An analysis of the film the man who shot liberty valance by john ford

Jimmy Stewart stars as attorney at law Ransom Stoddard, a man from the comfortable East of America, determined to bring the freedom of Democracy to the Western town of Shinbone. As he arrives he gets his first taste of the lawlessness of the West, a vicious encounter with the maniacal Liberty Valance portrayed with fervour by Lee Marvin. He is rescued from near-death by the roguish charm of gunslinger Tom Doniphon John Waynewho takes him to be nursed by his love interest Hallie Stoddard Vera Miles. Once recovered, Stoddard sets upon his task to bring law and order, and to rid the people of Liberty Valance.

An analysis of the film the man who shot liberty valance by john ford

We're surrounded by Liberty Valances and the cattle barons they stand in for. Someone has to "kill them," but with belief in ideas, not guns. Yet for the most part, Obama hasn't stopped turning the other cheek. Here is a consideration of why this movie is relevant to our current political situation.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a stark, almost archaic yet profound meditation on the role of violence in creating the American democracy and on the nature of history itself. The main action of the movie takes place in an extended flashback, with the most crucial scene in the movie replayed as yet another flashback within the central flashback.

The protagonists are Senator Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard played by James Stewartwho, when we first encounter him, is the most distinguished politician in his state, returning unexpectedly and mysteriously with his wife Hallie Vera Miles to Shinbone, the small town in the West where his legendary political career began.

The central part of the plot takes place in the past, about 40 years earlier, and centers around Stoddard, a young lawyer come from the East to set up a law practice who, before his stagecoach even gets to town, is robbed and beaten, and his law books ripped up by Liberty Valance played by Lee Marvin.

In Shinbone, "Ranse" is befriended by Hallie, then an illiterate waitress by the local newspaper editor-publisher and town drunk Dutton Peabody, and, in an uneasy alliance, by Tom Doniphon John Waynea local rancher and rival for Hallie's affections.

The town is terrorized by Liberty Valance, a sociopathic, brutally clever, almost ironically self-aware robber, thug and murderer operating as a tool for the unseen cattle barons who want to prevent statehood for this Western frontier territory so that they can retain free rein over the land and its resources.

He has no respect for the written law, although, significantly, he recognizes that the Eastern "dude" with the law books represents the most significant threat to his power. Valance lives by "the law of the West," the gun and a cat o' nine tails whip.

He stands between Shinbone and civilization. Something has to be done about Liberty Valance. It was shot in black and white long after even Ford himself, a master of black-and-white cinematography in his earlier great movies, including such black-and-white film masterpieces as Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine and The Grapes of Wrath, had turned to color in films such as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers.

It was shot on the cheap, using the back lot set of a television Western program, so the West as a physical space whose empty vastness was once one of the principle protagonists of many Ford movies, notably in his spectacular usages of Monument Valley, is barely present as subject.

The action takes place almost as a play on sets reduced to the bare minimum of what each signifies: This reductiveness is a strength, as the simplicity creates a convincing verisimilitude, and the theatrical structure keeps you focused on the story. Stripped to its cinematic essence, the film is a morality play, emphasized by the patent discordance between the ages of the two male stars and that of the characters they play.

Characters in their early 20s are here played by actors in their 50s, and it shows.

Yet this strange casting choice is extremely important to the greatness of the film. First, you can't get swept up in their beauty or sexuality, so you are constantly returned to the meaning of the story.

The Woman Who Shot Liberty Valance | Firefly and Western Literature

Second, it's precisely because each actor is who he is and brings to his part his own history as a representation of American character that the movie has its unique gravitas. The idealism and incorruptibility of "Ransom Stoddard" is embedded in Stewart's iconic role as the idealistic young senator in Mr.

In those movies his persona is similar to many of Wayne's characters: Even though at the end of The Searchers he does not carry out the act of racial "cleansing" he has threatened throughout, he still cannot be contained in civil society.

His character in Valance is all of the characters Wayne had played to that moment; thus he is the construct "John Wayne," a complex, collaborative artwork created by Ford and Wayne himself over nearly 25 years.

The history of John Ford's movies is also part of the meaning.


For instance, Valance's first appearance is a fascinating contrast to Wayne's legendary first appearance, almost a materialization, in Stagecoach: In Valance, on the other hand, the stagecoach careens recklessly out of nowhere down a narrow road at night until it is brought to halt by a gang of masked men.

Everything that was open, bright, optimistic in Ford's earlier version of the West is dark and pessimistic in the later version. The movie's anchor scenes are of the killing of Liberty Valance, seen twice, first as Stoddard experienced it, and later as it is replayed from the point of view of Wayne.

This is not a Rashomon situation; this is not about the basic fungibility of truth.

Standing Up for Liberty Valance - True West Magazine

It's carefully and excruciatingly choreographed, to emphasize Stewart's terror and his bravery as, already shot in the right arm, he reaches, trembling, for his gun with his left hand. Just as there is ultimately no doubt of which version is true, this dual iteration of staging is precise, concise, even didactic, a textbook of basic film staging, reverse shots, reverse angles.

An analysis of the film the man who shot liberty valance by john ford

You have the skinny young lawyer from the "East" Obama the law professor and community activist from Chicago up against the many thuggish representatives of the unseen cattle-barons the Koch brothers, FOX News, et al. The nitty gritty of politics take up a big portion of the movie.

In one scene the townsmen assemble in the saloon to chose a delegate to the statehood convention. The cattle barons who are against statehood are represented by Liberty Valance, who nominates himself as delegate to the convention, even though he is not a resident of the town.

Marvin's line reading of Valance's retort -- "I live where I hang my hat" -- is particularly wonderful. The cattle barons' interests are also promoted by a Major Cassius Starbuckle, a grandstanding politician who, with florid oratory, vilifies Stoddard as a killer and puts up for nomination a fellow in a fancy white suit who gallops onto the stage on a white horse Texas Governor Rick Perry, anyone?

The crux and the complexity of the movie is that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance actually didn't shoot Liberty Valance, but his distinguished political career is built on the public perception that he did.

At first glance this seems like a perfect example of the political mendacity and inauthencity we've become all too cynical about, and most critical analyses of the film focus on the line spoken by the journalist who, having heard the whole story of what really happened, destroys his notes: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

But the movie demonstrates that, though his career is built on a "lie" or a "legend," Stoddard was in fact a courageous man, maybe even more courageous than the man who actually did shoot Liberty Valance.John Ford: "The Grapes of Wrath"(), "Stagecoach"(), "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" () optimism to deep cynicism over his career thru his films for Ford, something got lost in progression in America.

Dec 28,  · Beginning with "Stagecoach" (), continuing from through with the Cavalry Trilogy ("Fort Apache," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Rio Grande"), and finally to and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," together in 10 features they largely formed the templates of the Hollywood Western.

Of these "Liberty Valance" was the most pensive and thoughtful.4/4. Jun 12,  · Music: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Gene Pitney The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance () Directed by John Ford The Posters Between The Comancheros and Cat Ballou (Oscar), Lee continued his meteoric climb to the Hollywood heights with perhaps his most famous role as Liberty Valence in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance..

Sep 07,  · As Neil noted in an earlier post, the name “Ranse” is a direct reference to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance () and to the character Ransom Stoddard (also shortened to Ranse) in that film.

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departamentos. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance () John Ford’s film is dark and cynical, and brings together three American Western legends in John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and James Stewart.

An analysis of the film the man who shot liberty valance by john ford

Unlike many of his films, the Monument Valley setting is absent, with much of the action shot on sound stages.

Thoughts on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance () – Review Film Review