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Review: the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
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John Ford’s last great film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) enjoys the status of a classic. I find it a deeply flawed, grating, and often ridiculous film that is nonetheless redeemed both by raising intellectually deep issues and by an emotionally powerful ending that seems to come out of nowhere.

The stars of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, both fine actors given the impossible job of playing men in their 20s, even though they were aged 54 and 53 at the time. It just doesn’t work. Ford thought that drunkards and men with funny voices were hilarious. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, we get two funny drunkards and three men with funny voices, including Andy Devine and Strother Martin. There is also a great deal of scene-chewing overacting and overbroad parody that often seem downright cartoonish. The film is poorly paced as well, burning through screen time and my patience with dramatically needless details of frontier kitchens and political conventions.

Beyond these lapses of taste, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance also contains Left-liberal messages on race. For instance, Devine’s Marshal Link Appleyard is married to a Mexican woman. Oddly enough, the same actor’s character in Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) is married to a Mexican as well. This must have been Ford’s preference. In real life, Andy Devine was married to a white woman.

Wayne’s character Tom Doniphan has a loyal negro sidekick named Pompey (Woody Strode). Pompey even endures the indignity of being refused service at the saloon, but Doniphan stands up for him, although he does refer to him as “my boy Pompey.”

At the very center of the film is a scene in which newly-minted lawyer Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) teaches reading and civics to a class of white adults, plus Pompey and a brood of Mexican children. (All the children in Shinbone are nonwhite, a poignant sign that white civilization has not yet been established there. Now such classrooms are signs of white civilization in decline.) Lawyer Stoddard teaches that the fundamental law of the land is the Declaration of Independence, which holds that “All men are created equal.” The Declaration, of course, is not the fundamental law of the land. That would be the Constitution, which says nothing about all men being created equal.

Ford was known as a patriot and an anti-Communist, but on race, his politics were aligned with the Hollywood progressive consensus. Ford did not, however, identify with outsiders against America’s WASP ethnic core because he was Jewish. Instead, he did so as an Irish Catholic.

Judging from Ford’s cavalry trilogy—Fort Apache (1948), She Wore the Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950)—the West could not have been won without the help of golden-hearted, silver-tongued Irish drunkards. These stereotypes seem rather broad and offensive today, but Ford—a heavy drinker himself—obviously regarded them affectionately and thought their inclusion to be progressive.

I list these problems up front, because I don’t want you to be surprised or deterred by them. For in spite of its flaws, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a worthwhile movie. As the title suggests, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about violence, specifically the relationship of violence to manliness and civilization. The film’s message is deeply anti-liberal. Indeed, although Ford could not have known it, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance illustrates many of Carl Schmitt’s criticisms of liberalism. Thus I include it in my series of Classics of Right-Wing Cinema.

The movie opens with a train pulling into the town of Shinbone in an unnamed state in the American Southwest. Shinbone is conspicuously bright, clean, and attractive. Everything looks brand-new. The only thing old and dusty is the stagecoach, a victim of progress suitably abandoned at the undertaker’s parlor. Shinbone was built on a soundstage. Ford was known for shooting on location because he loved authenticity. But Shinbone’s cleanliness and newness—its clear artificiality—were quite deliberate representations of progress and the end of the frontier.

Senator Ransom Stoddard and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) are met by the former Marshal, Link Appleyard. They have arrived to attend the funeral of their old friend Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who is being interred in a pauper’s grave at public expense. As a sign of the changes in Shinbone, we learn that Doniphon will not be buried with his gun, because he had not carried one in years. When the local newspaper editor demands to know why a sitting Senator is attending the funeral of a pauper, Stoddard agrees to tell the tale.

We flash back some decades. Ransom “Rance” Stoddard, fresh out of law school, has gone West, not so much to seek fame and fortune as to improve the place by bringing law, literacy, and progress from back East. Outside a much rougher version of Shinbone, the stagecoach in which Stoddard is riding is robbed by outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his gang (including Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin). When Stoddard objects to the rough treatment of a woman, Valance beats him severely then drives away the coach, leaving him to his fate.

Played to cartoonish excess by Lee Marvin, Liberty Valance is a cold-blooded murderer and thief. He’s also a drunkard and a petty bully. The entire town of Shinbone lives in terror of him. He’s the kind of man who needs killing, so decent people can plant crops, raise children, and sleep at night.

It seems odd that an American movie would have a villain named Liberty. Isn’t America the land of liberty? But Liberty Valance is not really an American. He’s a man of the Wild West. America is a Republic with laws. The West is the state of nature. Liberty Valance represents the liberty of savages in the state of nature, where one man’s liberty is exercised at the expense of another’s. Savage liberty must die so civil liberty can be born. Thus it is appropriate that Liberty Valance is a hired gun of the cattle interests, who oppose statehood and the coming of law and order.

Stoddard is rescued by Tom Doniphon, who owns a small horse ranch outside Shinbone, and brought into town. For no sensible reason except that he likes her, Tom awakens Hallie, who works as a waitress at a local eatery, to help tend to Stoddard’s wounds.

Tom quickly pegs Rance as a greenhorn and a tinhorn. He doesn’t know how the world works, but he talks like he does. When Tom tells Rance that he’d better get a gun if he wants justice, Rance launches into a speech:

But do you know what you’re saying to me? You’re saying just exactly what Liberty Valance said. What kind of community have I come to? You all seem to know Liberty Valance. He’s a no-good, gun-packing, murdering thief, but the only advice you give me is to carry a gun. Well, I’m a lawyer! Ransom Stoddard, Attorney at Law. And the law is the only . . .

Jimmy Stewart was brilliant casting because he’s obviously in love with his own voice.

Rance doesn’t see any difference between force used by criminals and force used by decent men against criminals. He’s an idealist who apparently thinks the laws can magically enforce themselves. In John Wayne’s most often-imitated line, Tom calls Rance “Pilgrim,” which pretty much sums up his combination of moralism and utopianism. He’s a spindly, priggish, progressive zealot. He reminds me of Barack Obama.

Rance settles in Shinbone, working alongside Hallie in the kitchen of the eatery owned by Swedish immigrants Nora and Peter Ericson. Rance’s role in the community, however, is distinctly feminine. In a land where men wear guns and settle problems for themselves, he refuses to wear a gun and expects the law to settle disputes . . . somehow. Thus in the Ericsons’ restaurant, Rance wears an apron while washing dishes and occasionally waiting tables. (Obama also allowed himself to be photographed in an apron.) When Rance learns that Hallie can’t read, he takes on another stereotypically female role: schoolmarm.

When an apron-clad Rance brings Tom his dinner in the restaurant, Liberty trips him then mocks him. Tom is enraged. It is his steak, after all. Tom demands that Liberty pick it up. Tom is the toughest guy in town, the only one who is not afraid of Liberty. A gunfight almost ensues until Rance, still clad in an apron, picks up the steak for them, ranting about the absurdity of men killing one another over matters of pride. This too is an attitude more commonly associated with women. Ford clearly thinks that manliness is connected with a willingness to fight over matters of honor.

