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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

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Release : 1962
Rating : 8.1
Studio : Paramount Pictures,  John Ford Productions, 
Crew : Art Direction,  Art Direction, 
Cast : James Stewart Carleton Young Lee Van Cleef John Qualen John Wayne
Genre : Western

Cast List



Rance was the hero they needed, Tom the one they deserved. Sound familiar?---Like many, I regard 'The Searchers' as arguably the greatest western ever. However, one of the reasons I say 'arguably' is because of 'The Man who shot Liberty Valance'. While on the surface, it deals with how the 'wrong man' gets the credit for the death of the thug who enforced the will of the vested interests who profit from blocking the march of civilisation and law and order towards the town of Shinbone while the true 'hero' dies in obscurity, beneath the surface it argues the need for a 'dark knight', who can do the things that need to be done, legal or otherwise, that will be required so justice and peace can take hold in a lawless, violent land and time. John Wayne's Tom Doniphon can clearly see that James Stewart's Rance Stoddard is the man the people need to inspire them to stand up for themselves and bring progress and order into their lives, although he also understands that Liberty Valance have to be forcibly removed from the equation. By the time the moment arrives that he makes the decision to eliminate Valance himself, he also realises that not only will he have to live with the guilt of the crime he commits, but that he will lose his girl to Stoddard in the process. As if that wasn't enough, he ultimately has to confess the truth to Stoddard in order to finally push him into fulfilling his role in the deception (granted, the viewer needs the confession scene to make sense of the movie) surrounding Valance's demise, using his reputation as 'The Man who shot Libery Valance' to get elected. In addition, the movie also manages to comment on how the 'legend' of the West has been written by ignoring the unpleasant 'truth' of how it was actually won. So, the hero the people needs depends on the help of the hero they actually deserve. Curiously, Christopher Nolan has apparently never heard of this film! Unfortunately for him, there seem to be enough members of AMPAS who have.


Myth Over Reality.---John Ford directs this western story that opens with Senator Ransom Stoddard(played by Jimmy Stewart) arriving by train in the town of Shinbone, to attend the funeral of old friend Tom Doniphon(John Wayne). He tells a local newspaper reporter about his first arrival in Shinbone by stagecoach, where it is robbed by a bullying ruffian named Liberty Valance(Lee Marvin, well cast) As a young lawyer left only with his law books, he gets a job in a local restaurant as a dishwasher, only to run afoul of Valance again, who is being used by local landowners who oppose proposed statehood. Stoddard is approached to be a representative, and after being challenged by Liberty, is elected, though Valance decides that only a showdown can settle things...Thoughtful and effective film is more a showcase for Stewart than Wayne, much the same way Stoddard comes to overshadow Tom, though both actors are equally memorable, as are the characters they play.

Nick Jones

A Magnificent Western---I have just recently seen this movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The box cover of this movie states that this movie is the best western, second to stagecoach. While this movie cannot be the best Western (I believe the best Western is The Searchers) it certainly is a spectacular one. I love how the story gently unravels itself. THe movie begins with the story set in the future around 20 years. In that time, much has changed in the town. First, the funeral of Tom Doniphon, whose story is told through Ransom Stoddard. It is unknown how he died (SPOILER he just dies from natural causes). In the beginning too are all the characters that are left, Pompey, Link Appleyard, Hallie. ALl are in their elderly status. Yet it takes around one hour for the movie to reveal how they got into that state. The movie plays out as the story of a man's struggle through Western front. A story of a man as he tries to survive- and shoot Liberty Valance. It is the spectacular story of a man as he struggles with his love for a woman and his hatred towards a man, and a man that comes in between. As a western this movie certainly depicts the the spirit and the struggle of the new frontier. Here is the epitome of the harsh western life, where the struggle is not only how to live, but how to survive with people literally holding their guns up to your face. In the beginning the harsh western is even depicted as a place where bandits rob protagonist Ransom Stoddard. Here is the struggle even to eat, where Hally struggles to feed even her curstomers in the harsh western front. And all the performances are magnificent. James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and Woody Strode; these veterans of other westerns, notably John Wayne, allows for viewers to truly enjoy the film.


A true classic of the Western genre.---Although I have seen this movie numerous times, I am just getting around to commenting on it. I measure other films against it when I see them. The James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and Woody Strode performances are magnificent. It is important to note the contributions of past and future notables: Andy Devine, Lee Van Cleef (Hang'em High), and Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke).This movie captures some of the aspects of how hard life was on the western frontier towns and how they sprang up and died later in the era. Also, it it depicts how law and order are just as important today as in that time. Without L&O, you are in just another "third world" broken nation.A superb motion picture!


"This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".---"This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend". - Maxwell Scott, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance In John Ford's most mournful tale, the legendary director asks the question "How did this present come to be? Just how did an inferior race of men whose only weapon was that of law and books defeat the old gunslingers of the great West? Just what exactly happened to the Western heroes portrayed by John Wayne when law and order came to town? How did the wilderness turn into a garden? In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford depicts a world where everyone has got everything they wanted, but nobody seems happy with it? sound familiar to anyone? Senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) arrives to Shinbone on a train with his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) to visit the funeral of an old friend named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne, remarkably the film opens where this iconic star is dead). The newspaper men have never heard of him, so why would such a powerful political figure visit the town to attend this funeral of a "nobody"? Through the use of a flashback, Stoddard tells us the tale of how he came to the town as a young lawyer but was immediately attacked by the psychotic villain Liberty Valance (terrifyingly played by Lee Marvin) who teaches him "Western law". The rest of the film tells the tale of how the man of books eventually defeated the race of the gunslinger and what sacrifices had to be made for that to happen.In truth, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is more of a melodrama than a Western. Gone are the vibrant landscapes of Ford's landmark movie The Searchers six years earlier, which was so proudly promoted as being in VISTAVISION WIDESCREEN COLOR and instead the film has given way to a bleak, claustrophobic black and white tale, with so many enclosed sets and not one shot of Monument Valley.There's a lack of a real bar scene, lack of shots of the landscape, lack of horses, lack of gunfights. It's a psychological Western, probably unlike anything ever filmed until maybe Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.Why is this movie so good then? In basic terms, it's about the sadness of progression and without giving way too much away the film tells a remarkable tale which truly does examine what Ford's view of the West as promoted in his earlier work truly meant. It's a tragic and pessimistic movie but it's a rewarding one, with huge replay value and one that leaves you with so many more questions than it does answers.Do we prefer the legendary tale of our heroes or the truth? Are tales of people such as 'The Man With No Name' just more interesting than Wyatt Earp? Is living a lie as a successful guy better or worse than quietly dying as a hero? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the most complex Westerns that has ever been put on film and is a remarkable film when you consider it was directed by a guy who made his living telling grandeur tales of the American West. Well acted, very well written and is one of the most rewarding Westerns for replay value in the history of the genre.Matt Holmes

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