The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – John Ford – 1962


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance CoverOriginal title: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Rating: 4.0 Stars
Year: 1962
Directors: John Ford
Duration: 123 min.
Genres: Western

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I’m going to start off by saying that of all film genres, western must be the one I find the least interesting of all. I’m no big fan of action flicks or films in which lots of violence is added just for the sake of adding some interest to an otherwise shallow or boring film. The main reason I really loved The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was because there wasn’t any overkill of violence, killing and cursing. It is nice to see that one can make a film about the old west without having to blow up half a town.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Instead, tension is built up by placing the good guy and bad guy in the same room, but never quite in a position to draw their guns and start shooting. The balance is kept for quite a while with the occasional skirmish or brawl. But the best is kept for last as they say, and I might not even be referring to the traditional final showdown. Other reasons for watching this film are: James Stewart, John Wayne and a gorgeous Vera Miles.

James Stewart is probably better known from his roles in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Rear Window and Rope but he plays really well both as a young lawyer and old senator trying to bring law and order to the Wild West. Good luck with that, by the way. John Wayne, being the king of westerns – sorry Clint, not a chance – is giving a great performance as sort of a town’s protector. Mainly against Liberty Valance, your local bad guy, played by Lee Marvin. Finally, Vera Miles plays Stewart’s wife and an illiterate waitress.

The film is basically a giant flash back. Old Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Miles) visit the funeral of Tom Doniphon (Wayne). Stoddard, now a senator, is causing a bit of a stir in town. Not many people know or understand why he is there just for the funeral of some guy. But it doesn’t take long for the flashback to start, telling the true story of why he came to this particular funeral.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

It starts off with Young Ransom being ambushed and robbed by Liberty Valance while traveling through the area. Still young and full of ideals, he gets himself into a bit of trouble (besides being robbed that is) and is taken into a house where he recovers. He is then set on bringing law, order, education and what have you to town, and to lock up and trial Liberty Valance. It being the lawless west doesn’t make this an easy thing to do. Tom Doniphon could help, but won’t do more than scaring Valance off from time to time.

Eventually pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. How did the old men become who they are now, how did relationships form, why did old Hallie go to that burned down house, when and how did Liberty Valance die and quite a bit more. All in all I’d say this film also has some mystery elements contained within. We sort of know the bad guy died at some point, but are also given a strange funeral. Anyway, I loved The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and would recommend it to anyone who likes westerns, drama and/or a great story. Take that, modern day western in which, in the time it took me to write this post, half a town’s population got insulted, shot, and/or blown to pieces.

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