Rance begins to have some doubts, however, when it becomes clear that the local law enforcement, Marshal Appleyard, is a fat, effeminate coward. Devigne’s squeaky voice is well-employed, but Ford labors the point endlessly, to the point of cartoonishness.

When Rance allies with the local newspaper editor, funny drunk Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien), to fight the cattle barons and appeal for statehood, Liberty is hired by the ranchers to intimidate the townspeople. At that point, Rance furtively buys a gun and sneaks off to practice shooting. Why the deception? Because he can’t really reconcile it with his self-image and the image he has established with the public.

There’s also a love triangle in the mix. Tom is in love with Hallie. Everybody sees it. But he hasn’t screwed up the courage to propose. It is his one failing of nerve as a man. When Rance enters the picture, Hallie begins by tending his wounds like a mother. Then she works with him in the kitchen like a sister (both in aprons). Then he schoolmarms her along with a brood of Mexican children. Rance is pretty much zilch as a man, certainly nobody Tom would regard as a rival. But when Hallie begs Tom to stop Rance from getting himself killed in a duel over honor, the big lug realizes that he is in danger of losing his girl.

When Rance (still wearing his apron) faces Liberty Valance, Liberty toys with him, shooting a jar first, then wounding his arm, then taunting him to pick up the gun again. Rance does so, takes aim, and shoots Liberty dead. Hallie rushes to tend Rance’s wounds. But Rance is no longer a child. He has faced death in a duel over honor. He’s a man now. When Tom sees them together, he knows that he has lost Hallie. He gets staggering drunk and burns his own house down in self-pity.

Rance Stoddard enjoyed some esteem for his good heart and his skills as a teacher and a lawyer. But his refusal to carry a gun put him in the category of women and children when it came to defending the community. However, when he shot Liberty Valance, he became a man and a hero. It also launched his political career.

But none of this sits well with Rance’s puritanical idealist streak. He feels that he bears the “mark of Cain” and is perhaps unworthy of public office. So Tom takes him aside and tells him a story. Tom was watching the confrontation with Liberty, and when Rance raised his gun to fire, Tom shot Liberty dead with a rifle. Tom is willing to take the guilt—and also the glory—to salve Rance’s morbid conscience. “It was cold-blooded murder,” says Tom. “But I can live with it.” It is telling that Rance can’t live with killing in self-defense.

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I wonder, though, if Tom’s story is even true. Did it really happen, or did he make it up to spare Rance’s feelings? True or false, Tom is astonishingly generous. If the story is true, Tom saved Rance’s life and lost the woman he loved in the bargain. If the story is false, Tom is admitting to murder simply to make Rance feel better, perhaps because he hopes to promote Hallie’s happiness even after losing her.

This is an enormous risk for Tom. If Rance shot Liberty, it was self-defense. But if Tom killed Liberty, he could hang for it. For Tom’s sake, Rance is forced to keep the secret. Oddly enough, his conscience allows him to return to politics, where he enjoys an illustrious career: Governor, Senator, Ambassador to England. Granted, he no longer thinks his public esteem is based on killing, but shouldn’t he be bothered that it is based on a lie? Perhaps he can live with the lie by telling himself that he is doing good things for the people. But couldn’t he say the same thing about killing Liberty Valance?

The deeper truth that Rance evades is that, for civilization to come to the West, somebody needed to shoot Liberty Valance. It doesn’t really matter who. When Dutton Peabody nominates Rance to represent the territory in Washington, he explains how the West was won. First, it was held by merciless Indian savages. Then it was settled by cattlemen, whose law was the gun. The cattlemen did what was necessary, namely kill and subjugate the Indians. Then came the farmers and businessmen, who need fences and law and order. Liberty Valance is a hired gun of the cattle interests. His type was necessary to deal with the Indians. But now he has outlived his usefulness and stands in the way of progress. Progress requires a new kind of man: Ransom Stoddard, attorney at law. And isn’t it poetic that Rance Stoddard is the man who shot Liberty Valance?

The possibility that the story is false is supported Ford’s frank exploration of noble and ignoble lies later in the movie. Although the newspaper editor has pried the story out of Rance by insisting on his “right to the truth,” once the tale is told, he burns his notes and tells Rance he will not print the truth. “This is the West, Sir,” he says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” What he really means is when facts are replaced by legend, print the legend.

But why replace the truth with legend? What’s wrong with the truth? The superficial truth deals with who shot Liberty Valance: Tom or Rance? If Tom shot Liberty, he can’t be punished now because he’s dead. Rance, of course, kept the secret. Perhaps there would be legal consequences for that. But the real need for deception has to do with the deeper truth: somebody needed to shoot Liberty Valance so that civilization could come to the West, just as the Liberty Valances of the world were needed to shoot the Indians. This truth needs to be concealed because it does not sit well with liberalism.

Liberalism seeks to do away with force and fraud in human relations. This is a noble aspiration shared by anti-liberal thinkers as well. Liberal theorists are famous for constructing accounts of how civil order can arise from the state of nature without force or fraud, by means of a social contract between rational agents. It is only because liberals think that political legitimacy depends on the immaculate conception of liberal order, without resort to force and fraud, that they are forced to print the legend. Liberalism does not banish force from politics, and especially from the foundation of political order. It merely banishes honesty about force.

Rance Stoddard is a brilliant and scathing portrait of liberalism. When Rance’s priggish, effeminate idealism clashes with the grim reality of the state of nature, Tom Doniphon needs to rescue him again and again. If Rance really shot Liberty Valance, it was only by discarding his initial belief that there is no difference between Liberty and Tom—and only by taking Tom’s advice to buy a gun. If Tom shot Liberty Valance, the repudiation of liberalism is even deeper, for Rance has the law on his side but isn’t up to the task of defeating Liberty, so Tom has to commit cold-blooded murder.

Liberalism, in short, depends on illiberal men and extralegal violence for its very survival. But, instead of questioning their own ideological premises, liberals simply lie about this fact. Ford doesn’t dispute the benefits of law and order. He just thinks they would be better secured by men who are more honest about the role of violence in founding and maintaining them.

This is an amazing message for a Hollywood film. I have no doubt that this is Ford’s intended meaning. Everything about this film, both its virtues and its flaws, is 100% John Ford. He was one of Hollywood’s most meticulous auteurs, a fact that is somewhat hidden by the formulaic quality of all his films. Ford started making movies in the silent era, when they were everyone’s entertainment, which meant that every film had to have something for everyone, including a love story and some crude comic relief, usually involving booze. Of course one could level the same sort of criticisms at Shakespeare.

I chalk the film’s flaws up to the self-indulgence of old age. Ford was pushing 70, and his hard-working, hard-drinking life was catching up with him. Perhaps we can thank the film’s virtues to another trait of old age: impatience, because time is short, which leads to greater frankness, even though it might ruffle some folks’ feathers.

I don’t want to spoil the movie’s brilliant and heartbreaking final scene, so I will leave you with these words. Since men like Liberty Valance need killing to create political order, nothing is too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance. It is a burning indictment of liberalism that such men lie unsung and unstoried in paupers’ graves.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Hollywood, Liberalism, Movies, Westerns 
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  1. The best line in the movie is Rance’s objection to the truth he can’t face: “When violence threatens, talkin’s no good anymore!” If there’s one thing that’s shown very clearly in this film, it’s that words do not constrain reality – force constrains reality.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  2. unwoke says:

    “John Ford’s last great film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) enjoys the status of a classic.”

