eulogy of the western, I would argue that Ford's film is a much more fitting tribute to such a wonderful genre of film.
Tom Doniphon: You aim to help me find some?
A solid western that puts a number of great stars and western icons together. The film is well made, well acted, and has the right kind of elements that emphasize why these actors are all well regarded.
Senator Ranse Stoddard, played by Jimmy Stewart, returns to the city of Shinbone in the Wild West, to go to the funeral of his friend, Tom Doniphon. To a journalist, who's wondering what the senator is doing in Shinbone, he tells how his career started as "the man who shot Liberty Valance". As a lawyer he came to Shinbone to bring law and order to the west by means of law books. When the stagecoach is held up by outlaws, he is savagely beaten by Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin. He survives the attack and is nursed by his future wife, Hallie, played by Vera Miles. Hallie is being wooed by a local rancher, Tom Doniphon, played by John Wayne, who also starts to help Ranse with his principled grude against Valance. Ranse teaches the people of Shinbone to read and write, all the while trying to find a way of bringing Valance to justice.
I really liked the fact that this film shows me exactly what I find entertaining about each of the three male leads. Stewart is a nice guy, but principled and doing what he believes is right. Wayne embodies the cool cowboy swagger. Marvin is just bad ass throughout, even if he is a pretty big dick in this movie.
Certainly helping is the layout of this story. Flashbacks are handled appropriately and John Ford's direction further shows off the talent of a man who has directed a huge number of films.
Solid flick all around.
Link Appleyard: Did you know Liberty Valance is in town tonight?
Dutton Peabody: I'd be a poor newspaperman indeed if I didn't know what everybody knows!
A poignant and romantic story about the meaning of honor, and the thin line that separates legends from facts.
This film is more about the taming of the west. When Stewart's character arrives it's a madhouse like all wild west towns are, but by the end of the film everything has become more civilized, even though the Easterner had to use means that he is against at the start of the picture.
Stewart and Wayne play their trademark roles in this film. This film is almost like looking at both icons in the stereotypes they have become in the mind of the general public. Vera Miles returns from Hitchcock land (ironically she was supposed to have starred with Stewart in Hitchcock's Vertigo) and gives a nice performance as the love interest of both men. It's Lee Marvin that brings pure evil to the screen as Liberty Valance. His performance ranks up there with some of the other classic western villains as he destroys everything in his path. He probably has the greatest gang backing him up as well, with Strother Martin playing a looney stooge while Lee Van Cleef shows us a glimpse of the quiet and dangerous force he would unleash when he went to Italy.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a classic western that ranks as one of John Ford's best. The use of black and white is almost a way for Ford to bring the film back to simpler times. Unlike other Ford epics, the backgrounds do not overshadow the actors in the foregrounds. A great western.
The guy who does the voice for Friar Tuck in Disney's Robin Hood
Purely cinematic Gold. So much more complex and engaging than I ever anticipated
Perhaps the film doesn't fall too deeply victim to Hollywood superficialities of the time, but there are still plenty of Hollywood melodramatics, and other cheesy, maybe even overly safe aspects which even have the nerve to fall into formula. There are some surprising refreshing touches here, as well as more than a few unsurprising conventional touches, which betray a certain ambition to freshen things up and might even commit the great sin of placing some predictability over a plot which is driven by certain twists and turns. Among the elements that help keeping predictability at bay is a certain undercooking to exposition, for although the developmental shortcomings are hardly all that great, certain characters seem to lack dimension, with some coming off as cheesy types which exacerbate the Hollywood fluffiness and a sense of familiarity, no matter how much the film keeps you from getting too familiar with the characters. Of course, as little time as the film dedicates towards fleshing out its characters, it takes some time to drag its feet, having a somewhat minimal story that is interpreted into a two-hour affair that drags out developmental segments over action, despite not putting all that much meat to the execution, resulting in some relatively serious slow spells, limited though they may be. Quite frankly, there is little to complain about here, but there are subtle consequential shortcomings, and quite of few of them, and each one of them sheds some shred of light onto prominent natural shortcomings. As I said, this story, no matter how compelling, is minimalist, being more about talk than momentum, which is further retarded by the Hollywood superficialities, as well as certain other superficialities to exposition and pace control. The final product could have gone a long way for a 1960s Hollywood western, but as it stands, however, it's still very rewarding, sustaining your attention pretty thoroughly with sharp storytelling, and even good looks.
Having to work with a black-and-white color palette, William H. Clothier turns in a cinematographic performance that is limited by technical shortcomings of the time, but still handsome in its subtle emphasis on lighting that takes advantage of coloration limitations in order to provide a certain sense of grit that art director Hal Pereira compliment with his capturing of the grimy environment through solid production value. It's a subtle appeal to the visuals, make no mistake, but the appeal is still very much there, with a subtle immersion value that is, of course, augmented by some tasteful direction. Though held back by dramatic limitations of the time, John Ford's subtle directorial flavor to pacing typically cut through slow spells with some solid entertainment value, and when the slower spells go accompanied with thoughtfulness by Ford, there's a certain dramatic bite that was uncommonly effective for the time, and does justice to an intriguing story. The story is at least refreshing in concept, with an intriguing narrative about a stranger being embraced by a strange land, especially upon performing actions of questionable morality, that ultimately comes down to a pretty solid twist, yet is never short on thought-provoking themes regarding morality which thrives on smart scripting. Hollywood fluff holds some bite to James Warner Bellah's and Willis Goldbeck's script back, as does developmental lapses and thin spells, but characterization is generally strong, drawing memorable characters who are made all the more compelling by twists which make the should-be villains seem merely flawed, and make the should-be heroes seem irrational and immoral, thus reinforcing the themes on the thin lines between true heroes and true villains that are further complimented by performances which are as memorable as the characterization. There is the occasional cheesy performance to accompany some cheesy characterization moments, but there are still plenty of endearing supporting performances, - particularly those by the effectively intimidating Lee Marvin as the titular outlaw, Edmond O'Brien as the drunken newsman who speaks for the people, the beautiful Vera Miles as a flawed woman who falls for a flawed protagonist, and by John Wayne as, well, himself, complete with extreme charisma - as well as a strong lead performance by James Stewart, whose classic dramatic layering sells a man's pride as an intelligent man seeking honor in a lawless land, and anxiety over being given a great deal of respect for a brutal deed. The flaws rarely abate, but the strengths never abate, and whether they be respectable for being ahead of their time, and respectable for still being strong to this day, they craft a drama which is never less than compelling.
When the case is closed, some dated and conventional aspects slow down momentum almost as much as thin spells to exposition, dragging, and, of course, natural shortcomings, which go defied enough by handsome cinematography and art direction, well-paced direction, intriguing themes and scripting, and many an endearing performance - especially by James Stewart - to make "The Man Who Shout Liberty Valance" a plenty entertaining, compelling and all around rewarding portrait on challenging morals for justice.
3/5 - Good