Questions arise when a Senator returns to a small Western town to attend the funeral of a local man he once saved from a notorious outlaw who spread terror across the town. He reveals the truth behind his ‘good’ deed.
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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Directed byJohn Ford
Every '' great '' nations need mythologies... John Ford is by far the greatest americana's filmmaker... This is probably his best in term of the '' fluidity '' of the editing and the action. But, Searchers, My Darline Valentine, How Green.. and Grapes of Wrath have better cinematography and let the images '' breathe'' more.
That is some real Oscar-worthy acting by both The Duke & Jimmy Stewart. Plus Lee Marvin was perfect as the villain. Although, the story is like in & out because of how goes on with all these main characters while being told in flashback (even the twist at the end). But all I'll say this was a good epic western I have watched from John Ford nevertheless. It's worth a shot for Ford/Wayne fans.
Though I prefer The Searchers this is probably the better film. It registers as a worthy end and apotheosis to Ford's western legacy. Everything you expect is there: the drunken characters, the politics and evolution of these United States, the value of a community, the strong men who hide behind their personas, the conflict between ideologies and traditions, etc. It just lacks the poetry of The Searchers.
Perhaps Ford's most (only?) 'meta' film, where the quotation, "This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend", becomes a knowing critique of his own career-long approach to historical fiction. The bold, larger than life, exaggerated in the mind emphasis on characters and events works against the title, which sets-up an expectation of factual accuracy, betrayed by a lyrical, romantic approach.
The type of old-fashioned American moviemaking that will leave you longing for the days when Hollywood routinely made films of this quality. The Searchers may be Ford's "greatest" film but this one just might be my favorite. Wayne and Stewart are wonderful, but really the whole cast shines. O'Brien, Marvin, Miles, Devine - Ford handles them all to complete a masterpiece.
[Cinémathèque PT #73: 35 mm] > Wayne, Stewart, Marvin, Miles, O'Brien, Devine, Carradine, Qualen, Strode and Van Cleef -> they don't have casts like these anymore. I'm sorry Tarantino but you came here for your ensemble casts. fess up to that much.
Considered one of John Ford's great western masterpieces, it fails to live up to its reputation. It is a well-crafted effort, and does have a few strong moments - but its slow and dull much of the time, any resonance the story might have is drowned out by cartoonish characters and scenes that drag on and on. Not a terrible film, but it falls far short of the masterpiece it's been made out to be.