    Any film which can afford to have Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef & Edmond O’Brien in supporting roles with minor billing under the principal stars of the production has got to be pretty great, at least as movies go. That John Ford could assemble such a cast of big egos is a tribute to his own stature as a director, both among the public & the top actors of the day. Regardless of what kind of cultural analogue it is, the movie is an entertaining story. In real life, both John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart were politically & culturally quite conservative. Wayne was a little loose living in his personal life but Stewart was a man of sterling character. If only Hollywood could still produce such upright actors as Jimmy Stewart today, both on screen & off. Isn’t it poetic that Rance Stoddard is Jimmy Stewart?

    • Replies: @moi
    , @Bookish1
  3. Dutch Boy says:

    I’m okay with force, not so okay with fraud (our overlords are too fond of using it against us and not just our enemies). While I enjoyed the movie, the characters are obviously miscast. Ford hung on to his ensemble of actors long past their use by date, which contributed to the decline of his movie making.

    • Replies: @RichardTaylor
  4. @Macumazahn

    Good point. Schmitt describes liberalism as endless talk to evade the necessity of decision and force.

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  5. Thanks for this noteworthy review … Great quote from Trevor Lynch above:

    Liberalism does not banish force from politics, and especially from the foundation of political order. It merely banishes honesty about force.

    Here’s a fine collection of still photos from the film, with the 1962 Bacharach-David hit song, ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’, sung by Gene Pitney … the song not used as the film theme because John Ford didn’t like it

  6. I re-watched this movie about a year and a half ago and then wrote a relative about it. Unfortunately my server did not retain a copy of my letter to her that was that old.

    My comments to her and on the film itself were almost totally focused on the gun fight and its aftermath. It is abundantly clear that Wayne shot Marvin, it wasn’t a lie. What however, makes no sense at all is Stewart and especially his reaction when he thought it was he who had killed Marvin and then his reaction after he found out the truth.

    You are adding a ton of speculation into this film. From your questions about Wayne’s truth telling to all of that stuff about Stewart’s motives. I did not see ANY of that in this film. Stewart’s character makes no sense at all in any way. Perhaps that is the fault of the actor, but it looks more like it is s the fault of the script, the director, and the actor. They never fleshed out any motivation for his acts during and after the gun fight.

    You have conveniently filled in voluminously that emptiness, but nothing you wrote is indicated by the film and not even your knowledge of the personal life and beliefs of the director suffice to support your thesis here.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance failed completely, because its principal scene was never resolved in any way. That failure to resolve reduced the film to a disjointed melodrama and even that was unrealistic, contrived and trivial.

    At the time the film was made, Wayne, Stewart, and even Marvin were bigger than life movie stars in a star system that was rapidly disintegrating. When it came out, the film was more about the stars doing a Western (and the title song, nominated for an Academy Award and sung live at the Awards by Gene Pitney, the song was a radio hit).

    None of that other “attack on liberalism” stuff was apparent to viewers of this film, either then or now.

    • Disagree: James Braxton
    • Replies: @D. K.
  7. roo_ster says:

    Good review of a good movie. As a child, my mom introduced me to classic movies and I recall despising Rance throughout, from start to finish. I thought it was a tragedy. The hero gets bupkis, the talky wuss gets the girl. I have come to a more nuanced evaluation, but I think my initial take of TMWSLV as tragedy is reasonable.

    I am the sort who thinks that being over-civilized is a serious problem, even more a problem than lack of civilizational polish. When JS Bach died in 1750, the last witch had yet to be burned at the stake and dueling was legal. I think both music and civilization both went downhill after that high point.

  8. unit472 says:

    Clint Eastwood made basically the same movie with High Plains Drifter only the Liberty Valence character returns after the Rance Stoddard character has won election and turned the town into a corrupt liberal enclave controlled by a mining corporation.

    Lee Marvin’s character was an early version of the ‘anti hero’ that would become popular in later 60’s movies. When he pays Dutton Peabody a visit it was a bit like H.R. Haldeman showing up at Ben Bradlee’s offices at the Washington Post.

  9. huisache says:

    Rance represented the inevitability of civilization coming to the west and Tom the blunt force necessary to make it happen. Like The Searchers, the rough guys in the Rangers are needed to clear out the Comanches, who enjoy liberty in a lawless uncivilized situation. After the uncivilized are cleared the lawyers and teachers and farmers thrive. Sounds like reality to me.

    And the analogy to Shakespeare is not misplaced. He was a great story teller who threw in a lot of humor to keep people like me interested—-which Ford always did.

    The ages of the actors playing young men was one of those things I was willing to overlook so long as the story hooked me and it did so I enjoyed the film. If you have to have everything being realistic then you are not going to have much entertainment. Back to The Searchers: I realized the Comanches in the film were actually Navajos but so what? I realized the bad chief was not any kind of Indian. So what? I later learned the blue eyed chief was a gay German. So what, it was a great story.

    The actors had a field day; Strother Martin got to strut as a psycho, Marvin as malevolence itself, Andy Devine did his comic turn, etc. All in all one of my favorite films and the ending is up there with No Country for Old Men in terms of being pitch perfect.

  10. ruralguy says:

    Lee Marvin just captured the frontier spirit when he walked No-name City, watching the departing gold miners, and then singing “Wand’rin’ Star” in Paint Your Wagon. That gravely-voice song briefly shot to number 1 in the UK, at the height of the rock mania. Some cinema photography captures the wildness and joy of the West, but that song captures it in music and lyrics. But, there is no film or musical substitute for actually camping out in the West, next to a river, on the prairies, or on the plains, to capture the frontier life. When I was young, I often hunted and trapped, fully immersed in a natural world, where there is no civilized morality, just pure wildness. That frontier is severely missing from our civilized world.

  11. D. K. says:
    @restless94110

    “It is abundantly clear that Wayne shot Marvin, it wasn’t a lie.”

    No, it is not at all clear. If you are at all deft in using the PAUSE button on your VCR or DVR, you may see that ‘Rance’ fired toward ‘Liberty’, before ‘Liberty’ fired again (already having hit ‘Rance’ in his shooting arm– an act of mayhem), and before ‘Tom’ fires his rifle, from across the street. When ‘Liberty’ does fire again, for the last time, his gun is still pointing upward, at nearly a 45-degree angle, explaining why ‘Rance’ was not shot again. Since ‘Doc Willoughby’ does a . . . cursory, shall we say? . . . examination of the body of ‘Liberty’ on scene, in the street, merely to confirm that he was “Dead,” and the corpse is quickly tossed on a wagon and carted away for burial, there is no way to know whether ‘Liberty’ had been struck by one or both bullets fired at him, nor which, if the answer were both, was fatal. The one thing that is clear, courtesy of our PAUSE buttons at home, is that ‘Rance’, not ‘Tom’, shot at ‘Liberty’ first.

