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The Flaw in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962)


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I'm treading on dangerous ground here.  It's one of John Ford's best loved and admired movies.  And maybe it's not a flaw, but it sure rankles me when I watch it.  One of the biggest themes in the movie, and something that puts a disillusioning twist to everything else in it, is Stoddard's career being built on a lie, taking credit for what Doniphon did.  John Ford thinks it's so important, he drives the point home in the last line of the movie.  Now, a lot could be said about what the movie says of the spread of civilization, the rule of law, across the West; how it's an ambivalent good, providing security, but destroying liberty (Valence--get it?); how government is built on a lie, and so forth, but that's not my point.

 

I just think Stoddard gets a bad rap--especially from John Ford.  After all, even though it is a violation of all his principles, he does go out to face Valence.  So he's no coward.  Is it his fault it's not his bullet that kills Valence?  Of course, he can't be allowed to kill him, because it would destroy his symbolic role in the movie.  The old west has to kill itself (think of Shane's line to Ryker, just before he kills him and Wilson).  But maybe it is his fault after Doniphon talks to him he doesn't go back into the convention and tell everyone what really happened.  Then again, who would have believed him?  Seems like a dirty trick Doniphon played on him for stealing his girl.  He concedes the loss, but fixes it so it would be a hollow victory, and taste like ashes in his mouth, for once his wife Hallie found out (as it's clear she did), even though she may still love him, it would be tainted.

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I think the only thing dangerous about Liberty Valance is that  toupée they put on Jimmy Stewart!

Another stupid thing was not using a wonderful song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, sung by Gene Pitney. I don't know if it was politics or a legal issue, but they never were able to use it in the movie. Yet  it was still tremendously good publicity for that movie and a Top 10 hit.

" The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; he was the bravest of them all "

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9 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

I think the only thing dangerous about Liberty Valance is that  toupée they put on Jimmy Stewart!

Another stupid thing was not using a wonderful song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, sung by Gene Pitney. I don't know if it was politics or a legal issue, but they never were able to use it in the movie. Yet  it was still tremendously good publicity for that movie and a Top 10 hit.

" The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; he was the bravest of them all "

I remember that song playing on the radio.  I don't know for sure, but I think the song was written after the movie. I remember hearing a couple of times in the past news stories about a short period when songs were inspired by popular movies.  Remember the song about Bonnie and Clyde?

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I'm a Burt Bacharach fanatic. Way before Dionne Warwick, I was crazy about his work with Gene Pitney and Bobby Vee. It seems like I remember either Burt or  Pitney saying that they were in the middle of recording this thing when they heard that the movie was completed. I don't know why they didn't use the song or what the situation was - - but the producers of the movie had paid them to write this song and to record it for the movie. 

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Actually, the only "flaw" that sticks out for me in "Liberty ValAnce" is....

In the segment where Doniphan tries giving Ransom a shooting lesson that winds up getting him covered in paint, Doniphan says something about not liking tricks but it's what to expect from Valance, Stewart stomps up to Wayne, flattens him with a solid right and says, "I don't like tricks either.  So I guess that maisks us even!"  Jimmy kind of garbling the word, "MAKES". ;)

Oh, another flaw I usually point out in here when this movie comes up.......

At that convention to nominate the delegate, in the hall it shows those supporting statehood sitting to the LEFT when shown from the stage.  But a little later, when the hall is shown from the rear LOBBY view, they're suddenly on the RIGHT side of the hall.  :o

Sepiatone

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11 hours ago, slaytonf said:

I'm treading on dangerous ground here.  It's one of John Ford's best loved and admired movies.  And maybe it's not a flaw, but it sure rankles me when I watch it.  One of the biggest themes in the movie, and something that puts a disillusioning twist to everything else in it, is Stoddard's career being built on a lie, taking credit for what Doniphon did.  John Ford thinks it's so important, he drives the point home in the last line of the movie.  Now, a lot could be said about what the movie says of the spread of civilization, the rule of law, across the West; how it's an ambivalent good, providing security, but destroying liberty (Valence--get it?); how government is built on a lie, and so forth, but that's not my point.

