"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Paramount, 1962)

I've revised and updated this review.
Please click here for the new one.



  1. Well … you certainly don’t shy from unpopular opinions!

    In my mind, I think you over-praise The Searchers and under-value The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I will happily concede that Valance is talky, is perhaps over-long, and lacks action. But the movie is inherently different from a picture like The Searchers.

    In terms of music, If The Searchers is a big orchestral symphony, Valance is a chamber piece. It has less bombast and is more contemplative. Valance is certainly one of the most quotable Westerns, and there is nothing wrong with ‘talky’ if the talk is good.

    I agree that both Wayne and Stewart are too long in the tooth for their roles, but I can’t think of anyone younger in 1962 who could’ve filled their boots. (I think color would've highlighted their respective ages too much.) And both are really playing up to their already-established screen personas: Wayne the rugged man of action, and Stewart the decent and contemplative man of principle.

    Whenever I’m asked my 3 favorite Westerns, two of the slots always change depending on my mood and thinking that day; but Liberty Valance is always one of them.

    It’s not Ford’s greatest film, but it is perhaps his most representative. (Much like Master Humphrey’s Clock isn’t Dickens’ greatest book, but his most characteristic one.) It touches on all of the themes and ambiguities that Ford explored in his other works, and neatly summarizes most of them. It is, I think, his purest artistic statement.

    Sorry this went so long!

    1. Completely fair, and I respect your opinion. Many people agree with you and would quote Liberty Valance as one of the greatest Ford Westerns.
      Maybe my personal view is colored by having grown up with (and been besotted by) black & white TV Western shows and also going to the theater to see colorful actioners like The Magnificent Seven (which came out when I was an impressionable 12). So to me, LV appeared like an episode of Gunsmoke or something. I kind of wrote it off as old-fashioned. Perhaps I never got over that!
      At any rate, it's good to disagree. It'd be boring if we all liked the same movies (or anything else)!

  2. Dark,sad, nostalgic, melancholic, bitter... A fine, and original at the time, deconstruction of the whole myth, a sum about the Western (and the US). So much to discover at every vision, in spite of course of many of the classic fordian flaws, some over acting here and there, the comedy moments looking more towards the silent movies and yes, it talks too much and Ford pleases himself too much in the school and elections scenes etc, but think of the plot itself (how the supposed civilization replaces chaos being based upon a lie), the violence announcing the spaghettis sounds pretty modern even elusive, of course Jimmy Stewart is too old but perfect (and whoelse ? I was thinking of Monty Clift as it would have been something to have him with Duke again!. But he would not have been credible as a seasoned politician isnt'it !? Rock Hudson was weaker too, Brando, Newman... Forget it)
    And what about Wayne !? Maybe his last masterpiece until True Grit and The Shootist ? There are a few scenes of anthology such as the steak or the (twin) showdown, the black and white photo should have been better especially at the beginning and the restaurant's scenes but is awesome when, at last, the shadows are moving like in the Tom's house fire or when he scratches a match that famous night. For all it says and shows, for its fact-legend dichotomia, it deserves to be distinguished far over from the average good. JM