The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
|The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Based on||A short story
by Dorothy M. Johnson
|Cinematography||William H. Clothier|
|Editing by||Otho Lovering|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||April 22, 1962|
|Running time||123 minutes|
|Budget||$3.2 million (estimated)|
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a 1962 American Western film directed by John Ford starring James Stewart and John Wayne. The black-and-white film was released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck was adapted from a short story written by Dorothy M. Johnson. The supporting cast features Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O'Brien, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Woody Strode, Strother Martin, and Lee Van Cleef.
Elderly U.S. Senator Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) arrive by train in the small western town of Shinbone, to attend the funeral of an apparent nobody, a local rancher named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Prior to the funeral, Hallie goes off with a friend to visit a burned-down house with obvious significance to her. As they pay their respects to the dead man at the undertaker's establishment, the senator is interrupted with a request for a newspaper interview. Stoddard grants the request.
A gang of outlaws, led by gunfighter Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), hold up the stagecoach. Stoddard is brutally beaten, left for dead and later rescued by Doniphon. Stoddard is nursed back to health by restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan) and daughter Hallie. It later emerges that Hallie is Doniphon's love interest.
Shinbone's townsfolk are regularly menaced by Valance and his gang. Local marshal Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is ill prepared and unwilling to enforce the law. Doniphon is the only local courageous enough to challenge Valance's lawless behavior. On one occasion, Doniphon even intervenes on Stoddard's behalf, when Valance publicly humiliates the inept Easterner.
Stoddard is an advocate for justice under the law, not man. He earns the respect and affection of Hallie when he offers to teach her to read after he discovers, to her embarrassment, she's had no formal education. Stoddard's influence on Hallie and the town is further evidenced when he begins a school for the townspeople with Hallie's help.
In Shinbone, the local newspaper editor-publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O'Brien) writes a story about local ranch owners' opposition to the territory's potential statehood. Valance convinces the ranchers that if they will hire him, he can get elected as a delegate to represent the cattlemen's interest. Shinbone's residents meet to elect two delegates to send to the statehood convention at the territorial capital. Valance attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate. Eventually, Stoddard and Peabody are chosen. Valance assaults and badly beats Peabody after an unflattering newspaper article is published. Sensing that Valance is out of control, Stoddard accepts a challenge to a gun duel despite his complete lack of skills. Stoddard miraculously kills Valance with one shot to the surprise of everyone, including himself. Hallie responds with tearful affection. Doniphon congratulates Stoddard on his success, and notices how Hallie lovingly cares for Stoddard's wounds.
Sensing that he has lost Hallie's affections, Doniphon gets drunk in the saloon and drives out Valance's men, who have been calling for Stoddard to be lynched. The barman tries to tell Doniphon's farmhand Pompey (Woody Strode) that, as a black man, he cannot be served, to which Doniphon angrily shouts: "Who says he can't? Pour yourself a drink, Pompey." Pompey instead drags Doniphon home, where the latter sets fire to an uncompleted bedroom he was adding to his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie. The resulting fire destroys the entire house.
Stoddard is hailed as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and based on this achievement, is nominated as the local representative to the statehood convention. Stoddard is reluctant to serve based upon his notoriety for killing a man in a gunfight. At this point, in a flashback within the original flashback, Doniphon tells Stoddard that it was he (Doniphon), hidden across the street, who shot and killed Valance in cold blood, and not Stoddard in self-defense. Stoddard finds Doniphon and asks him why he shot Valance. He did it for Hallie, he says, because he understood that "she's your girl now". Doniphon encourages Stoddard to accept the nomination: "You taught her to read and write, now give her something to read and write about!"
Stoddard returns to the convention and is chosen as representative. He marries Hallie and eventually becomes the governor of the new state. He then becomes a two term U.S. senator, then the American ambassador to Great Britain, a U.S. senator again, and at the time of Doniphon's funeral is the favorite for his party's nomination as vice president.
The film returns to the present day and the interview ends. The newspaper man, understanding now the truth about the killing of Valance, burns his notes stating: "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".
Stoddard and Hallie board the train for Washington, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. With the area becoming more and more civilized, Stoddard decides, to Hallie's delight, to retire from politics and return to the territory to set up a law practice. When Stoddard thanks the train conductor for the train ride and the many courtesies extended to him by the railroad, the conductor says, "Nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!" Upon hearing the comment, Stoddard and his wife stare off thoughtfully into the distance.
- John Wayne as Tom Doniphon
- James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard
- Vera Miles as Hallie Stoddard
- Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance
- Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody
- Andy Devine as Marshal Link Appleyard
- Ken Murray as Doc Willoughby
- John Carradine as Maj. Cassius Starbuckle
- Jeanette Nolan as Nora Ericson
- John Qualen as Peter Ericson
- Willis Bouchey as Jason Tully (conductor)
- Carleton Young as Maxwell Scott
- Woody Strode as Pompey
- Denver Pyle as Amos Carruthers
- Strother Martin as Floyd
- Lee Van Cleef as Reese
- Robert F. Simon as Handy Strong
- O. Z. Whitehead as Herbert Carruthers
- Paul Birch as Mayor Winder
- Joseph Hoover as Charlie Hasbrouck (reporter for "The Star")
- Shug Fisher as Kaintuck
The film was shot in black-and-white on Paramount sound stages, a marked contrast with Ford's other films of the period, such as The Searchers, which featured vast western landscapes and color photography. Paramount executive A.C. Lyles maintained that Ford wanted to make the picture but Paramount could not budget the necessary cost. Ford then offered to make it for whatever budget was available, although he had James Stewart and John Wayne, two of the industry's biggest attractions, both at the heights of their careers, lined up to work together for the first time. However, Lee Marvin claimed in a filmed interview that Ford realized that the film would not be as effective shot in color because the atmosphere and use of shadows would be adversely impacted, and insisted on filming in black-and-white.
