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Western Movie Rambles


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I thought Larkin was worse than any of them. He had the power to stop his men, but did not, because he was trapped by their image of him. That image wasn't even real anymore. He basically said to everyone in town "You can't" .... "You can't stop us, you can't make a better life, you can't do what you want to do." But then, it all came around exactly as Evelyn said - look at what happened to him, simply because Jimmy Stewart was finally forced to say "I CAN"....to fight for his town and himself and the memory of Arthur and especially for his kids.

 

Larkin was forced into the same role he put everyone else in...of watching helplessly as his men were murdered, and being the last one to do something about it. He was foolish to believe his own power mantra of "you can't" had really stuck with the townspeople.

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*MissG said -*

 

*Dean Jagger (boy was his character the king of all defeatists! He had more 'scuses than...)*

 

He did but he wasn't wrong about the town. As I recall his speech he had the town pegged. Though he was right and knew what would happen and had to be done he still couldn't muster the will to do it. This speaks for the town. (For what was shown they seemed mostly older people.)

 

*Sir Francis said -*

 

*But I suppose we needed to fear and hate the gang and that had to come from the punks, not Larkin.*

 

That is the danger when the leader of a gang is in a different world than the gang. Part of me wonders why he would be with a bunch of creeps like those guys. Larkin is clearly a superior intellect and even has a different set of values. He just doesn't have the will to control the guys. He is one of those characters that would be easy to like because he doesn't participate in the thuggish behavior. He keeps himself separate but he keeps himself boss by being separate but letting them have their way. It helps, I guess, if the gang never really grows up.

 

imdb only shows two "Gunsmoke" episodes for Lockwood. Best showed up everywhere in the late 50s and 60s.

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Howdy, Denver -- I thought Larkin was worse than any of them. He had the power to stop his men, but did not,

 

Ultimately, you are right. In fact, he allowed his gang to push him into the wake. I don't think he really wanted to do that. But since he was challenged with "it's how we always do it," he didn't fight it. For if he did, it would show he's changing, which, in his mind, would be a sign of weakness. He would be "like the rest," as he put it.

 

because he was trapped by their image of him.

 

Ooooohhh, I like that! You're very right. He really is living up to an image, including his own image of himself.

 

That image wasn't even real anymore.

 

I agree. He's basically a ghost, like most in Firecreek.

 

He basically said to everyone in town "You can't" .... "You can't stop us, you can't make a better life, you can't do what you want to do." But then, it all came around exactly as Evelyn said - look at what happened to him, simply because Jimmy Stewart was finally forced to say "I CAN"....to fight for his town and himself and the memory of Arthur and especially for his kids.

 

Right. As Clore brought up earlier, this was Ranse standing up to Valance. No one else stood up to Valance, told him "enough is enough." Ranse took the challenge. He could have said, "no, it'll pass." Once one person stands up, it usually triggers another and another to do so. They provide them with the initiative, the strength and courage. Evelyn was "pushed" into action by Johnny. It's the same with Amy in High Noon.

 

Howdy, Cowboy Chris -- That is the danger when the leader of a gang is in a different world than the gang. Part of me wonders why he would be with a bunch of creeps like those guys. Larkin is clearly a superior intellect and even has a different set of values. He just doesn't have the will to control the guys. He is one of those characters that would be easy to like because he doesn't participate in the thuggish behavior. He keeps himself separate but he keeps himself boss by being separate but letting them have their way. It helps, I guess, if the gang never really grows up.

 

That was nicely put, Movieman. I see it as "white collar" and "blue collar." Larkin is the boss and he has his lackeys to do the dirty work. He needs them to be dumber than him so they respect and even fear him. They need the "job." It's also very "father" and "son." This seems to be prevalent in westerns.

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> Right. As Clore brought up earlier, this was Ranse standing up to Valance. No one else stood up to Valance, told him "enough is enough." Ranse took the challenge. He could have said, "no, it'll pass." Once one person stands up, it usually triggers another and another to do so. They provide them with the initiative, the strength and courage. Evelyn was "pushed" into action by Johnny. It's the same with Amy in High Noon.

>

 

Bad example. Ranse never provided anyone with initiative, strength or courage. He took it from others and he was an opportunist who went from one minute thinking about jailing Valance to a whole life time thinking of the name he'd make for himself and being drugged by the power he held over the 'dumber' people in Shinbone he lorded over in such a contemptuous fashion. Ranse is the parallel of Colonel Thursday...yes, he effected history and the taming of the west...by means that when investigated turn out to be very dishonorable, contrary to the myth. You believe in the mythical Ranse, not the reality. Johnny is a much more honorable man than Ranse ever dreamed of being.

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The movie reminded me more of Shane than High Noon. Only in this Shane, Van Heflin (Jimmy Stewart) had to stand up and fight the bad guys by himself. No one is coming to rescue you. Jimmy was lucky that he was smart. I could see a lesser man totally failing.... in fact, the boys had probably cut a swath right through dozens of towns like Firecreek already. But the way he trapped them and lured them was super. He would have made a better bandit than Larkin. :)

 

The Ranse Stoddard comparison works well. I actually LOVED Jimmy Stewart in this one. It's been a while since I felt that way, and I really thought he did a great job showing how weak he had become by choosing to live in a place where he wouldn't have to compete with anyone. He walked a fine line here and did a great job without being overly weak or overly screechy when the time came to stand up.

 

Boy, did this movie ever hit home, terribly. You know what I mean. :) I've always been like Jimmy. I never thought competition was a good thing, but I realize that it was mostly an excuse not to try. I didn't (don't) want to be beaten.

