THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

(1962)
With James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Edmond O'Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode, John Carradine, Strother Martin, Denver Pyle
Directed by John Ford
Reviewed by JL

Liberty Valance     The last classic John Ford Western, as well as the last classic John Ford-John Wayne Western, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is a somber tribute to the waning days of the Old West and the passing of generations.  It is also a trenchant commentary on the role of myth-making in our perceptions of Western heroes.  James Stewart plays greenhorn Eastern lawyer Ranse Stoddard, who tries to bring a sense of justice to a town that allows the murderous Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his sadistic goons to rule by terror.  Stoddard is symbolic of the Eastern sense of progress and civility that was rapidly encroaching upon both the lawlessness and the moral courage of the Old West.  Such courage is represented by local gunslinger Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), the true hero of the story, but one whose heroism was becoming as anachronistic as the West itself.  Stewart and Wayne were old for their roles, which actually added an extra layer of poignancy in that they, like the heroes of TMWSLV, were American legends approaching the autumn of their careers.   - JL

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