 

I just think Stoddard gets a bad rap--especially from John Ford.  After all, even though it is a violation of all his principles, he does go out to face Valence.  So he's no coward.  Is it his fault it's not his bullet that kills Valence?  Of course, he can't be allowed to kill him, because it would destroy his symbolic role in the movie.  The old west has to kill itself (think of Shane's line to Ryker, just before he kills him and Wilson).  But maybe it is his fault after Doniphon talks to him he doesn't go back into the convention and tell everyone what really happened.  Then again, who would have believed him?  Seems like a dirty trick Doniphon played on him for stealing his girl.  He concedes the loss, but fixes it so it would be a hollow victory, and taste like ashes in his mouth, for once his wife Hallie found out (as it's clear she did), even though she may still love him, it would be tainted.

I sort of hear what you are saying slaytonf. I too think that Stoddard sort of gets a bum rap, especially since he was a man who never really wanted to resort to violence in the first place. But with a guy like Valence, violence was really the only way to deal with him because that was the only way of life HE understood. Stoddard in a way sort of gets forced into that duel.

Doniphon could have told the truth as well, but didn't. Not so sure about his reasons for keeping quiet about it, rather it was to spite Stoddard or simply because telling the truth still wouldn't have won Doniphon his girl back...or maybe a combination of both. Actually I like not knowing one way or another.

The only flaw I see is that old coot played by John Carradine screaming about Stoddard's 'unfair' victory over a 'worthy' citizen like Liberty Valance (whom everyone knew was nothing but a lawless, violent piece of crud). I figured that guy must have been a member of Valance's gang once upon a time.

Still a great film though.

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12 hours ago, slaytonf said:

I'm treading on dangerous ground here.  It's one of John Ford's best loved and admired movies.  And maybe it's not a flaw, but it sure rankles me when I watch it.  One of the biggest themes in the movie, and something that puts a disillusioning twist to everything else in it, is Stoddard's career being built on a lie, taking credit for what Doniphon did.  John Ford thinks it's so important, he drives the point home in the last line of the movie.  Now, a lot could be said about what the movie says of the spread of civilization, the rule of law, across the West; how it's an ambivalent good, providing security, but destroying liberty (Valence--get it?); how government is built on a lie, and so forth, but that's not my point.

 

I just think Stoddard gets a bad rap--especially from John Ford.  After all, even though it is a violation of all his principles, he does go out to face Valence.  So he's no coward.  Is it his fault it's not his bullet that kills Valence?  Of course, he can't be allowed to kill him, because it would destroy his symbolic role in the movie.  The old west has to kill itself (think of Shane's line to Ryker, just before he kills him and Wilson).  But maybe it is his fault after Doniphon talks to him he doesn't go back into the convention and tell everyone what really happened.  Then again, who would have believed him?  Seems like a dirty trick Doniphon played on him for stealing his girl.  He concedes the loss, but fixes it so it would be a hollow victory, and taste like ashes in his mouth, for once his wife Hallie found out (as it's clear she did), even though she may still love him, it would be tainted.

but did stoddard ever ask himself how he could be so fortuitously lucky to hit and kill valance with his one poorly aimed shot??? no! tom had to straighten it out and besides, maybe Doniphon wanted stoddard to know he didn't kill anybody. I personally like the film greatly but Tom Doniphon losing Hallie has always bothered me. she shoulda come to know what a heelette she was for breaking Tom's heart. maybe that's why he saved stoddard's life...so there would be know doubt in Hallie's mind that she broke the heart of a man who loved her.

attaboy Tom! you showed her.

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

Image result for the man who shot liberty valance (1962)

 

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1 hour ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

I sort of hear what you are saying slaytonf. I too think that Stoddard sort of gets a bum rap, especially since he was a man who never really wanted to resort to violence in the first place. But with a guy like Valence, violence was really the only way to deal with him because that was the only way of life HE understood. Stoddard in a way sort of gets forced into that duel.