Although admired as a filmmaker, Ford was known for making life difficult for his casts. About halfway through the filming Wayne asked Stewart why Ford never seemed to put him "in the barrel". Stewart later related in a commentary on John Ford that this eventually circulated through the crew and set, and Stewart began to feel a bit complacent about it. Then, a few days before the end of filming, Ford asked Stewart what he thought of Woody Strode's costume. Stewart responded, "it looks a bit Uncle Remussy to me." Ford then called for the crew's attention and announced that "one of our actors doesn't like Woody's costume. Now, I don't know if Mr. Stewart has a prejudice against Negroes, but I just wanted you all to know about it." Stewart said he "wanted to crawl into a mouse hole"; but Wayne told him, "Well, welcome to the club. I'm glad you made it." In Michael Munn's 2003 biography of John Wayne, Strode was quoted as saying that Stewart was "one of the nicest men you'll ever meet anywhere in the world".
Wayne made many films with Ford, with whom he was close, but was a frequent target of the director's venomous remarks. Strode claims that Ford "kept needling Duke [Wayne] about his failure to make it as a football player" while Strode was "a real football player". (Wayne's potential career in football had been curtailed by an injury.) Ford also admonished Wayne for failing to serve in World War II, while Stewart was regarded as a war hero: "How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?" Wayne's failure to serve in the conflict was a source of great guilt for him.
Ford's behavior caused Wayne to take his frustrations out on Strode, who believed that they could otherwise have been friends. While filming an exterior shot on a horse-drawn cart, Wayne almost lost control of the horses and knocked Strode away when he tried to help. When the horses did stop, Wayne almost started a fight with Strode, who was much fitter. Ford gave them time to calm down, and Wayne later told Strode that they had to "work together. We both gotta be professionals." Strode blamed Ford's treatment of Wayne for the trouble, adding, "What a miserable film to make".
The film's dramatically hard-driving music score was composed by Cyril J. Mockridge. In certain scenes involving the character of Hallie, Ford used part of Alfred Newman's "Ann Rutledge Theme" from his earlier film Young Mr. Lincoln. Ford told Peter Bogdanovich in the latter's book John Ford that the theme evoked the same meaning, lost love, in both films.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David later wrote a song based upon the plotline of the movie and called "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", which became a Top 10 hit for Gene Pitney but was not used in the film. Apparently, Pitney was not asked to record it until after the film came out. The chorus of the Pitney recording features two hard strikes on a drum in order to represent the shots that were fired. Jimmie Rodgers also recorded the song, in the Gene Pitney style. James Taylor covered the song on his 1985 album That's Why I'm Here. The Royal Guardsmen also covered the song on their 1967 album Snoopy vs. the Red Baron. It was also covered by the Australian rock band Regurgitator on the 1998 Hal David and Burt Bacharach tribute album, To Hal and Bacharach.
Notable aspects 
The exact location of the film's setting is unclear. There are frequent references to the "Picketwire River" in the film. The Picketwire River was an aberrational name for the Purgatoire River in southeastern Colorado. Even though a date was never stated, the U.S. flag in the schoolroom scene has 38 stars, placing the film after Colorado became the 38th state on August 1, 1876. Saguaro cactus are visible in parts of the film. The only section of the U.S. in which the saguaro plant is native is the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and an extremely small area of California. There is, however, no overt mention in the film of a particular territory.
The film was an instant hit when released in April 1962, thanks to its classic story and popular stars John Wayne and James Stewart. Edith Head's costumes for the film were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, one of the few westerns to ever be nominated for the award. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has continued its popularity through repeated television broadcasts and the rental market. It is also widely considered to be one of director John Ford's best westerns and generally ranks alongside Red River, The Searchers, The Big Trail, and Stagecoach as one of John Wayne's best films.
Sergio Leone, the director of such classic Westerns as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and one of the directors Ford influenced the most, said it was his favorite John Ford film because "it was the only film where he (Ford) learned about something called pessimism."
Stewart was given top billing over Wayne in the film's posters and previews, but in the film itself Wayne has top billing. Their names are displayed on pictures of signposts, one after the other, with Wayne's name shown first and slightly higher on its post. Ford remarked in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that he made it apparent to the audience that Vera Miles' character had never gotten over Tom Doniphon because "I wanted Wayne to be the lead."
See also 
- The Fourth Virgin Film Guide, edited by James Pallot and the editors of Cinebook; published by Virgin Books in 1995
- John Wayne – The Man Behind The Myth by Michael Munn, published by Robson Books, 2004
- McBride, Joseph (2003). Searching For John Ford: A Life. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 631. ISBN 0-312-31011-0.
- Wayne, Pilar. John Wayne, pp. 43–47.
- Gene Pitney, Who Sang of 60's Teenage Pathos, Dies at 65
- Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance|
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at AllRovi
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at the Internet Movie Database
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at the TCM Movie Database
- The Gene Pitney song that told the story at imeem.com