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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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The Duke really shines in it although in a roundabout way. This western is a perfect example of the script writers roping the wrong steer. Stewart's suppose to come of being the hero but in the end it's The Duke. *("...and that's the way it should be! -"Wild Bill" Donovan (George Brent), The Fighting 69th )* The movie goes Stewart's way right up until Hallie betrays Tom Doniphon. After that it's John Wayne's movie! Audiences don't cotton to women doing that. Granted, that's the way Tom wanted it to stand so big important U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard finally gives the straight poop some 30 or more years later. I like the way Ford frames the whole movie with the closing dialogue from the conductor...."Nothing's too good for the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." That's Ford letting us know who the true hero of the movie is...John Wayne.

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I think you have too romantic of a view of the Wayne role in this movie. Wayne is a flawed hero. Now these are the roles I like Wayne in best (The Searchers, Red River), but I don't view the roles of the Steward and Wayne characters as a contest on who can be the bigger man. i.e. who is the TRUE hero.

 

In fact the movie exposes the folly in that rather trite POV. They are just different men. Steward is willing to die for what he stands for so he cannot be labeled a coward. Also Steward didn't steal Wayne's women. There is no betrayal (well unless one thinks women are nothing more than property). Hallie's temperment is just more suited to the Steward character.

 

The reaction of Wayne is immature and cowardly - i.e. the act of a teen age kid over losing his first love. What I see going on is that Wayne overcomes these feelings to save the life of a man that he knows offers more to his country than he ever will. This act restores Wayne's honor.

 

 

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In the "Western Rambles" we have had long discussions on "Valance." I joke that in that thread almost anything we talk about comes round to "The Searchers" or "Valance."

 

I would disagree that his action is immature or cowardly when he loses Hallie. He is deeply hurt and the reacts by destroying the thing he did for her. Consequently it takes down the whole house and him. I think she is the only thing he ever really wanted. He's wounded. In his sorrow he takes on things and makes the sacrifice he does.

 

 

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Well what exactly is Tom Doniphon's deficit in terms of honor? Being human enough to feel the pangs of a broken heart when he realizes his girl does not love him? Hallie certainly must have had a good idea how Tom felt about her. I just think her breaking Tom Doniphon's heart stinks.

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Come on even his best friend is ashamed by Tom's actions. Buring down his own house? That isn't a childish act??? Getting drunk and having a good cry is one thing, but Tom destroyed his way of life all for a girl?

 

Note that his friend ALSO is the only witness to Tom killing Valance. To me that is key to the plot. His friend observed Tom decent into hell and he saw him climb back out.

 

As for Hallie; Of course she knew how she felt. What of it? Are you saying that if a man says I'll burn down my house if you don't return my love the women should say 'OK then'? Again, Tom treats romance and love like a 15 year old schoolboy. A real man would of felt sad, but moved on.

 

What would of stunk more is for Hallie to marry a man she didn't love.

 

But I guess to those that hero worship Wayne they cannot understand how any women couldn't love Wayne. Tom was NOT Wayne. Tom was a character in a movie and Wayne is an actor playing that character.

 

 

 

 

 

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}What would of stunk more is for Hallie to marry a man she didn't love.

 

It's "would have stunk..."

 

You're never gonna learn, are you, James? {font}

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I've said it before but perhaps it bears an encore, Hallie always loved the man who shot Liberty Valance.

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Let's see, we are an hour into the movie, and who do we think will shoot Liberty Valance?

 

Will it be the guy who knows how to use a gun, or the guy who knows how to read books? Doh.

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Now wait a minute there, Sprockets; you are being unfair.

 

How can you expect for one to be able to play a jazz guitar (if you accept the username) *and* understand the elements of English grammar at the same time? I suppose that it's (by the way, James, note that the ' in the word "it's" replaces the letter i, just as the ' in the word "would've" replaces the two letters ha) either one or the other.

 

Using a ' as a replacement for certain letters is a well known principal to those who are learning English.

 

The word "of" has no place in this lesson in English 101. These movie fans are tough customers on these things, aren't they? (oops, there's that pesky ' again, showing up everywhere!)

 

 

Gerald

 

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Well, we have George Clooney, don't we? He recently made the leap into TCM (for obvious reasons, of course). I believe that it was in a 1999 "classic" named Three Kings. But I could be wrong, since I have not looked this up but am quoting this title from my astonishment at this latest insult to the word "classic".

 

 

Gerald

 

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>Using a ' as a replacement for certain letters is a well known principal to those who are learning English.

 

Principle, not principal.

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CineSage.....Oh I mean Sprocket Man, why do you feel so compelled to correct everyone on the use of their grammar?

 

Could it be that long ago you were dismissed from your main occupation as an English teacher at your local high school?

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I always figured Tom told Ransom a white lie: Ransom didn't like the idea of killing, to Tom claimed he was off in the wings to make Ransom believe Tom actually did it in order to assuage Ransom's conscience.

