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Moorman

Shane (1953)

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A little background.  The folks over at The Sergio Leone Forum that are familiar with me know I only started getting into the classic Westerns about a two years ago and the classic Hollywood and Noirs about a year and half ago.  I've always loved Westerns but beyond the Leone films and other a few others, never made it a hobby.  Once I got going I started bing watching to catch up so some of the films.  I would TRY and watch and would either be half asleep or doing something else. 

My first viewing of Shane was during this period.  I HATED it the first time around because I believe I was half asleep, lol.  There are a few others that got this treatment.  I got a chance to view the film again a couple weeks ago and this time I saw what I missed the first time.  THIS is a GREAT FILM.  I will start with the selection of actors and actresses.  The selection of Alan Ladd as Shane,  Van Heflin as Starrett, Jack Palance as Wilson, Ben Johnson as Calloway, Jean Arthur as Mrs. Starrett, Elisha Cook Jr. as Torrey and Brandon DeWilde as Joey Starrett is a example of excellent casting.  The others were just as good but that list is long, lol.   Montgomery Cliff was the original choice for Shane but was unavailable.  It worked out anyway.

The cinematography was gorgeous also.  It was the first film to be filmed in "flat " widescreen.  Though shot at a standard of 1.37:1 aspect ration, Paramount utilized a newly cut aperture made just for the film and a wide angle lens.  Using this technology Paramount was able to project the image to a aspect of 1.66:1 in movie theatres.  The long and medium shots used during filming combined with the new technology allowed the cropping of the film to the aspect shown in the theatres without compromising the image quality.

Overall its a great film.  I saw elements in the plot that later films like " Pale Rider " employed to great effect.  The one thing that stood out in this film that changed the game in Westerns is the violence of the gun play.  Peckinpah said the gunfights in this film changed the genre.  ( He agrees with me that the director of " The Magnificent 7 " missed the memo).  The Wild Bunch took these elements to the highest level.  Shane is a great film and I rank it a 9 out of 10...

 

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Probably George Stevens could have made it work with most anyone but by design or accident that casting was right. Ladd was only 7 years older than Clift but seems older. (To me this helps the underlying feelings between Shane and Marian.).  Jean, as much as  I love her, was probably closest to being miscast because of her age relative to the others. A big name cast may have not had the same effect. 

Use of the landscape, cinematography, and the music all help to make it a pretty poweful film.

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