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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
on 25 August 2012
Made in 1962 (an age similarly experiencing major social change), this 118min B&W classic is one of John Ford's deepest, most thoughtfull films. Set amidst the years that saw civilisation as we understand it today replacing America's earlier 'Heroic' age, the story centres around the strained relationship between the "toughest man south of the Picket Wire" Liberty Valance(Lee Marvin), rock hard rancher Tom Donovan(John Wayne) and the educated/sophisticated but physically less self-reliant eastern lawyer Ranson Stoddart(James Stewart). The message of the film is simple but profound; although the 'new ways' of law and order are clearly beneficial, much is also lost with the passing of the more direct methods by which the old West both enforced acceptable behaviour and selected it's community leaders. Perhaps the most poigniant message of the film is how the true reality of Liberty's death is concealed by all those involved for various reasons, and the longer-term results that concealment has for big Tom Donovan, lawyer Stoddart's political career, the frontier town of Shinbone and also America's future. As both exciting entertainment and also food for thought, I cannot recommend this film highly enough, it's an absolutely first class depiction of the old West and it's people at their best!!!