Doniphon could have told the truth as well, but didn't. Not so sure about his reasons for keeping quiet about it, rather it was to spite Stoddard or simply because telling the truth still wouldn't have won Doniphon his girl back...or maybe a combination of both. Actually I like not knowing one way or another.

The only flaw I see is that old coot played by John Carradine screaming about Stoddard's 'unfair' victory over a 'worthy' citizen like Liberty Valance (whom everyone knew was nothing but a lawless, violent piece of crud). I figured that guy must have been a member of Valance's gang once upon a time.

Still a great film though.

A few points;   It would have been completely unrealistic if Stoddard actually shot and killed Valance,  especially at the distance they were at, using a pistol,  having to take a left hand shot, and given Stoddard's inexperience as a shooter \ killer.    

I do believe that it is somewhat unrealistic that Doniphon didn't tell Stoddard he was the killer soon after the shooting instead of waiting until the election scene.     He would have done so with 'you're getting my girl you SOB on a lie!'.     But it really wasn't a lie;   since Doniphon had already lost her.   I.e. if Doniphon hadn't intervened,  Stoddard would be dead and Hallie would have started looked for another man like Stoddard and NOT Doniphon, just like the west 'moved on' from order-by-violence' to 'order-by-law'.     

     

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before Dionne, Burt wrote Any Day Now which was recorded by Chuck Jackson (Jesse's brother) and Make It Easy On Yourself by Jerry Butler. Both were done about the time Valance came out. btw, earlier Burt was the musical director for Marlene Dietrich (!) on tour prior to any of this.

back to the topic. isn't the big payoff line about printing the legend misstated. shouldn't it be more like, "When the legend disagrees with the facts, print the legend."  

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Anyone who has watched the promo that TCM usually shows whenever The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is due to air, will realize that the real flaw in the movie is that it doesn't have enough giant beef steaks in it...

:P

I get hungry every time that darn promo comes on. I hate to think what it does any viewing vegetarians.

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8 minutes ago, limey said:

Anyone who has watched the promo that TCM usually shows whenever The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is due to air, will realize that the real flaw in the movie is that it doesn't have enough giant beef steaks in it...

:P

I get hungry every time that darn promo comes on. I hate to think what it does any viewing vegetarians.

I was watching an episode of Shenandoah this morning where he is in an almost ghost town.  However, he is able to order a steak at the hotel.  How did they keep the steaks fresh enough to actually eat in the West?  My wife pointed out all the steaks eaten at Delmonico's in Gunsmoke.  Of course, Dodge City had a lot of people.

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2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

A few points;   It would have been completely unrealistic if Stoddard actually shot and killed Valance,  especially at the distance they were at, using a pistol,  having to take a left hand shot, and given Stoddard's inexperience as a shooter \ killer.    

I do believe that it is somewhat unrealistic that Doniphon didn't tell Stoddard he was the killer soon after the shooting instead of waiting until the election scene.     He would have done so with 'you're getting my girl you SOB on a lie!'.     But it really wasn't a lie;   since Doniphon had already lost her.   I.e. if Doniphon hadn't intervened,  Stoddard would be dead and Hallie would have started looked for another man like Stoddard and NOT Doniphon, just like the west 'moved on' from order-by-violence' to 'order-by-law'.     

     

she woulda blamed Doniphon in any event because she woulda blamed him for not saving stoddard's life...doan forget, before the street encounter she had sent pompey to find Tom which he apparently did. she knew Tom would save his life simply because she woulda been asking him to not that it woulda changed anything. she practically told Tom in the schoolhouse that whatever he thought about the two of them may not have been mutual on her part. but she knew he would save stoddard's life because she knew what kind of man tom was...still, she expected an awful lot from Tom Doniphon knowing how he felt about her.