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I just don't think it looks good that Hallie winds up breaking Tom's heart. Of course, if Tom had not of shot Valance then Stoddard would have been one dead frontier lawyer tenderfoot. Doniphon then might have blamed himself for letting Stoddard get gunned down by such a murderous skunk as Valance. I think the most likely reason that Wayne was willing to let Stewart take center stage was his personal friendship with Ford. Ford probably said something good-natured to the Duke like "What's the matter you big dumb ox? Can't you take a back seat for once?" so Wayne was amenable because his friend Ford was asking him to. But one thing is clear even when Stewart is on the screen with him, John Wayne is in full command of the screen...Stewart being star of the month not withstanding. No reflection on Stewart. *John Wayne is just too towering a figure*.

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The film perhaps embodies Ford's own ambivalence toward the history of the West. He recognized the importance and inevitability of the oncoming civilization that Ranse represented, yet it is clear his sentiments sided with the way of life Tom personified, that of the wild, rugged--not so much lawless, as unrestrained frontier. That's why he goes out of his way at the end of the movie to rob Ranse of his dignity and worth with that almost offensive last line.

 

Perhaps Ford's opinion was that it was not enough for Ranse to be willing to face Valance. Such an act, without comensurate ability, would be foolhardy, not courageous. Civilization cannot contend with Barbarity on its level. Tom, who was of the same world as Valance, was the appropriate agent to neutralize him. He realizes his and Valance's world is ending, and that he will become an anachronism.

 

Hallie inevitably follows after Ranse, as Ford's women occupy the revered and patronized position as the inspirers of Civilization. But her attraction for him might have included the mistaken admiration of him for his killing Valance, a lingering effect of the world she lived in, but was not of. She must have retained a wistful regret for Tom, and her disillusion can easily be imagined when she learned it was he and not Ranse that shot Valance, knowing Ranse based a lot of his success on that lie. Even though Tom himself was a willing party to it, she still must have thought it reprehensible for Ranse to take advantage of it.

 

In spite of the fact Ford recognized the necessity of Civilization, no doubt he saw in its influences and structure a certain effeminacy, violent conflicts being discouraged and disputes resolved by legal processes. There's nothing Ford liked better than a good fight.

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"Nobody fights my battles" Ranse tells Doniphon early in the film and yet, Ranse goes on to live with the lie that someone else did in deed fight his battle but Ranse got the glory.

 

After the shooting, Doniphon finds Hallie and Ranse together and walks away from the doorway leaving Hallie standing there. Doniphon rejects them and rejects his former life. In *The Searchers*, Ethan Edwards cannot enter the house at the end of the movie and turns and walks away. Here, Doniphon just out right rejects it all by storming away.

 

I think Tom Doniphon expected Ranse to stand up and correct the mistaken impression that everyone had but Ranse "Nobody fights my battles" Stoddard was all to happy to ride the fame that being the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance brought him.

 

Doniphon, on the other hand, couldn't return to his former life after being the man who actually had shot Liberty. Shooting a man in cold blood, even one as evil as Liberty, violated some code that Doniphon lived by and altered his life from that point on.

 

Hallie, it seems, always loved the man who shot Liberty Valance.

 

Perhaps Patton was right "all glory is fleeting".

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This was the first time I'd seen this movie (yeah, I know, shame on me). It wasn't until after it was over that I said to myself, "Where's the song?"

 

I remember that Gene Pitney hit from my childhood. Didn't know it was inspired by the movie rather than written for it.

 

Some very deep and insightful commentary tonight...I'll lighten things up a bit with the shallow observation that it was nice to see the Duke in scenes with actors he didn't dwarf (Stewart was maybe an inch shorter and Strode was the same height). This doesn't happen often (I recently watched a movie in which the Duke had James Arness as a co-star, who was even taller--also something you don't see all the time).

 

BLU

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Without John Wayne's sacrifice, there would have been no Senator Stoddard. It's a metaphor for the Old West in general: It was the Gunslinger/Cowboy of the Old West taking the law into his own hands that paved the way for modern civilization & in so doing, brought about his own demise. That's the beautiful, sad, irony Ford was trying to convey with this movie.

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>lzcutter writes:

>I think Tom Doniphon expected Ranse to stand up and correct the mistaken impression that everyone had but Ranse "Nobody fights my battles" Stoddard was all to happy to ride the fame that being the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance brought him.

 

Tom would not have relied on anyone to speak up about him. If he wanted it known he shot Valance, or was upset about Ranse taking advantage of the lie, he would have said so. When he revealed to Ranse the truth and metaphorically shoved him back into the convention room to accept the nomination, he knew what he was doing, that he was allowing Ranse to use the killing of Valance to further his career. As he says quite clearly why he does it, it's for the sake of Hallie's happiness.

 

Ranse catches a lot of flack from all sides in the picture, both from in front of and behind the camera. Let's not be unnecessarily hard on him.

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I think you sum it all up very well, slaytonf, very well indeed.

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Discussion of John Ford's vision for this film (My all-time favorite Western since I was a kid) and its characters compels me to note that someone else played a part in conceiving it: Dorothy Johnson, the woman who wrote the short story. She preceded me at the University of Montana School of Journalism by a few decades, but she was still in Missoula, retired and firing off feisty letters to the editor, when I studied there. She also wrote "The Hanging Tree" and "A Man Called Horse," among many other stories.

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