The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
People often ask me about what movies I hold dear to my heart. What is my favorite movie? What is the one movie that I will drop all plans to watch when I get the chance? I felt this week, the first anniversary of WaffleMovies.com, was an appropriate time to wax poetic about, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
In this western that is more than a western, Jimmy Stewart stars as Ransom Stoddard, an eastern lawyer who heeds the call to, "go west young man." He wants to start a new life, maybe even realize fame and fortune, but, instead, finds trouble. On his way into the small town of Shinbone, Ransom runs into Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), the toughest, meanest hombre in the territory.
Valance is feared by everyone, except Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Tom warns Ransom that he should stay away from Valance or learn how to use a gun to defend himself, but Ransom wants to use the law in this lawless land. Like a missionary, he is dedicated to educating the people of Shinbone and imposing order based on the power of the law, not the gun.
The people start to believe in Ransom, especially Hallie (Vera Miles). However, Hallie is Tom's girl and, unknown to her, he is building a house for them to live in as husband and wife. Ransom's popularity also threatens Valance, so he decides to menace our hero and try to drive him out of town.
Will Valance finally drive Ransom out of town? Will Hallie marry Tom or will she go with Ransom? Will Tom help Ransom, or does he also want him out of the picture?
The film is one of the greatest ever. It transcends traditional western themes to become a movie about a maturing society where the rules are changing; much like America was during the early sixties. Tom represents a relic who is playing by the old rules and can't understand that his way of life is no longer the path to success. He is a man out of time.
He is a tragic figure trying, but failing, to cope with a new society. Tom used to be a hero, the man everyone admired. He has lived his life according to the old rules. However, Ransom, with his new ideas, steals his spotlight and maybe the love of his life.
John Wayne is fantastic in this role. You can feel his confusion and pain as he tries to cope with a new set of social rules. When the movie came out in 1962, America was on the precipice of a cultural revolution, and John Wayne was a relic of the old ways. He is the real life Tom - a man whose reputation and ideas are falling out of favor.
The movie also is a love story. The love triangle between Hallie, Tom and Ransom is touching and the audience has a hard time trying to take sides. Who should win Hallie's heart? Should it be Tom, the man who has loved her for years and wants to marry her, or Ransom, the new guy in town who offers her a chance to move up in life?
There is more to this film, but I want to hold it back so I don't giveaway too much of the plot. If you have seen the movie or plan to, feel free to send me an e-mail and we can continue the discussion. Check out The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance this weekend.
Directed by John Ford
Written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck
James Stewart . Ransom Stoddard
John Wayne Tom Doniphon
Vera Miles .. Hallie
Lee Marvin . Liberty Valance
Edmond O'Brien . Dutton Peabody
Andy Devine .. Link Appleyard
Ken Murray . Doc Willoughby
Woody Strode .. Pompey
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