 

THAT is also what Larkin turns out to be all about, even moreso than anyone else. He doesn't want to be beaten, lose face. How dumb to keep going in that direction only because it's the way you are going. Imagine if he had turned on those pitiful idiots he was with, and helped Jimmy round them up and put them in jail. What a big man he would have been. It would have been easy for him and a turning point for him and the town. But he just sat there and watched, knowing it was all wrong. And his NOT saying anything was a tacit approval of his boys' actions. I see that ALL the time with dads and it's awful. He GAVE them all his power when he let them do anything they wanted to. So even if he had stepped in that late, there most likely would have been a confrontation.

 

Larkin had the lamest excuse of all. Jimmy really did have other things going on, but Larkin didn't. Inertia took over his actions and he almost enjoyed it. He actually thought he was leading, but he was just exploiting his men's actions. That is far from leading and in fact it seems to me like a really snaky thing to do.

 

Jimmy wanted to do the right thing - you don't lock a man up for being different from you. But when the rape happened, he somehow backed off out of fear of doing the wrong thing and fear of conftrontation. Then he gave the benefit of the doubt to the outlaws rather than to Arthur and Barbara Luna. THAT was his mistake, but he corrected it, finally.

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Wow. I don't see Ranse that way at all, MissG. I think he started out with a firm and good motive and events overtook him which he then regretted taking advantage of all his life.

 

He did stand up against Liberty. Foolishly, yes. But he was not a coward. And he did provide people with courage - look at Mr. Peabody. The only thing that went wrong was that Ranse ended up living because Tom could not bear having a dead martyr for Hallie to love more than him. At that point, Ranse became the opportunist.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Apr 15, 2010 11:17 AM

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Not that Ranse's good intentions weren't deluded and a bit self serving, but I do believe the one good thing he did for Shinbone was to show that someone had to stand up against Liberty and his gang. Had he died, I think Shinbone would have gone back into the oblivion it was in before he came, just like Firecreek.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Apr 15, 2010 11:15 AM

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Apr 15, 2010 11:32 AM

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The funny thing about this thread is that all roads lead to John Ford. Everything comes back to "The Searchers." "My Darling Clementine" and "Liberty Valance."

 

It helps that two of its stars appear in two of those mentioned movies but I still think it true about most westerns we discuss. And Ben is not in any of the three. Too bad.

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> {quote:title=movieman1957 wrote:}{quote}

> The funny thing about this thread is that all roads lead to John Ford. Everything comes back to "The Searchers." "My Darling Clementine" and "Liberty Valance."

 

It's twue, it's twue!

 

> It helps that two of its stars appear in two of those mentioned movies but I still think it true about most westerns we discuss. And Ben is not in any of the three. Too bad.

 

Waaaah!

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It always comes back to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and

boy howdy, will I make everyone sick with my loooooooooooooooong

winded accounting of it, ha haaaaa!! :)

 

> {quote:title=JackFavell wrote:}{quote}

> Wow. I don't see Ranse that way at all, MissG. I think he started out with a firm and good motive and events overtook him which he then regretted taking advantage of all his life.

>

 

 

I know I diverge with most of creation on the opinion of Ranse, and here I'm like Kathy

when she said she was alone on a mountaintop. :D I fully realize my emotional

response to Ranse is way out of line. However, I am happy to be alone on the mountain top

because I believe I can justify my reservations about his character---to myself, if not

to anyone else. :P

 

I like him as much as anyone else does when he first shows up in Shinbone,

a poor traveler beaten for "defending a woman" (Hallie's first impression is thinking of him

as a chivalrous man of action, not caring or noticing what means more to him---his status

as a civilized, educated "attorney-at-law"). But I think Ford is setting things up just to pull

the rug out, or rather to show where the myth began. It was being formed before Ranse

ever stepped out on the street to meet Liberty. Because when we see a nice boy

like Mr Smith...I mean Jimmy Stewart, and see the books and the decent behavior,

we are naturally going to form certain preconceptions about his character. Since

Ford likes to monkey with preconceptions, I'm already suspicious, especially when

Ranse shows little gratitude for having been saved by Tom, he's so focused on

getting even with Liberty Valance (this is straight from the novel, by the way; Ford

does not seem to have changed this introduction of Ranse's character, except maybe to play

on Stewart's ingrained persona with the audience).

 

I do believe that Ford wants us to believe Ranse didn't start out intentionally meaning any

harm to anyone---it's not going to be that simple. Ford presents us with people acting out

who they are inside, and Ranse is just as "true" to his way of thinking about things as Tom

is to his. It's up to the audience to decide which way has more meaning and human value.

There's no question Ranse's way has material and economic value, as well as superficial

value via the democratic "leveling" of society that education is supposed to provide. But

Ford's depiction of the "results" of this way of life is ambivalent---Ranse's risen status and his

empty relationship with Hallie is externalized by the scrubbed yet somehow unfriendly, impersonal

and "improved" Shinbone---these fruitages are questionable, not unqualified.

 

None of this---the vapidity of "civilization" any more than the failure of his marriage, is

exactly a "fault" of Ranse's...Ford doesn't "blame" anyone, he just depicts men and

women making choices based on what kind of people they are. And there are basically

two kinds of world view in the movie. The old, western and traditional way, and the progressive,

"Eastern" way. Ranse was not immoral or indecent, but he was ambitious and superficial.

Tom and the other westerners were rude, crude and violent, but true and unhesitating toward

certain shared values than had nothing to do with benefitting self, but were for the

good of others and survival of the community.

