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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the last film to be considered a classic to be directed by John Ford. This complex western has grown in reputation since it was made in 1962. John Wayne gives one of his better performances as Tom and calls James Stewart's Ransom "Pilgrim" throughout, and for his part, Stewart is stalwart and stubbornly-persistent as the lawyer who wants to get even with the dastardly Liberty Valence (Lee Marvin) who robbed and whipped him just outside of the town of Shinbone when Ransom came in on the stage. This is all depicted in a flashback where one of the characters relates the story of how the three men interacted, which one was the man who shot Liberty Valence and which one wins the hand of the fair Hallie (Vera Miles). To be honest, I find the beginning of the film which sets up the flashback, to be a weak start which the film has to overcome, but it successfully does so, and the actual ending of the film, after the flashback ends and everyone, except for perhaps one significant character, knows the truth of the story to be quite moving. One thing's for sure is that this is certainly superior to the Wayne westerns (Rio Bravo, El Dorado) which Howard Hawks was making at about the same time.