After the death of her husband, Marian Starett takes on the arduous task of both raising a son, Joey, and protecting her farm from ruthless land baron Ryker. Nomadic gunfighter Shane ... See full summary »
Shane rides into a conflict between cattleman Ryker and a bunch of settlers, like the Starretts, whose land Ryker wants. When Shane beats up Ryker's man Chris, Ryker tries to buy him. Then Shane and Joe take on the whole Ryker crew. Ryker sends to Cheyenne for truly evil gunslinger Wilson. We wonder about Shane's relation to Joe's wife Marian. Shane must clear out all the guns from the valley before he can ride off with Joey hollering "Shane ... Shane ... Come Back!" Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
A lonesome stranger rides on to a homesteader's farm looking for water and right after him comes the big cattle baron with several riders issuing the latest of several warning to this particular squatter about getting off 'his' range. Something about the man's bullying attitude rubs the stranger the wrong way and he decides to stay and lend a hand.
So begins the classic western Shane which has entertained millions since its release in 1953. It gave Alan Ladd his career role and resulted in Oscar nominations for Jack Palance and Brandon DeWilde in the Best Supporting Actor category. It could have revived Alan Ladd's career, but for a fatal career decision by his agent/wife Sue Carol.
Shane was shot in 1951 completely on location in the Grand Teton mountains in Wyoming. Another reviewer pointed out that director George Stevens seem to meticulously shoot the same scene from many angles. He did just that and spent a year editing his masterpiece.
But in the mean time Sue Carol made a decision for her husband to leave Paramount and sign with Warner Brothers. Had she held out and waited for Shane's release, she might have gotten a great deal from Paramount that might have included better parts. As it was Paramount had no reason to push this film at Oscar time, so Ladd got no nomination for Best Actor which he could have with some studio backing. By the time Shane was out, Ladd was with Warner Brothers and doing some of the same routine action adventures films that he was doing at Paramount. No classic roles for that man any more.
The rancher versus homesteader is an old western plot story and there have been many films made from both points of view. Shane leaves no doubt that the homesteaders are in the right. The cattleman's point of view is eloquently argued in Elia Kazan's Sea of Grass by Spencer Tracy. That western icon John Wayne's been on both sides of the fence, in McLintock he's a cattle baron, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance he's a small rancher and protector of the homesteader.
Even Emile Meyer as Rufe Ryker does make a valid point that his kind settled the west when it was really wild. Van Heflin as Joe Starrett argues equally eloquently that doesn't give him the right to say no one else has any rights in the territory.
Shane marked the farewell big screen performance of Jean Arthur. A talented, but terribly strange woman with a whole lot of issues, Arthur delivers a good performance as Van Heflin's missus. She felt she was miscast as a farmer's wife, in westerns she saw herself more in the frontier woman roles she did in The Plainsman and Arizona. And at that she much preferred screwball comedy to any western. They weren't making her kind of films any more as she saw it, so she left.
When Shane's done doing what fate brought him to do in the valley he has to leave. For the community to grow there must be no more guns in the valley as he well realizes. So he leaves to an unknown fate, living in the hearts and memories of the Starrett family and the rest of the small farmers, especially young Brandon DeWilde.
And in the hearts of all lovers of the western genre including this little cowpoke who saw him as a small lad on the big silver screen so many years ago.
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