Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The man who shot Liberty Valance- movie review

This is a really old movie. Presumably most people who were going to watch it have already seen it. Cowboy Tom Doniphan (John Wayne) and country lawyer Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) battle for the affections of Miss Hallie and debate whether good old fashioned force or modern law and order will rid the Old West town of Shinbone of murdering, thieving Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Everyone thinks Ranse shot him, when it was really Tom doing the shooting from the shadows.

What I liked about the movie:

Tom, Ranse, and Liberty each represent an attractive man and a distinct personality type. If one hundred women watched this movie, you could never get half of them to agree on who their favorite was. Personally, I love Jimmy Stewart's idealism, passion for a cause and intelligence. I know a number of people who much prefer John Wayne's bluster and bravado and would find his silence about the shooting very heroic. Yet, there are a certain number of women who go for the bad boy Lee Marvin, swaggering around town and ruling by fear. (I would argue that those women need help so they can get involved in functional relationships.)

The Big Question:

Does Might make Right? Liberty Valance was finally defeated by force instead of Rule of Law. Is the story telling us that the justice system can't work, or only that it didn't work in that time and place? Or that it doesn't work for men like Liberty Valance?

The Minority Angle:

Ranse teaches Hallie to read, assuring her that it is a valuable tool for anyone; although Hallie protests that she has no need for such a thing and the Swedish lady cook thinks schooling is wasted on girls (but finally learns to read herself.) We watch the town election, where women and blacks aren't even allowed in. Noone protests about this. John Wayne does insist that his employee Pompey, and African American man, be allowed to drink at the bar. Pompey occupies a very slavish role in the film, though, waiting at John Wayne's beck and call. The women are basically similarly subservient.

The sod farmers who want statehood do successfully defeat the big ranchers, represented by Liberty Valance. I'm not sure that this has anything to do with minorities or just capitalism.


A very long movie, but not a waste of time by any means.


1 comment:

Robin said...

Perhaps the point is that hte justice system is corrupt. If you have enough money or know the right people, justice will not work. This is when force must take over.