    “. . . the title song, nominated for an Academy Award and sung live at the Awards by Gene Pitney . . . .”

    No, the song was neither eligible for an Oscar nor nominated for one; the film’s lone Oscar nomination went to its famed costume designer, Edith Head:

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056217/awards?ref_=tt_awd

    Gene Pitney performed at the 34th Annual Academy Awards, on Monday, April 9, 1962, to sing his hit, the title track to “Town without Pity” (1961), starring Kirk Douglas; “The Man who Shot Liberty Valence” premiered on Friday, April 13, 1962, and went into nationwide release on Easter Sunday, April 22, 1962 (a day that I remember, as it also was the birthday of both my eldest sister and one of my cousins, who lived across the street from us).

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348518/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348518/soundtrack?ref_=tt_trv_snd

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056217/releaseinfo?ref_=tt_ov_inf

    The following year, Robert Goulet performed all five of the Best Song nominees:

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348815/soundtrack?ref_=tt_trv_snd

  12. @D. K.

    Gene Pitney performed at the 34th Annual Academy Awards, on Monday, April 9, 1962, to sing his hit, the title track to “Town without Pity” (1961), starring Kirk Douglas;

    You are correct. And you beat me to the punch. I remembered this a few hours later and was going to post a correction. Thanks for the info.

    And thanks for revealing how little the Academy thought of the failed The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

    As for the shooting, no one needs a pause button for any of that. Rance fired at Liberty but as you point out Lance had already been shot in his firing arm. Furthermore, Rance had only had a few sessions firing the gun, and his heart was not in a gun battle face to face. When Liberty shot Rance in his firing arm, Rance was done for. It doesn’t matter who fired after that. The only scenario that makes any sense was Tom’s explanation. It was clearly not a lie, and you can see that Rance believed it. Firing wildly was Rance, like an hysterical, weak female. Firing and hitting the target was Tom.

    By the way, you seem to imply that the doc made a cursory examination for some nefarious reason, but no one knew that Tom had fired. So, it was dark, the town was relieved, Liberty the bully was dead, end of story. No one cared, nor should they have cared.

    Glad you remember the date of the release, I guess, though it makes no nevermind. 1962 was still a time when Wayne, Stewart, and Marvin could pull ’em in. However, the film itself was like a cardboard cutout of previous magnificent Westerns. It was almost like those movie sets that only have their front facades intact while there is nothing at all behind them.

    Again, thanks for the correction, and the bit on Robert Goulet, whose name I always associated with eating a meal.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  13. @restless94110

    As for the shooting, no one needs a pause button for any of that. Rance fired at Liberty but as you point out Lance had already been shot in his firing arm. Furthermore, Rance had only had a few sessions firing the gun, and his heart was not in a gun battle face to face.

    Very prescient of the Grassy Knoll controversy.

    Who really shot Kennedy, the first Catholic president?

  14. @D. K.

    It’s possible Ransom and Donifan both shot Liberty who was inebriated and didn’t take the gunfight seriously. But one thing for sure, whether Ransom’s bullet did or didn’t hit Liberty, Donifan’s certainly did, especially as he used a rifled and aimed for the shot.

    What however, makes no sense at all is Stewart and especially his reaction when he thought it was he who had killed Marvin and then his reaction after he found out the truth.

    No, it makes total sense. In a way, his taking on Liberty was a suicide mission. He had about as much chance as the sodbuster against Jack Palance as the Cobra in Shane. Indeed, Liberty shoots his arm and mocks him. He toys with Ransom like a cat with a mouse. Why did Ransom decide to fight? It was rage and a matter of honor. He wants to believe in law and order, but there isn’t much around, and Liberty pushed things too far. He beat up the newspaper editor nearly to death. At that point, Ransom simply has to prove himself and the town that he’s a man. So, he goes after Liberty not with real expectation to kill him but to prove himself a real man who stood up to the scumbag. He most certainly didn’t expect to win. He just wanted to die with honor. But miraculously, he killed the bugger or thinks he did. It’s like Clarence the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was looking out for him. He is relieved by this great luck, on the level of Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson.

    Later, he becomes distraught over the whole affair because of the SPIN used by his political rivals. Ransom doesn’t feel bad or guilt about having killed Liberty the thug. But he’s troubled by the narrative that he’s a cold-blooded killer who murdered Liberty Valance, a decent citizen. Now, that’s total BS, but the narrative takes on a life of its own. The real Valance was a killer, but the rival press and organization push the story that Valance was a good guy killed by Ransom the murderer. The narrative flips reality and makes Ransom out to be the wild man who resorts of violence to settle things. So, Ransom’s very words are used against him, and precisely because of what he’d preached, it hurts to hear the same logic preached back to him(despite its lack of basis in fact).
    In the end, especially in politics which is all about public perception, it isn’t so much what you are and what you did that what the public is made to believe what you are and what you did. Ransom came to the West to create order out of chaos and rid the wilderness of killers, BUT he is made out to be the crazy killer. That is too much for him. Also, being hyper-sensitive and a very social person, he comes to be filled with self-doubt from all the negative publicity spewed out by the other side.
    That is why it’s significant when Donifan spells it out and says he killed Liberty. At least on the personal level, this removes the burden of having killed Valance from Ransom’s shoulders. Also, Ransom realizes that he owes it to Donifan to get in there and fight. Donifan did something he didn’t have to. Also, even though the two men don’t discuss it, Donifan ended up sacrificing the girl because he saved Ransom. Indeed, Donifan’s main motivation for killing Liberty was because the girl was freaking out. Donifan did it for her but didn’t know that she was really in love with Ransom. So, Donifan lost the girl to Ransom. She meant more to him than anything in the world, and so, Ransom must go in there and keep fighting.

    Anyway, the movie is more relevant than ever. Look at the Iraq War. Never mind there being no WMD. The mass media in cahoots with deep state said there was. And so, there was war.
    There was no Russia Collusion in 2016, but Jewish Media and Deep state said there was. It was the biggest attack on US since Pearl Harbor, said the Jews, and so many believed it.
    In 2020, some worthless trash George Floyd died of overdose, but the Media pushed the legend of saint Floyd, and his family got 25 million dollars and there are sacral murals all over. Never mind the reality. It’s the narrative, just like ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ nonsense. And the 2020 election. Lots of funny stuff, but just tell yourself, it’s all ‘baseless’ and just trust the ‘adults in the room’.
    Of course, many people know about the lie but believe it’s a noble lie, therefore justified. And LIBERTY VALANCE makes us think of US history and all of history as more legend than fact because people just need myths.

    What is the truth of power? I figure it’s like Angela Lansbury’s speech in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Dark and perverse, and John Ford’s movie hints at it. In Ford’s movie, the only truly evil character is Valance. Others range from noble to good to okay to flawed to foolish. And yet, even in a world of many decent people, they need lies or myths to keep it all together.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  15. If I recall correctly the studio, whose regard for the aging Ford had diminished, had slashed this work’s production budget, forcing Ford to shoot this film on a soundstage set and in lower-cost B&W.

  16. @Priss Factor

    With multiple lines of fire, who didn’t shoot Kennedy?

