The lost movie of the week: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

The Western genre is a lost art. Few of them are still made but bygone is the period where a new western would come out every week. John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood etc. All those men forged the glorious time of Western. I write men because women in those movies where to the victims and not the hero’s. Of course over time strong actress received more responsibilities and there are Westerns with women hero’s (“Five Bold Women”) but still, the Western genre was a glorification of the man’s ideal. The lonely, gritty, strong individual who would save the day.

Senator Ransom Stoddard, in town for the funeral of his friend Tom Doniphon, he recounts his story to a local journalist. He had come to town many years before, robbed on its way in by the local ruffian, Liberty Valance, which was the local gangster. After Valance terrorizes the city, Stoddard decided to act and stand up for what he believes.

Legendary director John Ford directed this original western, original because for once the image of the strong individual hero has a different angle. It is not the straight forward film which is why the film is still a classic of the genre. Shot beautifully in black and white it analysis the great paradigm of the hero and our ambivalent relation we have with hero and our need to create them.

There are so many masterpieces in the western genre and we will certainly write about them in the future but “The Man who Shot Livery Valence” is a classic. It has fantastic supportive performances of Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, John Carradine and Lee Van Cleef. James Stewart and John Wayne are the stars and are a perfect duo in their dualism.  Two different ideologies represented perfectly by two Hollywood legends.

John Ford and John Wayne worked on 10 movies together and helped create the Western mythology. This one is the odd one , but certainly one of the strongest of them all.

Stanley Berenboom

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