 

I do not think Ranse a physical coward, either, he's just not used to defending his ideas in

any other way but with words. He clearly liked Peabody and admired him, as one man

of words to another. Peabody was after all, the only truly educated man in town who shared Ranse's sense of values. Peabody, however, questioned the power of his own press until Ranse appeared and the one real unqualified good that Ranse did, in my estimation, was his influence on restoring Peabody's self respect. Interestingly, though, Peabody was the one, the

man of the press, the man of letters, who gave Ranse a gun in the first place. He was

more realistic about what had to be done than Ranse because he'd lived out west long

enough to learn. Ranse is all about teaching, little about learning.

 

I just believe Ranse was depicted as being who he was, from the beginning, I don't believe he ever changed. He had, by his own admission, come west for opportunity, just like the immigrants he's rather scornful of in Shinbone. His first words about his arrival is the Horace Greely quote "Go west, young man, and seek fame and fortune". There's nothing wrong with that, but it does point out his motives for being there at all were certainly no higher than anyone else's. Ranse ends (and begins) the movie as an old, pompous, empty blowhard because from the start, he only valued things outside of a man that said he was worth something: a diploma, a gold watch, books written by others, the ideas of others imposed through education and of course, status. These are the things society today still values, (though money trumps them all, now). A man like that is going to make the kind of choices and behave the way that Ranse did. It doesn't make him wicked; it just is what it is, I believe Ford is saying. He's also saying "take care, investigate these values, are they really doing good for all?" I think Ford is fair in showing two equals representing two opposing ways of life, but ultimately, the director is critical of the "new values" as being more superficial and destructive of communal harmony.

 

Some have said Tom was selfish because he only thought about his ranch and his own interests. But Tom never sought to try and run other people's lives the way he may seem to. He's looked to for protection by others...why? Because he imposed himself or because he's competent? He is the way he is because he can survive and maybe prosper that way, but he doesn't expect anyone else to follow him around and agree with him. "Out here a man settles his own problems." This is Tom's only fault, but it's a result of a survivalist way of life.

 

Tom's (and the whole western way of life) is diametrically opposed to how Ranse views the world. Tom comes to respect Ranse not because he agrees with his ideas, but because the man Ranse is, is just as true to those ideas as he is. Tom shows more flexibility in dealing with people than Ranse, who was always about doing things HIS way and imposing his ideas on others. Ranse can't accept things, he has to change them. That can be good. Tom's way of letting people live as they choose, can be bad if it means letting Liberty Valance's live as he chose. Tom can do that because he knows he's able to match Liberty, whereas the others in the community cannot. Tom is somewhat like Larkin in this respect. So Ranse is _right_ that law HAS to come to protect those others. But Ranse resisted ever learning the wisdom of ways that had made settlement of the west possible. He felt these were primitive and inferior. He was somewhat justified in this because their time was passing, and Ford doesn't undercut that---but he also makes it clear by how Ranse is depicted when expressing his ideas that he was separate and held himself above those he was supposedly "saving". He's the myopic religious fanatic, his "faith" being the word of law.

 

How does Ranse shows all this to me? By how contemptuous he acts toward virtually all things inherently different or "western". He places no value whatsoever on the things the community values. Tom is contemptuous, too, of Ranse's tenderfoot ways, but he soon revises that opinion. Ranse never changes his opinion about Shinbone. And Ranse constantly puts Hallie down, even when he's supposedly helping and encouraging her there is the implication she's valueless unless she DOES change. Another thing, Ford never depicts Ranse as an integrated member of the community unless it's in a leadership role---he's always photographed behind a desk, in back with the dishes, behind a counter or, by contrast, slinking away from something more meaningful, or requiring responsibility.

 

I think Ranse never really cared for Shinbone as a community or it's people which is supported by

the fact that he is completely oblivious to what happened in all the years since he left. Why even

his inlaws seem to have disappeared altogether. I don't blame any of this on events but on his

inherent myopia, his basic character---which was a direct result of how he was raised in the East. Success did not change his whole worldview and personality, he was always a man who valued titles and the indicators of formal, civilized society (education vs. character, status vs. sacrifice and hard work).

 

I admit part of my point of view comes from the novel, where his character is much more

craven and repulsive, but he was also underprivileged compared to Ford's vision of the character (the son of prosperous parents and given quite a good start in life). Ford further softens him, as I suggested above, by making it clear his intentions are just as normal and unqualified as Doniphon's.

 

 

> He did stand up against Liberty. Foolishly, yes. But he was not a coward. And he did provide people with courage - look at Mr. Peabody. The only thing that went wrong was that Ranse ended up living because Tom could not bear having a dead martyr for Hallie to love more than him. At that point, Ranse became the opportunist.

>

 

I think Ranse did many things wrong but not out of malice, or cowardice but out of who he was.

He was an Easterner with formal education who could only see that the right way was the way

he was raised and taught and anything different than that had to be eradicated. It

is the same point of view that the whole society came to accept. And which Ford though

depicting it, at the same time questions. Because look how it ended up. Character went

to perdition while status and economic power robbed common people of the individual determination that it seemed to promise. Shinbone seems dead and shows little signs

of any life, clean and scrubbed up as it is in the opening and closing sequences. Before,

dirty and scurvy as it was it was _alive_. Getting back to our topic, this is TOTALLy opposite

to how Firecreek is presented, by the way, and just goes to show how differently one

director sees the world and history, from another.

 

As for Tom's motives, they also were purely born out of who he was...he would never take a woman

who didn't love him and he'd do anything in his power...without her needing to ever know it,

to ensure her happiness. It just wouldn't occur to him to do or be anything different. He places less value on his own happiness than on Hallie's. Her happiness is all to him. I believe it is nothing to Ranse. Maybe both are myopic characters, but Tom's is self sacrificing while Ranse is always pushed by forces outside of self to do the "right thing".