    However, interesting point, never thought of that.

  17. Anonymous[147] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m disturbed by the writer’s acceptance that the Indians needed to be killed (how different would the country be now?), but Liberty Valance was basically a nigger.

    • Disagree: RichardTaylor
    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  18. SafeNow says:

    Thoughtful review and comments, thank you. Maybe someone can help with two small points:

    1. In the scene in the train, the conductor announces that they’ve got a full head of steam up, and they’ll be making… 25 miles an hour! But glancing out the window, the viewer sees the scenery going by at maybe 100 miles an hour. Ford was meticulous, and so this has always left me wondering whether it was intentionally symbolic. The idea would be that when one gets old, time telescopes, seems to go by so very fast? Nah, I guess just a (big) technical mistake — common in movies. When I watch films on Amazon prime, the trivia comments note technical errors all the time so I guess these are common.

    2. A rural family made a wonderful five- or six-minute parody of this movie using only their family members as the actors. I saw this on Youtube about 10 years ago. I recently tried to find it on YouTube and could not. Did I miss it, or has it been removed? Can a better searcher than I am find the link? Thank you.

  19. It just doesn’t work. Ford thought that drunkards and men with funny voices were hilarious.

    Out of Ford’s mouth, or is the author simply chanelling Gore Vidal’s vision for america?

    A real director–with much the vision of a prudent pimp–does not define success in terms of overnight sales but by the interest it incurs in the course of its lifetime, which in this case will probably outlive all of us. Look at any of Ford’s products, all of them are seemingly incongruent jagged stained glass pieces of drunkards and men with funny voices. Yet the effect in one’s soul upon leaving the theater–that is where the art lies.

    Have repeatedly observed the tears of new-age wymen at the conclusion of The Searchers. It may have been the men with the funny voices. Ford’s work was knowing; we need more of it.

  20. @Trevor Lynch

    Liberals are fond of invoking Marx (Hegel) and carrying on about Thesis–Antithesis–Synthesis blah blah, the Revolution etc, with Straight White Culture as the Thesis and themselves, their radical freedom as the Antithesis and for the Synthesis……….what? They’re stymied.

    What we are taught to believe as children is the Thesis. The collection of purified, sanctified myths that give our culture legitimacy and moral standing.

    We go to college and are exposed to the truth about the founders and those myths. They are defrocked and the ideals are shown to be just that. This is the Antithesis.

    For Liberals, this is the end of the story. The Synthesis lies somewhere in a never-never land of electric cars that don’t pollute, free energy from the Sun and Wind, living in harmony with Nature and abundance for all as we Euro-Whites renounce our privilege and open ourselves up to the wisdom that inheres in the simplicity of primitive people worldwide and we all become children of a benevolent Mother.

    But Reality is the gritty truth that everything we do is dirty to some extent and nothing’s free.

    To move ahead is to accept that there is no pure solution to any of the problems that afflict us. We must face the fact that, both as individuals and collectively, we are as flawed as any of our schemes and that in spite of the fact that our very presence on Earth is the problem, we must decide and act, even with the foreknowledge that our actions will be flawed. We cannot “evade the necessity of decision and force” as you put it. We, meaning our White-Euro civilization, must take a stand and realize that we are as justified as any other people in doing so. None are innocent. We have a rightful place under the Sun and if we have to fight to preserve that place then we should do so.

    There is no pure “Synthesis”.

    Unable to handle the guilt involved in this, the marijuana smoke-wreathed liberal retreats into his ever-diminishing fantasy world in which he can remain blameless (in his own eyes anyway).

    • Agree: Macumazahn
  21. Z-man says:

    I used to like this movie when I was a kid. Hasn’t aged well, imo.
    Now Mcclintock I can still watch. A comedy with a little PC Indian rights side story. A lot of fun.

    • Agree: Old and Grumpy
  22. I’ve always loved this movie, though the criticisms offered here are mostly valid. I see that other commenters have noticed the similarities in theme between this film and The Searchers: namely, that civilization cannot exist without “jerks” willing to use force to advance and protect it.
    I’ve always found the 1992 movie A Few Good Men to be a mirror image of Liberty Valance. There, the “jerk” necessary for civilization’s survival, played by Jack Nicholson, tries to explain to liberal lawyer that “You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.” Then, more famously, in an echo of the earlier film’s line about only printing the legend, says “You can’t handle the truth!”
    A Few Good Men leads the audience to the saccharine, liberal conclusion that justice is done and that such jerks have no place in civilized society, but I always felt, having been a John Wayne fan from childhood, a sense of deep disquiet when Nicholson’s character told the liberal lawyer as he was being led away, “All you did today was weaken a country.”

    • Replies: @eD
  23. Marckus says:

    Examining this movie for literary meaning is like examining a septic tank for a fleck of gold.

    This is just another shoot up western with worn out actors and worn out dialogue and a worn out script.

    The movie was made to earn a dollar and not to stimulate intellectual thought or growth. There was an article in UR yesterday dealing with the erosion of culture from movies and song.

    Here we are once again on the opposite side of the coin. Waxing philosophical over these Hollywood movies is like staring at and deeply pondering the cosmic relevance of a gob of dog shit in a derelict park.

    • Agree: Arthur MacBride
  24. @Anonymous

    Whites certainly needed to make war against the Indians when the Indians made war against them.

    There’s a distinction between aggressive, criminal violence and self-defense.

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
  25. moi says:
    @unwoke

    The great stars of yesteryear (Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, James Garner, etc. etc.) didn’t behave like the assholes we have today. Says a lot about America.

    • Agree: GomezAdddams
    • Replies: @Z-man
  26. Interesting, but I don’t agree with some theses. Truth to be told- I forgot dialogs after Marvin was offed (I’ll use actors’ names), which may be of crucial importance, but I overlooked them (or forgot them entirely).

    There was no doubt in my mind that Wayne whacked Marvin. Nothing to support anything else. And all the better for that, because he did a good deed. It was not a cold blooded murder, because Marvin was a murderer & a bully any society is better without such types. There was nothing similar to breaking the ethics of a gunfight, because Stewart didn’t stand a chance against Marvin. It’s like an outside intervention in a fight between a 300 pounds black thug and a minuscule Korean grocery owner. If you whack a negro, you’re a hero because you’re on the side of the weak, who is an upstanding citizen, while a whackee was a human garbage anyone is happy to see eliminated.

    As regards Stewart, I forgot about his moral dilemmas after the shootout. In the movie, he is presented as a civilized modern man (I haven’t ever thought of him as effeminate, just moral and civilized). Now, as for his dilemmas after the fight: I don’t recall whether he was anguished because he killed a human being, or was it because he had let himself be sucked into violence & savagery of the old West? In other words- is he unhappy because he is now a killer (this has something to do with ethics based on religions etc.), or because he has become just like them, a white savage macho yada yada? Did he betray high universal moral principles -as he sees them, or civilization?

    I forgot about this part.

