"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." That's more than the code of a newspaperman in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
; it's practically the operating credo of director John Ford, the most honoured of American filmmakers. In this late film from a long career, Ford looks at the civilising of an Old West town, Shinbone, through the sad memories of settlers looking back. In the town's wide-open youth, two-fisted Westerner John Wayne and tenderfoot newcomer James Stewart clash over a woman (Vera Miles) but ultimately unite against the notorious outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Ford's nostalgia for the past is tempered by his stark approach, unusual for the visual poet of Stagecoach
and The Searchers
. The two heavyweights, Wayne and Stewart, are good together, with Wayne the embodiment of rugged individualism and Stewart the idealistic prophet of the civilisation that will eventually tame the Wild West. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
may be the saddest Western ever made, closer to an elegy than an action movie, and as cleanly beautiful as its central symbol, the cactus rose. --Robert Horton
Classic Western starring John Wayne and James Stewart. Big-city lawyer Ransom (Stewart) heads into the Wild West outpost of Shinbone to bring local outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) to justice. En route, he is met by a posse led by Valance, who beat him within an inch of his life. Passing cowboy Tom Doniphon (Wayne) rescues Ransom, gets him set up in Shinbone and supports his efforts to be elected sheriff. Meanwhile, he also attempts to teach his clumsy protegé the fundamentals of gunslinging, so that Valance may at last be brought to book.