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Great writing about Liberty Valance, MissG. Weirdly, I find LV a much more interesting film to think about than to watch, but that's another discussion. I really liked Firecreek and wanted to mention a couple of points there.

 

Throughout the film we can see Fonda deciding how much leeway to give his gang. They're pretty well under his control, but he knows they could turn against him if he presses too hard. The white collar/blue collar distinction is a good one. He would exercise more control over them during the church and wake scenes except that he's having a bullet removed and then wants to spend more time with Inger Stevens. Understandable, that.

 

I also like the church scene where Stewart and the rest of the community must decide how to handle the gang, who have weapons when the churchgoers don't. You can see parallels here to dealing with neighborhood gangs or bullies. The first approach Stewart tries is to defuse the situation through a kind of easygoing humor. trying to jolly Elam out of his angry mood. This isn't a bad beginning, but it doesn't work. Then you're faced with the question of how strongly to stand up to the gang, when and how. There's a clear worst case scenario where the town and everyone in it get destroyed. Isn't a little appeasement until morning the way to go? If not, what's the alternative? You might Firecreek as developing a more realistic or commonplace situation than High Noon.

 

Alfred Newman's music for Firecreek is excellent. For instance, the very opening of the film has dissonant chords with the five gang members spread across the screen, a very imaginative opening from director and composer. The guitar theme for the first scene between Fonda and Stevens is lovely.

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> {quote:title=movieman1957 wrote:}{quote}

> You've been thinking about this, huh? :)

 

Noooo...obsessing is more like it! :D

 

(Shhhhhh....don't mention The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or MissG

will harangue us with another interminable monologue...). If it tortures

FrankGrimes, what do I care?! :P:P

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The church scene is a good one. It really gives each group a chance to size up the other. As you say, how far will the townspeople go to keep the peace? The bad guys have, even with the comparatively calm behavior, have come into the most sacred place/gathering in town for the simple purpose of disrupting it. I don't think the intent is anymore than to be an annoyance and disrespectful in the extreme. Even if Larkin knew about it, like everything else, he wouldn't be part of it but wouldn't stop it either.

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> {quote:title=MissGoddess wrote:}{quote}

> It always comes back to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and

> boy howdy, will I make everyone sick with my loooooooooooooooong

> winded accounting of it, ha haaaaa!! :)

 

I never get sick of MWSLV! Kingrat is kind of right, it is maybe even more fun to think about than to watch. But it's plenty fun to watch.

 

> I know I diverge with most of creation on the opinion of Ranse, and here I'm like Kathy

> when she said she was alone on a mountaintop. :D I fully realize my emotional

> response to Ranse is way out of line. However, I am happy to be alone on the mountain top

> because I believe I can justify my reservations about his character---to myself, if not

> to anyone else. :P

 

First of all, let me say that what you wrote was incredible! I do see your point, I think my path of divergence is in the intensity of feeling about Ranse and his motives and the fate of Shinbone, not about the basic truths you unfold here in your post. Just as the old and traditional ways of Tom Donovan (live and let live) gave rise to a Liberty Valance, so the new and improved ways of Ransom Stoddard gave rise to an antiseptic and dead town. Maybe being terrorized is a good thing - it gets your blood pumping in a way that safety never can.

 

> I like him as much as anyone else does when he first shows up in Shinbone,

> a poor traveler beaten for "defending a woman" (Hallie's first impression is thinking of him

> as a chivalrous man of action, not caring or noticing what means more to him---his status

> as a civilized, educated "attorney-at-law"). But I think Ford is setting things up just to pull

> the rug out, or rather to show where the myth began. It was being formed before Ranse

> ever stepped out on the street to meet Liberty. Because when we see a nice boy

> like Mr Smith...I mean Jimmy Stewart, and see the books and the decent behavior,

> we are naturally going to form certain preconceptions about his character. Since

> Ford likes to monkey with preconceptions, I'm already suspicious, especially when

> Ranse shows little gratitude for having been saved by Tom, he's so focused on

> getting even with Liberty Valance (this is straight from the novel, by the way; Ford

> does not seem to have changed this introduction of Ranse's character, except maybe to play

> on Stewart's ingrained persona with the audience).

 

Yes, this I can agree with - Ranse is really **** off about his BOOKS.

 

> I do believe that Ford wants us to believe Ranse didn't start out intentionally meaning any

> harm to anyone---it's not going to be that simple. Ford presents us with people acting out

> who they are inside, and Ranse is just as "true" to his way of thinking about things as Tom

> is to his. It's up to the audience to decide which way has more meaning and human value.

> There's no question Ranse's way has material and economic value, as well as superficial

> value via the democratic "leveling" of society that education is supposed to provide. But

> Ford's depiction of the "results" of this way of life is ambivalent---Ranse's risen status and his

> empty relationship with Hallie is externalized by the scrubbed yet somehow unfriendly, impersonal

> and "improved" Shinbone---these fruitages are questionable, not unqualified.

 

Again, I agree, Ford's "duality" that we discussed or at least read about - presenting two sides at the same time. It's only fair to say that Ranse's way of life has led to emptiness for a lot of people.

 

> None of this---the vapidity of "civilization" any more than the failure of his marriage, is

> exactly a "fault" of Ranse's...Ford doesn't "blame" anyone, he just depicts men and

> women making choices based on what kind of people they are. And there are basically

> two kinds of world view in the movie. The old, western and traditional way, and the progressive,

> "Eastern" way. Ranse was not immoral or indecent, but he was ambitious and superficial.

> Tom and the other westerners were rude, crude and violent, but true and unhesitating toward

> certain shared values than had nothing to do with benefitting self, but were for the

> good of others and survival of the community.

