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Bishops Castle Film Society

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - 23rd October 2019

John Ford, US, 1962, 122m

John Ford and John Wayne created much of the mythology of the Old West we carry in our minds. Beginning with "Stagecoach" in 1939 and continuing from 1948 through 1950 with titles including "Fort Apache," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Rio Grande", and finally "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", they largely formed the templates of the Hollywood Western. Of these "Liberty Valance", made in 1962, was the most pensive and thoughtful.


The film takes place at that turning point in the West when the rule of force gave way to the rule of law, and when literacy began to gain a foothold. It asks the question: does a man need to carry a gun in order to disagree or state an opinion? It takes place in the town of Shinbone, in an unnamed territory that is moving toward a vote on statehood. Farmers want statehood. Cattlemen do not. In a few characters and a gripping story, Ford dramatizes the debate about guns that still continues in many Western states. That he does this by mixing in history, humorous supporting characters and a poignant romance is typical; his films were complete and self-contained in a way that approaches perfection. Without ever seeming to hurry, he doesn't include a single gratuitous shot.

Roger Ebert. www. rogerebert.com 2011




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