    What remained in my memory: Marvin had to be killed, we all know that & we are happy because of it. There is not a single redeeming quality in that human refuse. Stewart was an idealist who, Ford seems to have thought, brought progress & civilization – strange that Ford never depicted how things actually turned out, that civilization was big business, industrialization, law and order with all its intricacies, robber barons, financial interests, … Civilization is literacy and the rule of law, but is not only that. Idealists do contribute to civilization, but they are just a segment of it. Wayne was a relic of a heroic past, actually a Western knight. Knights usually don’t end up happily married, that would be an anti-climax. More, he is a remnant of a bygone era, something like Natty Bumpo in Cooper’s novels. Can we imagine him as a family man, surrounded by loving children? I can’t.

    At the end, a humorous side note: from a manospheroid point of view, Stewart is a beta (with a few alpha moments). But Hallie goes to him, not to alpha Wayne because- there is no future for such alphas, even though their heart may be in the right place.

    • Replies: @unit472
    , @Priss Factor
  27. We need to remember there no Sweet Angels ready to swoop in and save us from danger if we’re kind to enemies. The angels never show up, you just lose. We either make good things happen for our people or they don’t happen. This is basic stuff, something men should learn by the age of 18.

    Very interesting review. Thank Goodness our ancestors conquered the North American continent.

    • Agree: WhiteWinger
  28. @Dutch Boy

    I’m okay with force, not so okay with fraud

    But in a war situation, “fraud” is used all the time. The concept of excluding it only makes sense when dealing with people who are already civilized and treating each other with respect.

    Bribery was often used with Native American chiefs. The “sweet Indians who loved buffalo so much” were all too willing to sell their brothers out for personal gain. It happened quite a bit. Wasn’t that better than going to war with them when possible?

    • Replies: @Dutch Boy
  29. Z-man says:
    @moi

    Peck was a bit of an ass hole especially as he got older. Lancaster and Garner were cool.
    Speaking of John Ford he was a mean little man. He tried to pick a fight with James Cagney on Mister Roberts but Cagney put him in his place. He also supposedly punched Henry Fonda. He left the production and the movie was re-directed by Mervyn LeRoy with a lot of input from Fonda.

    • Agree: Dutch Boy
    • Replies: @Dutch Boy
  30. SteveK9 says:

    For me the film was only exciting when Lee Marvin was in the scene. I also thought there was no doubt that Tom shot Valance from cover with a rifle.

  31. Sparkon says:

    I read the first few paragraphs of Trevor Lynch’s article, and may or may not read the rest later. Like the author, I find The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to be a flawed and somewhat ridiculous movie, like most cowboy movies were, so the bar is set low enough that TMWSLV remains one of the greatest of the B&W oaters.

    Like many kids of my generation born in the early post-war period, I grew up watching a lot of B-grade B&W cowboy movies on TV, where the many plot holes, unrealistic action, and cheesy, formulaic storylines of this genre could not escape my scornful notice already as a 3rd or 4th grader, when my critically unforgiving young eyes were first honed by the hokey TV space opera Captain Video.


    There was regular afternoon program – “Western Trails” – in my town that ran in the hour before the “Mickey Mouse Club” came on at 5 pm, and it featured a lot of those early John Wayne movies from the ’30s, along with other less well-known cowboy stars like Whip Wilson, a good-guy version of the somewhat sinister cat known as Lash La Rue, I kid you not, who dressed in all-black, and eventually he even traded in his brown, twin gun holster for a black leather model, but usually he whipped the bad guys with, you know, his whip.

    Alas, none of the Whip Cowboys achieved the fame and fortune of the Singing Cowboys, with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry the two most famous examples, and there were many others, but I’m not sure if any of them had a song reach #1 like Lee Marvin’s performance of the Lerner & Lowe classic from Paint Your Wagon did in England.

    Getting back to LV, leaving the great Hal David & Burt Bacharach song out of the film was a huge mistake, but as they say, booze is thicker than water, or something like that.

    Anyway, Jimmy Stewart’s overacting is just off the charts in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The scene where he gets staggers to his feet after being tripped by Lee Marvin really takes the cake, but his knock-kneed performance in the film’s climatic scene is right there too as a leading contender for the Hall of Cheese.

  32. Resartus says:

    For movies where the Badguys really needed killing,
    look at many of Randolph Scotts movies….
    The Tall T, Comanche Station points and more….

    • Agree: Dutch Boy
  33. Dan Hayes says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    But Indian actions were in self-defense against White invasions of their homelands!

    • Agree: Pheasant
    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
    , @ruralguy
  34. @Priss Factor

    “What is the truth of power? I figure it’s like Angela Lansbury’s speech in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Dark and perverse …”

    Intergenerational incest between Lansbury’s character and her son, one of the most tragic characters in American cinema, is implied in the Frankenheimer film and the excellent Jonathan Demme remake. In the novel on which both movies are based, the grooming nature of the mother/son relationship is clearly illuminated.

  35. Bookish1 says:
    @unwoke

    Stewart was a man of sterling character? How many innocent children did he butcher when he dropped those bombs on German towns and cities.

    • Replies: @Joe Risk
  36. @Dan Hayes

    Not always.

    Tribes routinely signed treaties with whites then broke them.

    Or renegade bands would break away and attack whites.

    • Agree: p38ace
    • Thanks: Dan Hayes
    • Replies: @Begemot
    , @Pheasant
  37. This is an enormous risk for Tom. If Rance shot Liberty, it was self-defense. But if Tom killed Liberty, he could hang for it.

    Well, it’s not that simple. Rance was advancing on Liberty with a gun in his hand, so it’s Liberty who would have had a self-defense claim, at the start of the encounter. But if Rance was justified in shooting Liberty (after Liberty promises to shoot him between the eyes when the shot-away gun is still on the ground) then so did Tom, since “self-defense” is somewhat of a misnomer in that the right to engage in it extends to the defense of others.

    Not that the law had any force in the town, as I understand it.

  38. HVM says:

    This is one of my favorites. I did not see it until I was older in life.

    The movie has some of the best actors of old: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Lee Marvin. They had class back then. There are several others actors deserving mention, but I’ll stick with the script of Liberty Valance. Liberty Valance is on so much now it is becoming like It’s A Wonderful World.

    Both Lee Marvin and Jimmy Stewart served in World War II. Lee Marvin got a (near) million dollar wound at Saipan and got out of it. Stewart was tweaked out after making it 25 air missions. One can only imagine the sheer terror he experienced.

    When a child, my parents took me to NYC and we had lunch at the Plaza. Lee Marvin sat at the table next to us and was an arms length away from me. He had just finished the Big Red One and as a young kid (not even a teenager) I was in awe and scared of him at the same time. They told me to go get his autograph, and I think he expected me to do so, but I was so intimidated that I did not want to disturb him while he ate. I think he appreciated that.

    It is too bad the actors of today do not have the class or even the scripts of the actors of yore.

  39. @Priss Factor

    “Who really shot Kennedy, the first Catholic president?”

    The Pope.

  40. Liza says:

    I saw this film not too long ago; it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. And the review is fine, really detailed, except for one thing: no mention of the C word – caricature. Everyone is a caricature and Trevor Lynch admits this indirectly. Not a lot of nuance in these people.