 

Perhaps superficial, but I think that is an overstatement. I think Ranse really thought that bringing education would help folks like Hallie, Pompeii, and the rest of the town. It is only natural for people to want others to enjoy what they enjoy - literature, etc.

 

And as for helping the town, was Tom helping the town by allowing Liberty Valance to roam wild in the streets? Or leaving him to to beat strangers to death on the edge of town? He could have shot him at the beginning of the film, sparing the town a lot of agony. Why did he shoot him? Because Ranse made it imperative to do so. Yes, his motives were to help someone else, but why did he not kill Liberty for beating up and trying to kill Ranse the first time? Or when he tried to kill Mr. Peabody? or for wrecking the town? No, he did it because it affected his relationship with HALLIE. That is not really as altruistic as it seems.

 

> I do not think Ranse a physical coward, either, he's just not used to defending his ideas in

> any other way but with words. He clearly liked Peabody and admired him, as one man

> of words to another. Peabody was after all, the only truly educated man in town who shared Ranse's sense of values. Peabody, however, questioned the power of his own press until Ranse appeared and the one real unqualified good that Ranse did, in my estimation, was his influence on restoring Peabody's self respect. Interestingly, though, Peabody was the one, the

> man of the press, the man of letters, who gave Ranse a gun in the first place. He was

> more realistic about what had to be done than Ranse because he'd lived out west long

> enough to learn. Ranse is all about teaching, little about learning.

 

Ranse is exactly like his character in Firecreek - he has never had to stand up for anything physically, and that has translated into fine ideals about peaceful living and guns. What make these ideals so wrong to aspire to? Are they excuses for inaction? If so, then that is exactly the same scenario that shows up in Firecreek.

 

In a perfect world, we could have Ranse's ideal society of peace and lawfulness, mixed with Tom's liveliness and willingness to sacrifice for the community. But in Ford's film one drives the other out. Each character has good and bad within - the yin and the yang, I don't see one as being necessarily better than the other.

 

What are Tom's excuses for not taking action?

 

> I just believe Ranse was depicted as being who he was, from the beginning, I don't believe he ever changed. He had, by his own admission, come west for opportunity, just like the immigrants he's rather scornful of in Shinbone. His first words about his arrival is the Horace Greely quote "Go west, young man, and seek fame and fortune". There's nothing wrong with that, but it does point out his motives for being there at all were certainly no higher than anyone else's. Ranse ends (and begins) the movie as an old, pompous, empty blowhard because from the start, he only valued things outside of a man that said he was worth something: a diploma, a gold watch, books written by others, the ideas of others imposed through education and of course, status. These are the things society today still values, (though money trumps them all, now). A man like that is going to make the kind of choices and behave the way that Ranse did. It doesn't make him wicked; it just is what it is, I believe Ford is saying. He's also saying "take care, investigate these values, are they really doing good for all?" I think Ford is fair in showing two equals representing two opposing ways of life, but ultimately, the director is critical of the "new values" as being more superficial and destructive of communal harmony.

 

I can agree about this except that we do not value education anymore. :)

 

> Some have said Tom was selfish because he only thought about his ranch and his own interests. But Tom never sought to try and run other people's lives the way he may seem to. He's looked to for protection by others...why? Because he imposed himself or because he's competent? He is the way he is because he can survive and maybe prosper that way, but he doesn't expect anyone else to follow him around and agree with him. "Out here a man settles his own problems." This is Tom's only fault, but it's a result of a survivalist way of life.

 

but you don't see it as a fault!

 

> Tom's (and the whole western way of life) is diametrically opposed to how Ranse views the world. Tom comes to respect Ranse not because he agrees with his ideas, but because the man Ranse is, is just as true to those ideas as he is. Tom shows more flexibility in dealing with people than Ranse, who was always about doing things HIS way and imposing his ideas on others. Ranse can't accept things, he has to change them. That can be good. Tom's way of letting people live as they choose, can be bad if it means letting Liberty Valance's live as he chose. Tom can do that because he knows he's able to match Liberty, whereas the others in the community cannot. Tom is somewhat like Larkin in this respect. So Ranse is _right_ that law HAS to come to protect those others. But Ranse resisted ever learning the wisdom of ways that had made settlement of the west possible. He felt these were primitive and inferior. He was somewhat justified in this because their time was passing, and Ford doesn't undercut that---but he also makes it clear by how Ranse is depicted when expressing his ideas that he was separate and held himself above those he was supposedly "saving". He's the myopic religious fanatic, his "faith" being the word of law.

 

This is really brilliant.

 

> How does Ranse shows all this to me? By how contemptuous he acts toward virtually all things inherently different or "western". He places no value whatsoever on the things the community values. Tom is contemptuous, too, of Ranse's tenderfoot ways, but he soon revises that opinion. Ranse never changes his opinion about Shinbone. And Ranse constantly puts Hallie down, even when he's supposedly helping and encouraging her there is the implication she's valueless unless she DOES change. Another thing, Ford never depicts Ranse as an integrated member of the community unless it's in a leadership role---he's always photographed behind a desk, in back with the dishes, behind a counter or, by contrast, slinking away from something more meaningful, or requiring responsibility.

 

When does Tom revise his opinion of Ranse's tenderfoot ways, and why? And when does Ranse slink away? I am really asking, not trying to provoke an argument.

 

> I think Ranse never really cared for Shinbone as a community or it's people which is supported by

> the fact that he is completely oblivious to what happened in all the years since he left. Why even

> his inlaws seem to have disappeared altogether. I don't blame any of this on events but on his

> inherent myopia, his basic character---which was a direct result of how he was raised in the East. Success did not change his whole worldview and personality, he was always a man who valued titles and the indicators of formal, civilized society (education vs. character, status vs. sacrifice and hard work).

