One of the most iconic Western movies of all time is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” I’d heard about this movie for as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason, I’d never watched it. For that reason, I put this movie on my “bucket list” several years ago and finally got around to watching it from start to finish last Saturday.
Released in theaters on April 22, 1962, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” was directed by Hollywood legend John Ford, and the cast included John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and others. Jimmy Stewart play a young lawyer who has moved West to seek opportunities on the frontier, and he soon finds himself in the small town of Shinbone and at odds with local bad guy, Liberty Valance. Before it’s all said and done, the young lawyer teams up with Tom Doniphon (Wayne’s character) and they handle notorious Liberty Valance.
I got a big kick out of this movie because in a lot of ways it’s a movie about newspapers. The movie begins with Stewart’s character, who is a much older successful politician, giving a big interview to the Shinbone newspaper. The movie proceeds as one long flashback as he weaves his tale for a group of hometown reporters and editors.
During the meet of the tale, which takes place decades earlier, Stewart, who is new at being a lawyer also works as a reporter for the Shinbone newspaper. One of the movie’s main characters is his boss, newspaper Dutton Peabody (played by Edmond O’Brien), and one of the biggest moments of the movie occurs when Valance’s gang trashes the newspaper office and nearly beats Peabody to death. I hesitate to say much more for fear of giving away too much for those who have yet to see this film.
You’ll find “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” on a number of “best of” lists, which is one of the reasons I’ve wanted to watch it for so long. In 2010, IGN ranked this movie No. 10 on a list they called IGN Top 25 Westerns of All Time, and American Movie Classics ranked it No. 2 on a list called AMC’s Greatest Westerns. The film was also selected in 2007 for inclusion in the National Film Registry.
I was also interested to learn that “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” movie was based on a 1953 short story Dorothy M. Johnson. However, I think it’s worth noting that the movie’s screenplay was written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck. Oddly, for two writers of such a famous Western, Bellah and Goldbeck were both natives of New York City.
Johnson, who was born in Iowa in 1905, is also well known for her short story, “The Man Called Horse,” which was also made into a major motion picture. Johnson also wrote two novels, but I have to admit that I’ve never heard of them. They are “Buffalo Woman” (1977) and “All the Buffalo Returning” (1979).
In the end, how many of you have watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”? What did you think about it? What other Western movies would you recommend watching? Let us know in the comments section below.