  41. Verity says:

    No eagle eyes in this crowd! Careful viewing reveals that Rance’s last shot goes high breaking a window behind and above Liberty; Tom’s shot drills him dead! End of story.

    • Replies: @D. K.
  42. eD says:
    @He's Spartacus

    The comparison with “A Few Good Men” is good. “A Few Good Men” is a good movie, with some cringe issues, that is largely carried by the performances of Cruise and Nicholson, and has the same theme of the warrior being outmoded as the town becomes more civilized.

    “Liberty Valence” is more complex structurally. There is no character similar to Liberty Valence in “A Few Good Men”, and the Tom Doniphan figure is always an adversary, instead of an ally, of the Rance figure in the movie. My guess is that this has to do with “A Few Good Men” being set on a military base, so there is no scope for free agents like Valance and Doniphan. Everyone is part of a hierarchy. Military organizations can’t function well without violent “outlaws” that are let loose by the people who really control the town.

    Though panned by American critics (but liked by European critics), “The Lone Ranger” also deliberately borrowed heavily from Liberty Valence, in this case the cattle barons who let Valence loose are an actual character in the movie, and at the end of the movie Rance/ the Lone Ranger decides to become an outlaw, instead of going into politics.

  43. Begemot says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Sounds like a Zionist apologia for Israel, with the Palestinians in the role of the Indians.

    • Agree: Pheasant
    • Replies: @Oscar Peterson
    , @Pheasant
  44. ricpic says:

    Bottom line? The James Stewart character is elected Senator, goes to Washington and betrays all those who sent him there. In the real world, that is.

  45. Verity says:

    And it is the end of the story. Doniphan knows that in murdering Liberty he has just killed himself. His life is over. His act is noble but tragic. How does the old saw go, “Greater love bath no man,…”

  46. A great film, but the criticisms here are accurate.

    One thing I loved about the movie was the names—the names of all the men are extremely memorable and right of a dime store novel or kid’s movie: Liberty Valance, Ransom Stoddard, Link Appleyard, Pompey.

    Except one: the boring old name of Tom Doniphon. The man who, fittingly, was forgotten by history, the legend, the town, and the girl.

    Also, I believe “Doniphon” is a play on words. “phon” from the Greek word for “sound” (as is found the word phonetics) and “Don” is from Latin, meaning “to give” (as is found in the words donate and donar).

    So, literally, the forgotten man is “given sound” by the film/Stewart’s tale of what actually happened.

    • Thanks: Macumazahn
    • Replies: @Auntie Analogue
  47. ruralguy says:
    @Dan Hayes

    Hardly, that’s the sanitized history that you’ve learned in today’s leftist schools. The various Indian nations were constantly invading other nations/tribes’ lands and constantly migrating. Self defense? Not by a long shot. Read first-hand accounts of Indian wars, not the sanitized Leftist accounts. They often engaged in raids against other tribes solely to capture prisoners, to brutally dismember them bit by bit. They would swing captured children through the air, bashing their heads against rocks. In those first-hand accounts female suicide was mentioned very frequently, because of the tribes’ treatment of their own women. Those Indian women would often flee to white areas to escape their brutal lives. Not all tribes were violent, but most were. Indians were called “savages” for a reason. If you don’t believe me, read the first hand-accounts of explorers and those who witnessed the warfare and tribe life. In the last 150 years, history has been changed from brutal truths, to the drivel portrayed in Dances with Wolves.

  48. Dutch Boy says:
    @Priss Factor

    I did not consider Tom Doniphan’s shooting of Liberty Valance as murder. Valance had set up the confrontation as an opportunity to kill an opponent with no real chance to win the duel, which makes Doniphan’s shooting of Valance a justifiable homicide.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  49. @Begemot

    Sounds like a Zionist apologia for Israel, with the Palestinians in the role of the Indians.

    It does, doesn’t it?

    The only difference is that we as Americans obviously benefit greatly from the dispossession of the Indians but not at all from the dispossession of the Palestinians.

  50. Dutch Boy says:
    @Z-man

    He was a mean drunk and well-known as one in Hollywood.

    • Replies: @Z-man
  51. Dutch Boy says:
    @RichardTaylor

    Fraud in war is okay. Fraud in peace (e.g., peace treaties) and fraud directed at one’s own people is a different critter entirely.

  52. @ruralguy

    That the Indians were constantly warring (at a low level) among themselves is certainly true. And yes, there are some characteristic modes of Indian violence that we consider especially repellent. And yes also there has been some romanticizing of the Indians (as they were gradually eliminated.)

    But let’s be real–an invasion–in effect–of North America from Europe and a relentless move across the continent is the principal generator of white-Indian violence.

    We broke one treaty after another with the Indians as more whites wanted more land. There’s plenty of reality in between the “Dances with Wolves” take on history and your version of it.

    It is what it is, so I don’t feel the need to try to make it something “nicer.”

    • Agree: Pheasant
  53. So how does the message of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence compare with that of High Noon? (Or maybe he reviewed that at some point.)

    My vague recollection of the latter is that its criticisms were more directed at passivity and acquiescence of “the people” rather than at the liberal intellectual. High Noon came out 10 years before Liberty Valance in 1952, and I have to think there is an anti-McCarthy subtext to it.

  54. @Dutch Boy

    I did not consider Tom Doniphan’s shooting of Liberty Valance as murder. Valance had set up the confrontation as an opportunity to kill an opponent with no real chance to win the duel, which makes Doniphan’s shooting of Valance a justifiable homicide.

    From our eyes, true. But justice, then as now, is a funny thing. There are powerful forces in LIBERTY VALANCE that use the likes of Valance to enforce their version of the ‘law’, and those factions could call it murder if it came to light.

    Also, despite Valance’s intentions, his standoff with Stoddard officially counts as a duel, man-to-man. Thus, as both agreed to a shoot-out, it wouldn’t be murder no matter who died. But Donifan wasn’t party to the showdown, so what he did could be called ‘murder’.

    If two people agreed to a duel but YOU secretly shot one guy to help the other guy, your action would count as murder by law.

    But seen in context of what we know, Donifan’s act wasn’t murder. Valance is a wicked guy and Stoddard was no match for him. Their duel was like the one between Palance’s character and the sodbuster in SHANE.

    There’s another factor. Donifan takes pride in being a tough guy, facing a man straight on. That he killed a man from the shadows isn’t his style of killing. He did something ‘dirty’ even if justified in saving Stoddard. It violated the Western code of standing on your own feet and facing the enemy, live or die. By the code of the West, Valance should have won even if he is the bad guy. In the West, being good and right isn’t good enough. You must back it with skill with guns. Donifan made it seem as though Stoddard won as a Western hero, but it was actually a subversion of the Western way.

    Worse, it’s not as if Donifan took Stoddard’s place, which is what happens in SHANE. Shane knows the Big Joe is no match for Palance the Cobra, and so, he acts as the champion. Still, he has to fight for it with Big Joe because the latter would rather die like a man than have someone else fight for him. Joe’s pride is hurt, but Shane’s pride is intact because he faces the Cobra face to face.
    But Donifan is denied even this pride of Western victory. He doesn’t take Stoddard’s place and goes face to face with Valance but shoots him from the dark. It’s almost like shooting someone in the back. He did something wrong(by the Code of the West) to do something right(for children and womenfolk), but it’s like the story of the dog looking into the water and losing its bone. Donifan did it to make the West safe for womenfolk but his woman is in Stoddard’s arms.

