In 1910, Sen. Ranse Stoddard and his wife, Hallie, arrive in the small town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon. A reporter questions him about his unannounced appearance, and Ranse tells about his early days as a young lawyer in Shinbone, when he opposed the ruthless rule of Liberty Valance, a notorious gunfighter. The only other two men in the town who were unafraid of the outlaw were Dutton Peabody, a drunken but courageous newspaper editor, and Tom Doniphon, a respected rancher in love with Hallie, who was then a young waitress. Valance became outraged when Ranse was elected delegate to a territorial convention and taunted him into a duel. Hallie knew that Ranse could not handle a gun and pleaded with Tom to save Ranse; but Tom, sick of Ranse’s foolhardy bravery, refused. Late one night, Ranse and Valance faced each other on the darkened main street of the town. Several shots were fired, and although Ranse was wounded, Valance was the one who lay dead. Ranse became known as “the man who shot Liberty Valance” and was nominated to run for Congress. Unable to face a career built on a killing, he decided to refuse the nomination. Tom then appeared and confessed that it was he who, out of love for Hallie, fired from the shadows that night. Tom, in effect, became Ranse’s conscience, the force that carried him to the U. S. Senate and a brilliant career in Washington, while Tom died a pauper. Ranse’s story finished, the reporter decides not to print it because in the old West the legend had become fact. —Turner Classic Movies
Maine-born John Ford (born Sean Aloysius O’Fearna) originally went to Hollywood in the shadow of his older brother, Francis, an actor/writer/director who had worked on Broadway. Originally a laborer, propman’s assistant, and occasional stuntman for his brother, he rose to became an assistant director and supporting actor before turning to directing in 1917. Ford became best known for his Westerns, of which he made dozens through the 1920s, but he didn’t achieve status as a major director until the mid-‘30s, when his films for RKO (The Lost Patrol 1934, The Informer 1935), 20th Century Fox (Young Mr. Lincoln 1939, The Grapes of Wrath 1940), and Walter Wanger (Stagecoach 1939), won over the public, the critics, and earned various Oscars and Academy nominations. His 1940s films included one military-produced documentary co-directed by Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland, December 7th (1943), which creaks badly today (especially compared with… read more
"Well the railroad done that. Desert's still the same." Even though it's heavy on interiors, I think it's a real shame that this wasn't filmed in color. Christoph Waltz does a mean Mr. Peabody. James Stewart just can't stop going to Washington. There's a bit of Renoir in this. For some reason I always find that Ford's films are better designed than they are performed. The work of a master, no doubt. "Education is the basis of law and order."
Stick to your guns. A sharp western, where the age-old camaraderie and star-spangled assembly of personas mask a wistful, bitter reflection on its own fading era and ideals - who better than the likes of Ford to be the undertaker, Stewart (literally) the minister and Wayne the newly deceased. The classical genre’s precursor to the revisionism of The Wild Bunch, yet just as charismatic, grim and weary.
This week: two major film magazines unveil their new issues, Adam Nayman reveals why Jaws is the “greatest movie ever made”, and more…