 

OK, but what is Ranse doing out there trying to gun down Liberty? Is that not self-sacrifice? And I think dishwashing is hard work.... believe me, if I didn't HAVE to do it, I sure wouldn't!

 

> I think Ranse did many things wrong but not out of malice, or cowardice but out of who he was.

> He was an Easterner with formal education who could only see that the right way was the way

> he was raised and taught and anything different than that had to be eradicated.

 

I don't feel that he was trying to eradicate anything, but to brings something more. Perhaps he was contemptuous of Shinbone, but I think he was contemptuous of the way people let themselves be held hostage by Liberty, and yes, by ignorance. I still see this as altruism on his part in a way.

 

> It

> is the same point of view that the whole society came to accept. And which Ford though

> depicting it, at the same time questions. Because look how it ended up. Character went

> to perdition while status and economic power robbed common people of the individual determination that it seemed to promise. Shinbone seems dead and shows little signs

> of any life, clean and scrubbed up as it is in the opening and closing sequences. Before,

> dirty and scurvy as it was it was _alive_. Getting back to our topic, this is TOTALLy opposite

> to how Firecreek is presented, by the way, and just goes to show how differently one

> director sees the world and history, from another.

 

Yes! I totally agree with that, but they do deal with the same subject.

 

 

> As for Tom's motives, they also were purely born out of who he was...he would never take a woman

> who didn't love him and he'd do anything in his power...without her needing to ever know it,

> to ensure her happiness. It just wouldn't occur to him to do or be anything different. He places less value on his own happiness than on Hallie's. Her happiness is all to him. I believe it is nothing to Ranse. Maybe both are myopic characters, but Tom's is self sacrificing while Ranse is always pushed by forces outside of self to do the "right thing".

 

Fair enough. I think Ranse tries to impose what he thinks will help the community in a myopic way, and Tom tries to help one person because he loves her while letting the rest of the community take care of itself. Which turns out worse? Maybe your right.... Ranse's way makes the town of Shinbone fit for any Easterner, but bloodless.

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> {quote:title=movieman1957 wrote:}{quote}

> The church scene is a good one. It really gives each group a chance to size up the other. As you say, how far will the townspeople go to keep the peace? The bad guys have, even with the comparatively calm behavior, have come into the most sacred place/gathering in town for the simple purpose of disrupting it. I don't think the intent is anymore than to be an annoyance and disrespectful in the extreme. Even if Larkin knew about it, like everything else, he wouldn't be part of it but wouldn't stop it either.

 

One thing I noticed about the bad guys, they always had an excuse for what they did.... "oh, we were just showing the little tyke how to fire a gun" .... "We didn't mean any harm by being drunk and disorderly outside in the streets" "We'll pay five dollars to fix the window".....

 

How do you deal with people who pretend to follow your rules buit stir up trouble anyway? When is it time to realize that they are just no good and have to go?

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>How do you deal with people who pretend to follow your rules buit stir up trouble anyway? When is it time to realize that they are just no good and have to go?

 

When it becomes personal. Arthur's death becomes personal for Johnny. That is the extreme but I think as long as no one is really getting hurt in their mind it is still safe enough not to press it.

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Having too much time on my hands is making a long winded monster

out of me! :D And thank you, Wendy, for making time to respond. I feel

I'm being indulged. :)

 

> First of all, let me say that what you wrote was incredible! I do see your point, I think my path of divergence is in the intensity of feeling about Ranse and his motives and the fate of Shinbone, not about the basic truths you unfold here in your post. Just as the old and traditional ways of Tom Donovan (live and let live) gave rise to a Liberty Valance, so the new and improved ways of Ransom Stoddard gave rise to an antiseptic and dead town. Maybe being terrorized is a good thing - it gets your blood pumping in a way that safety never can.

>

 

HA!! I wouldn't like to endorse terrorism, we have enough of it on the boards and

while it does get my blood pumping, it's also discouraging to....progress. :D So

Ranse is right again! But I don't know what he'd do about this board's difficulties,

he'd rather face Liberty I think.

 

> Perhaps superficial, but I think that is an overstatement. I think Ranse really thought that bringing education would help folks like Hallie, Pompeii, and the rest of the town. It is only natural for people to want others to enjoy what they enjoy - literature, etc.

>

 

I struggle with that, not because I think Ranse was insincere in believing education would help, but because once he got started on it he seemed to change. I don't like his behavior in the classroom too much, or how the adults in class look like obedient children and he is rather lordly. This may be a personalized reaction---I've always loathed classroom environments. I feel like the scene sets up Ranse's relationship toward the community and as a "professor", he just isn't sitting well with me.

 

> And as for helping the town, was Tom helping the town by allowing Liberty Valance to roam wild in the streets? Or leaving him to to beat strangers to death on the edge of town? He could have shot him at the beginning of the film, sparing the town a lot of agony. Why did he shoot him? Because Ranse made it imperative to do so. Yes, his motives were to help someone else, but why did he not kill Liberty for beating up and trying to kill Ranse the first time? Or when he tried to kill Mr. Peabody? or for wrecking the town? No, he did it because it affected his relationship with HALLIE. That is not really as altruistic as it seems.

>

> What are Tom's excuses for not taking action?

>

 

You and MrGrimes are in agreement here and it's where I tend to get mulish and ask why Tom has to do anything because he is a private citizen, not the law. If he were a Marshall who took on a responsibility, then it's his duty to do the job he committed himself to do. So he's basically being called out for not choosing to be the Marshall? He's a rancher and not a lawman...or man of law like Ranse.

