When Senator Ransom Stoddard returns home to Shinbone for the funeral of Tom Doniphon, he recounts to a local newspaper editor the story behind it all. He had come to town many years before, a lawyer by profession. The stage was robbed on its way in by the local ruffian, Liberty Valance, and Stoddard has nothing to his name left save a few law books. He gets a job in the kitchen at the Ericson's restaurant and there meets his future wife, Hallie. The territory is vying for Statehood and Stoddard is selected as a representative over Valance, who continues terrorizing the town. When he destroys the local newspaper office and attacks the editor, Stoddard calls him out, though the conclusion is not quite as straightforward as legend would have it. Written by
Several reasons have been put forward for the film being in black and white. John Ford once claimed it added to the tension, but others involved with the production said Paramount was cutting costs, which was why the film was shot on sound stages at the studio. Without the budget restraints, Ford would have been in Monument Valley using Technicolor stock. It has also been suggested that since both John Wayne and James Stewart were playing characters 30 years younger than they're actual age (Wayne was 54 when the movie was filmed in the autumn of 1961 and Stewart was 53), the movie needed to be in black and white because they would never have got away with it in color. The age difference was particularly noticeable in Stewart's case, since he was playing a young lawyer who had only just graduated from law school and had moved west without even practicing law back east. See more »
One of the songs being played in the saloon was "Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight," but the song was written in 1896 by Theodore Metz, several years after the time the story is set in. See more »
[descending from railway carriage and consulting pocket watch]
Thanks, Jason. On time.
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Other reviewers, aside from seeing this as the end of the classic western, saw the plot as myth granting to one man that which was rightfully another's. I disagree. I see TMWSLV as a tale of a man stepping aside for the sake of a better man and a better world, at great personal cost.
I view Tom as someone who has lived a cynical life--kill it before it kills you. With the advent of Ransom he recognizes that there is a better way, and that Ransom, by defying evil from a position of weakness, is far braver than Tom, who has merely defied evil from a position of strength. Additionally, Ransom brings about an answer to the question "must the sword rule forever?" with a resounding "no," a denial that at first seems foolish to Tom, but who then realizes that things really should be Ransom's way.
And so Tom, knowing that one of them is the better man, allows that better man to receive the fame attendant to heroism; and in fact Ransom, for daring what Tom never did dare, is the true hero of the tale. Like all honest men must, Tom steps aside for the better man, knowing what it will cost him to do what is right.
An earlier reviewer said that the depiction of the politics was a parody; in fact, the politics of the early portion of the republics was even more lively (read: pugnacious) than is depicted in the film.
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