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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

1028 words - 5 pages

John Ford directed many well-known western films that brought back the vibrancy of that era. One of which is, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Back in 1962, when the film was made, many dismissed it as a petty, disappointing work. 
Much of the criticism leveled against The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance focused on its look. The majority of films were done in color that gave it a bright, upbeat tone that the public loved. The “look” present in Liberty Valance was black and white, which went against the normal film characteristic of its time. This was an artistic choice made by Ford, because it is known that the film had a extensive budget, which would of made it easy to make in color. One ...view middle of the document...

Ford’s overall subject and underlying message in the film is so often unseen, but to those who get a hint of his intentions, see what he was trying to say.
Ford brings the subject to the forefront. The film's point is simple: history is as much legend as fact. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance opens with the return of Senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife, Hallie (Vera Miles) to the small frontier town of Shinbone. Stoddard is an influential and well-liked political figure, but nowhere is he more admired than in Shinbone, the place where his gun shooting career started. On this particular day, however, Ransom has returned to pay his respect to an old friend, Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who has recently died. Initially, he intends to come in and out of Shinbone with little recognition of who he is, but when a newspaper reporter catches sight of him, he decides to reveal the true story about how his life in politics began. The whole film is seen unfolded in flashback.
Years earlier, Ransom arrives in Shinbone broken, bruised, and bloodied after being robbed and beaten by the disreputable outlaw, Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). With the help of various locals, including Hallie and her parents, he recovers his health and vows to bring Valance to justice. For Ransom, a book-learned attorney with little knowledge of the real world, justice should mean jail. But in Shinbone, where the marshal (Andy Devine) is spineless, the path to justice corresponds with the accuracy of a man shooting a gun. This is a lesson that Tom impresses upon Ransom soon after they meet. Ransom is reluctant at first to even hold a gun but soon gives in to the idea of having one when he quickly learns Shinbone's law requires a gun, not a book.
Tom is one of the most respected men in Shinbone because of his ability with his gun. The two become rivals for Hallie's affections,...

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