 

I guess some see this as a failing in him, but I don't. Ranse wants to make changes, so he puts himself out there and consequently he's going to take on some responsibilities...namely, he's pledged himself to deal with Liberty Valance. No one put that on him, he wants to see Valance punished and his ideas about justice validated. Yet, why does Tom have to be involved? Risk his life for Ranse? That's taking away some of Ranse's own honor for another man to step in and say, "I'll take care of the dirty work for you, since I'm good with a gun and you're not." Tom doesn't shoot Liberty for that reason. No man of the west just steps in another man's business like that. Yet Tom does step in eventually, and yes, his reason then is more personal. Is the personal less "altruistic" than if he shot Liberty to avenge Ranse (which sounds kind of weird) or the town? I don't think so, but that is my personal opinion. I think it went against men's "code" to muscle in where they aren't invited. And Ranse would feel even more humiliated to know another man fought his battle for him, as he does (temporarily) when learns the truth about who shot Liberty.

 

Ranse was saved by Tom, when he found him out on the prairie bloodied and beaten. Ranse was not very grateful about it, partly, I think, because he was so humiliated. No man likes another man to fight his battles. Ranse even acknowleges this in the cafe when he's angry over the one time Tom DOES step in to control the situation. Is Ranse grateful? Is the audience? Are we to admire Tom for stepping in or is Ranse right in wanting to control the situation his way?

 

I get the feeling nothing Tom does is right. If he steps in, he's presumptious and taking on too much like he thinks he owns Shinbone. If he stands back, he's selfish and cowardly.

 

As for the events in town with Mr. Peabody...the beating happened when Tom wasn't around...which is why Hallie had to have Pompey run and find him. It was immediately after Peabody's beating that Ranse went out to meet Liberty, and Tom was there. I do think his shooting Liberty was completely unselfish because in what way did he benefit? Is doing something like that for a woman somehow less important than gunning down Liberty for Shinbone? I think taking care of your own comes before taking care of a town. He implicated his very soul in a murder for a woman who wanted another man protected. I don't know many or any man who would do such a thing. And I will further add that I disagree with Tom's shooting Liberty at all...it was wrong to murder him like that, and foolish to do so. I wish Tom were MORE arrogant, arrogant enough to let the tenderfoot lawyer fight his own battles and selfish enough to maybe knock some sense into Hallie. She was falling for a man who did not exist! Instead, Tom unselfishly looks to make Ranse into the man she thinks she loves. I find that foolish....but again, unselfish.

 

> Ranse is exactly like his character in Firecreek - he has never had to stand up for anything physically, and that has translated into fine ideals about peaceful living and guns. What make these ideals so wrong to aspire to? Are they excuses for inaction? If so, then that is exactly the same scenario that shows up in Firecreek.

>

 

That's an interesting question I hadn't considered...does never having to defend your ideas make you shrink back when they're tested. Well, as a matter of course I think so. That's why I don't blame Ranse for being what he is. He's a product of a softer environment. He never woke up wondering if the livestock froze overnight, or worried about a drought or marauders wiping out his livelihood...he woke up never even knowing where the eggs and bacon came from. But he does know how to criticize Shinbone. And it deserves to be criticized, but I don't think Ranse stopped at constructive criticism because he left Shinbone behind as quick as he could to grab glory...back East, in Washington.

 

> In a perfect world, we could have Ranse's ideal society of peace and lawfulness, mixed with Tom's liveliness and willingness to sacrifice for the community. But in Ford's film one drives the other out. Each character has good and bad within - the yin and the yang, I don't see one as being necessarily better than the other.

>

 

I do see Ranse as showing himself ultimately very inferior because he knowingly builds a reputation and a prosperous career on a lie. Tom created a lie but knowing it would bury him. Both are parties to the lie but which one is to be admired? I don't think there's any question on that point, Ford is quite clear that the facts about "the man who shot Liberty Valance" are sordid, like the facts about Colonel Thursday, but the power of myth over public imagination must have it's sway.

 

 

>

> I can agree about this except that we do not value education anymore. :)

>

 

That is sadly and ironically true.

 

> but you don't see it as a fault!

>

 

No, I don't. I'm one for not messing in other people's lives if it's going to get you killed

unless you've taken some kind of pledge to do so, such as a Marshall does. Nor

do I consider it a failing for Tom to reject his nomination to represent the interests for

Statehood. I'm always against any man going into politics. :D

 

That's my personal opinion, not what I think the movie reflects. I believe the movie lets the audience

make up its own mind about the two "sides" of the issue.

 

> When does Tom revise his opinion of Ranse's tenderfoot ways, and why? And when does Ranse slink away? I am really asking, not trying to provoke an argument.

>

 

Tom puts Ranse forward to finish the work he started...to go and represent Shinbone. He does so with confidence that Ranse is the man for the job, he admires and respects him at that point.

 

And Ranse's body language is often slinky throughout. He seldom stands up straight, he literally slinks out of the political meeting when they bring forward his name. He feels ashamed because they want him because he killed a man. I can understand his feeling but his behavior is craven. Don't go there in the first place if you're going to back down in such a wimpish way. Stand up and tell them you don't want to be valued for a killing but for your brains and ideas. I really despised him because he then without hesitation changed his mind once Tom talked him into it. Doesn't he have any courage of his own convictions? Why is everything Ranse believes based on the thoughts and sacrifices of another? Including the law...a law written by others and taught by others and fought for by others. Ranse is idealistic to start with, but I just think he's ultimately hollow and fills that hollowness by the praise and respect of others. Tom never needed that, he was never an empty man, even though he may have had wrong ideas. At least they were his own ideas that he actually lived by and was willing to sacrifice for someone else's happiness.

