Written by Fantasma el Rey
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is more than your average western; the team of master director John Ford and legendary star John Wayne make sure of that. When the two of them are on a project, it tends to be an overall good film with a story more than just cowboys, Indians, and cattle drives. Those elements are sometimes involved but are used to further the tale along and usually mean more than what is simply shown. Meeting on film for the first time are James Stewart and John Wayne, who would pair up again years later on The Shootist. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a love story, a vengeance tale, and the classic confrontation of old versus new now available in a two-disc set as part of Paramount’s Centennial Collection.
Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), an older lawyer turned politician heads back to the town that launched his career to attend the funeral of an old “friend.” While there, Stoddard recounts to a newspaperman the true tale of the events that led to his election. As the tale unwinds we hear how the young Stoddard got tangled up with outlaw Liberty Valance (played well by Lee Marvin), met his wife Hallie (Vera Miles), and met the now-deceased local rancher that no one’s heard of, Tom Doniphon (John Wayne, ‘nuff said). Stoddard’s whole career was built on the fact that this law-abiding Easterner shot down the meanest, baddest gunman to roam “south of the Picketwire”or did he?
All is not as it seems or as legend has it. Stoddard’s arrival in the town of Shinbone upset the applecart of lives already established there. Doniphon and Valance were already set to clash and it was only a matter of time; now Stoddard is determined to put the villain behind bars instead of six feet under. Doniphon was also set on wedding the beautiful Miss Hallie and taking her back to his ranch. With Stoddard now in the picture, things shift and he is now in the spotlight and set to steal some thunder. As times goes on Doniphon can see that Stoddard is the way of the future and the key to settling a wild land. He knows that in Stoddard the people have a greater champion and Hallie has a brighter, more eventful life ahead of her. Doniphon is now a guardian angel of sorts that will assist the lawyer and his love in the only way he knows how, with a six-shooter, even if it means that no one but a very few will ever know of his deeds as he goes on to live out his life alone.