I think the scene with linc appleyard and her driving out to Tom's old place was meant to signify guilt and some degree of remorse about the short end of the stick she dealt Tom...

Good!

because grumpy ford is lucky wayne was willing to do the film like that for 'em.

:D

 

Image result for john wayne and vera miles

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11 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

she woulda blamed Doniphon in any event because she woulda blamed him for not saving stoddard's life...doan forget, before the street encounter she had sent pompey to find Tom which he apparently did. she knew Tom would save his life simply because she woulda been asking him to not that it woulda changed anything. she practically told Tom in the schoolhouse that whatever he thought about the two of them may not have been mutual on her part. but she knew he would save stoddard's life because she knew what kind of man tom was...still, she expected an awful lot from Tom Doniphon knowing how he felt about her.

I think the scene with linc appleyard and her driving out to Tom's old place was meant to signify guilt and some degree of remorse about the short end of the stick she dealt Tom...

Good!

because grumpy ford is lucky wayne was willing to do the film like that for 'em.

:D

 

 

Tom just wasn't good enough for Hallie after she meet an intelligent, educated man like Ransom.    All of that relates to the theme of the entire film about how the west was changing.   Hallie wanted to be part of the 'new west';  a civilized society under the rule of law instead of the old-west, where violence and a gun was the standard.     

One scene that points this out is the scene where Ransom and Hallie are teaching people how to read and write.   The look on Tom's face when he enters says it all 'what a waste of time!'.   Tom wasn't going to mature and Hallie wasn't going to be with such a man when she realized there was another way to live.    

This concept is again reinforced at the end in the discussion on the train.    They can now return to the area because it is now fully civilized.   

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2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Tom just wasn't good enough for Hallie after she meet an intelligent, educated man like Ransom.    All of that relates to the theme of the entire film about how the west was changing.   Hallie wanted to be part of the 'new west';  a civilized society under the rule of law instead of the old-west, where violence and a gun was the standard.     

One scene that points this out is the scene where Ransom and Hallie are teaching people how to read and write.   The look on Tom's face when he enters says it all 'what a waste of time!'.   Tom wasn't going to mature and Hallie wasn't going to be with such a man when she realized there was another way to live.    

This concept is again reinforced at the end in the discussion on the train.    They can now return to the area because it is now fully civilized.   

I hafta agree with ya there, pilgrim.....but I still think Hallie treated Tom mighty shabbily.

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1 hour ago, NipkowDisc said:

I doan think viewers really like it when a woman short changes a man. you see the same thing on mash when hot lips throws frank over for someone else. women should be faithful to a man even if men aren't.

A man should be faithful to his gal too. There shouldn't be any double standards. I think it's a bunch of hogwash to think that a man can cheat on his wife/gal as much as he likes while the woman is expected to be the 'perfect' mate in the relationship. Both parties need to be committed to the relationship or get out of it and move on.

I also don't think using the Hot Lips/Frank from M.A.S.H. is much of an example. Frank was a married man and should been honoring his marriage vows. Hot Lips saw that he was never going to leave his wife, so she went and found herself someone else who was NOT married.

Hallie and Doniphon weren't engaged, if I recall. He took it for granted that she would always be his gal no matter what. Do I think she regretted choosing Stoddard over Doniphon in the long run, probably not, I just don't think she and Doniphon were meant to be. If it hadn't been Stoddard it would have been some else down the line as jamesjazzguit pointed out.

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He also wrote Only Love Can Break a Heart and 24 Hours from Tulsa with Hal David for Gene Pitney.

And a really nice hit for Bobby Vee called Be True to Yourself.

 I think their earliest hit was one in 1957 for Perry Como called Magic Moments.

And Burt wrote a Top 40 hit for Andy Williams called Don't You Believe It with another collaborator.