 

> OK, but what is Ranse doing out there trying to gun down Liberty? Is that not self-sacrifice? And I think dishwashing is hard work.... believe me, if I didn't HAVE to do it, I sure wouldn't!

>

 

Ranse pledged himself at the beginning to punish Valance. He put himself in the position of getting even or getting justice done. In the book, this is much more pronounced. Every move he makes in the novel is geared toward getting Liberty provoked enough to trap him and kill him. Ford softens this aspect into one of Ranse merely wanting to enforce a more just prosecution of the law, only to find that without the use of force it just isn't going to happen. I guess it is self-sacrificing in the way that any officer of the law is willing to put his life on the line to fulfill his obligations. But it's not the same kind of self-sacrifice as Tom's, who really had no call to step in and commit murder (not self defense) except to please a woman (probably dumb of him, but how glorious!)

 

 

> I don't feel that he was trying to eradicate anything, but to brings something more. Perhaps he was contemptuous of Shinbone, but I think he was contemptuous of the way people let themselves be held hostage by Liberty, and yes, by ignorance. I still see this as altruism on his part in a way.

>

 

You may be right about that, but if I lived in Shinbone, he'd soon learn to take a more respectful tone or he'd be on the first stage back East. I just have no patience for condescension by those who haven't proven themselves. If you've proven yourself, then maybe you have some cause to lord it over others but he's there for the same reason the farmers and other settlers are, only they've done the hard work and he's just a "fresh kid"! I don't know, he just RUBS my fur the wrong way, I'm sorry! :D

 

 

> Fair enough. I think Ranse tries to impose what he thinks will help the community in a myopic way, and Tom tries to help one person because he loves her while letting the rest of the community take care of itself. Which turns out worse? Maybe your right.... Ranse's way makes the town of Shinbone fit for any Easterner, but bloodless.

 

That's the biting irony of the ending. I love how clean Shinbone looks....but I weep over not seeing one familiar, homely face. It looks eerily uninhabited somehow. Eveyrone was out and about and wandering in and loud and all together before...it was full of life and that implies change, too. Irony upon irony is now Shinbone looks stolid...rigid...stuck in a way that will allow for no change and didn't we see that for decades in this country like in the post WWII years? A kind of "smugness" and implied superiority over the rough and crude ways of the past. Ranse to me represents this attitude from the start, and that's the bottom line as to why I hold him in so little account.

 

I apologize for running on and on...it's honestly _not_ to argue with anyone. I respect your views tremendously, Wendy, and don't think it's a matter of who's right or who's wrong (But FrankGrimes is always wrong when he disagrees. That is my unalterable position. :P )

 

But it occurs to me I could have stated my views simply and more mercifully briefly by recalling one simple "symbol" in the film. The *cactus rose.* We know how Tom and Hallie viewed and valued it, we also are shown how Ranse valued it. I think the whole story of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and of my own views on it, lays in the juxtaposition of the different attitudes toward that lowly blossom.

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Having too much time on my hands is making a long winded monster

out of me

 

NOT long winded.. NOR a monster. PERISH the thought.

 

OH girlie. I wish I had time to say more (but sadly for now I am on the "opposite end" of the "too much time" spectrum right now.) I have NO time to even go back and read through all the posts that led up to what you most recently shared... But I do plan to go back later and try to catch up on it all soon.

 

However I thoroughly enjoyed your MWSLV posts.. and just will just say for now how wonderful it is to see you "splurge" a little of your "down time" with us. It's been far too long since I last saw you get a chance to write for us like that. (Ha.. listen to me.. I am so egotisticall... you are writing for "us" ha. But golly girlie... I am glad you are at least willing to SHARE what you write w/ us. Wowsa.) Keep it up, youngun. :-)

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A couple of quick thoughts on this.

 

Does Tom have to do what he did? No. Does he do it for Hallie? (I don't remember if they are far enough into the film to have "that" relationship.) If so is it because Tom won't have her just because Ranse isn't around?

 

Or, is this the chance for Tom to get rid of Valance without the stigma that will now follow Ranse? Tom is a private man and it would not suit him well. It is also the reason he can now send Ranse off to the the statehood convention and him not go.

 

Tom's action could be the supreme gift or it could be the ultimate self serving action.

 

I am not contending that either possibility is right as I am thinking out loud.

 

Edited by: movieman1957 on Apr 15, 2010 6:14 PM

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I agree with Ro-

 

it's great to see you rambling at length again, MissG. It's a real pleasure to read you. I was just saying to my hubby how good your posts are.

 

I only wish that you, Ro, had more time to join in!

 

I don't mean to leave you hanging, but I am stepping out for the evening. I hope to join the conversation again tomorrow. Maybe someone can step in and continue the discussion.... :)

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> {quote:title=movieman1957 wrote:}{quote}

> A couple of quick thoughts on this.

>

> Does Tom have to do what he did? No. Does he do it for Hallie? (I don't remember if they are far enough into the film to have "that" relationship.) If so is it because Tom won't have her just because Ranse isn't around?

>

 

vlcsnap-00037-1.jpg

 

vlcsnap-00038-1.jpg

 

vlcsnap-00039-1.jpg

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>

> I don't mean to leave you hanging, but I am stepping out for the evening. I hope to join the conversation again tomorrow. Maybe someone can step in and continue the discussion.... :)

 

Enjoy your real life, Mrs Johnson, it looks to be a lovely night.

 

I know just who's going to "step in it" next and believe me, I'd rather you,

movieman and Ro were hanging out instead! I'm afraid we haven't got

finished paying for the furniture broken in the last barroom brawl with

Mr. Grimes. :P

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