6 hours ago, allthumbs said:

before Dionne, Burt wrote Any Day Now which was recorded by Chuck Jackson (Jesse's brother) and Make It Easy On Yourself by Jerry Butler. Both were done about the time Valance came out. btw, earlier Burt was the musical director for Marlene Dietrich (!) on tour prior to any of this.

back to the topic. isn't the big payoff line about printing the legend misstated. shouldn't it be more like, "When the legend disagrees with the facts, print the legend."  

 

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2 hours ago, NipkowDisc said:

I hafta agree with ya there, pilgrim.....but I still think Hallie treated Tom mighty shabbily.

Have you seen the Wayne \ Russell film Angel and the Badman? 

If Tom had changed like Quirt did in that film,  maybe Hallie would have decided he was her type of man.

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6 hours ago, TheCid said:

I was watching an episode of Shenandoah this morning where he is in an almost ghost town.  However, he is able to order a steak at the hotel.  How did they keep the steaks fresh enough to actually eat in the West?

Don't they just go out back and shoot a cow?

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8 hours ago, NipkowDisc said:

 Tom Doniphon losing Hallie has always bothered me. she shoulda come to know what a heelette she was for breaking Tom's heart. maybe that's why he saved stoddard's life...so there would be know doubt in Hallie's mind that she broke the heart of a man who loved her.

attaboy Tom! you showed her.

 

 

All's fair in love, and nothing's fair in love.  If you don't love someone, you don't love them, that's it.

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4 minutes ago, slaytonf said:

All's fair in love, and nothing's fair in love.  If you don't love someone, you don't love them, that's it.

Absolutely right. I would also apply to this for The Roaring Twenties. I know a lot of viewers who rip into Jean (Priscilla Lane) for  (SPOILER ALERT) choosing Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn) over Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney). But Jean never felt as strongly for Eddie as he did for her....the heart wants what the heart wants and she wanted Lloyd not Eddie.

Same thing here in Liberty Valance....in the end Hallie wanted and chose Stoddard, not Tom Doniphon because it was her choice to make.

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The movie sure provides a lot of opportunity for discussion.  Everyone who's posted has their own take, and you know, I think they've all got a point!  Maybe Ford built in that ambiguity on purpose.  Anyway, nobody ends up happy, I think.  Truly an ill wind, what's known among philosophers as a bummer.  It makes me think Ford regretted the civilizing of the West, that he wanted it to stay open range, where he and John Wayne could play Freedom and rule with a rifle.  Strange for a man so ruled by ritual and ceremony.  But maybe because of that he need a playground to runaroundin.

Anyway, Doniphon had his chance.  He was too complacent (perhaps a little rightly) before Stoddard showed up, and not alert enough when he did.  He was realistic enough to know he'd lost Hallie, but not wise enough to realize he has no one to blame but himself.  If he'd gone out and married the woman, and not played around like he did, even if she'd felt an attraction for Stoddard, it would have been to late for them.

 

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Remember that Doniphon could have had both Hallie and the political career that goes to Stoddard. All he needed to do was step up and say that he wanted them. Doniphon refuses to tell everyone he shot Valance, refuses to let Hallie know how much he cares for her, and refuses to go after a political career.

My favorite scene is Hallie and Stoddard returning to Shinbone on the train, each polite to the other, and we see that the marriage has become a matter of duty, politeness, and civilized behavior, not actual love. The subtle performances of Vera Miles and James Stewart in that scene are the polar opposite of the convention scene, where Ford lets his supporting cast ham it up, as is not uncommon in Ford films.

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8 hours ago, kingrat said:

Remember that Doniphon could have had both Hallie and the political career that goes to Stoddard. All he needed to do was step up and say that he wanted them. Doniphon refuses to tell everyone he shot Valance, refuses to let Hallie know how much he cares for her, and refuses to go after a political career.

 

How could he? He bushwacked Valance from the dark, even if it was to save Stoddard's life.

I always figured that a part of Doniphon's emotional decline afterward (although we don't see much of it) was guilt because of the manner in which he killed Valance, even though Valance deserved a lot of killing.

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