    At this point, she was still Donifan’s girl, and she still would have felt obligated to marry him, especially because he saved Ransom due to her plea. But Donifan notices that she really loves Ransom and is most happy with him, and he opts to let her go, which is even more painful for him. But that is most tragic and noble part of his character.

    Of course, due to the race-ism back then, Pompey was just a Nice Negro. Today, Pompey would beat up all the white guys and the white girl would go with him. Now, that is truly tragic. It’d be like Truth whupping all your arses and taking all your womenfolk.

    • Agree: WhiteWinger
    • Replies: @HVM
  55. Pheasant says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    ‘Tribes routinely signed treaties with whites then broke them.’

    Whites did the same mostly for reasons of land speculation.

  56. Pheasant says:
    @Begemot

    Greg Johnson is a zionist in a negative sense i.e he wants Jews to leave White nations. I personally think zionism is nonsense but whatever.

  57. Pheasant says:

    ‘Ford did not, however, identify with outsiders against America’s WASP ethnic core because he was Jewish. Instead, he did so as an Irish Catholic.

    Judging from Ford’s cavalry trilogy—Fort Apache (1948), She Wore the Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950)—the West could not have been won without the help of golden-hearted, silver-tongued Irish drunkards. These stereotypes seem rather broad and offensive today, but Ford—a heavy drinker himself—obviously regarded them affectionately and thought their inclusion to be progressive.

    I list these problems up front, because I don’t want you to be surprised or deterred by them.’

    As everyone knows the west was won by stone cold sober sallow skinned anglo-saxon lutherans who were far too snobby to touch that filthy papist drink whiskey even if they were to indulge.

    Remember kiddies sober cowboys!

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  58. @ruralguy

    The various Indian nations were constantly invading other nations/tribes’ lands and constantly migrating. Self defense? Not by a long shot. Read first-hand accounts of Indian wars, not the sanitized Leftist accounts. They often engaged in raids against other tribes solely to capture prisoners, to brutally dismember them bit by bit.

    This is all very true, and only a fool or ignoramus would argue that Indians were flower children living in harmony with nature.

    But even as tribal nomads across the plains and across the valleys, they have deep deep roots in the land going back not 100s of yrs or 1000s or yrs but 10,000s of yrs.

    Consider Europe. Before the rise of kingdoms and states, there were Germanic, Celtic, and other tribes roaming about, bashing one another. They were like the Indians.

    Now, suppose the Chinese or Hindus built great ships and arrived in Europe and invaded. They’d be faced with barbarian or semi-savage European nomadic tribes who were bashing one another.
    Still, who would deny that Europeans, even if nomadic and barbarian, have deep meaningful roots on European soil, something that can’t be claimed by Chinese or Hindus?

    Besides, Europeans were bashing one another up to the 20th century with WWI and WWII. But Europe still belongs to them.

    But then, as Europeans now worship the gods controlled by Jews, they say Europe should be open to the whole world.

    • Agree: WhiteWinger
    • Replies: @Resartus
  59. @Pheasant

    You are focusing on the drink rather than the strong streak of Irish-Catholic identity politics in Ford’s films.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  60. Resartus says:
    @Priss Factor

    This is all very true, and only a fool or ignoramus would argue that Indians were flower children living in harmony with nature.

    Natives that welcomed Europeans, especially in the mid-west basically took sides,
    French vs British, by which one gave them Firearms, so they destroy (genocide) their
    natural enemies (other tribes)….

    Like the Spartans, Cortez had thousands of natives support his small force…..

  61. @HVM

    Lee is buried at Arlington with a plain gravestone.

    • Replies: @Z-man
    , @WhiteWinger
  62. “Liberalism seeks to do away with force and fraud in human relations. This is a noble aspiration shared by anti-liberal thinkers as well.”

    As a statement of fact, I have to disagree. An that disagreement is predicated on current history.

    Regime change in the name of democracy and liberal order – as convoluted as the notion is. Liberalism may seek to do away with fraud, inhumanity . . . etc. but it sure in the heck is not abandoning force to achieve those ends.

    As evidenced by the killing of several hundred thousand to see that end. I am not sure you fully grasp the liberal mind.

  63. Z-man says:
    @no jack london

    So is Audie Murphy. A simple grave stone. I almost walked over it. Very humbling.

  64. HVM says:
    @Priss Factor

    That is an interesting view of what Tom did. I always wondered why he let Stoddard win his girl despite Stoddard’s guts to risk it all against Valance. You have a good explanation. While he saved Stoddard, and the west he could not come out and say what he did because that would be seen as cowardly. Yet, in the process of saving the west from Valance he lost his girl to the man he saved. Maybe Stoddard is a representation of the new west with statehood, while Tom represents the old west. Then again, maybe we are over thinking the whole thing…

  65. Liberalism cannot accept mankind’s dark side–its “fallen nature” if you will. Which is why, in the end, liberalism, standing along, will always fail.

    • Agree: WhiteWinger
  66. D. K. says:
    @Verity

    ***

    “No eagle eyes in this crowd! Careful viewing reveals that Rance’s last shot goes high breaking a window behind and above Liberty; Tom’s shot drills him dead! End of story.”

    ***

    Which of the windows behind ‘Liberty’ did you see broken, in the original perspective of the shootout?

    Where did you see a window broken, in the revisionist perspective? The windows behind ‘Liberty’ are not even visible, during the flashback’s version of the shootout.

  67. @HVM

    I saw it when it came out. I was a kid at the time so I saw it as nothing more than a shoot em up. What did I know? In looking back at the Ford films that preceded “Valance” it is clear that he was in the twilight of his directing powers when he did “Valance”. His next movie, “Cheyenne Autumn”, was a banal, and unnecessary, attempt at setting the record straight in regards to the indigenous population in as much as the so-called Cavalry Trilogy and “The Searchers” showed him to be sympatico to the plight of Indians.

    Though “Valance” was not one of his better outings it is still, in its own way, a powerful film with an ending that is both sad and ironic.

  68. Jimmy1969 says:

    Get real and get into the modern world…no one watches movies like that anymore…review some Netflix shows, some current political correct jokes that are influencing modern America…netflix is where it is all at…not ancient history like Liberty Valance. Like you must be some sort of clown to talk about this Movie…are you for real or what.

    • Troll: WhiteWinger
  69. E_Perez says:

    How can such bullshit be taken seriously by any adult male beyond 25 ?

    The usual Western nonsense cult movie, improbable and unreal like “High Noon”, only topped by the grotesque clowneries of Italo-Westerns like “They called him Trinity”, which at least try to be funny.

    James Stewart is subscribed to such absurd stuff, like the ridiculous “Vertigo”.

  70. Joe Risk says:
    @Bookish1

    Yeah, I’ve a problem with him making those bombing runs also. But was it during the period of precision bombing or bombing in tag-team with the Brits to induce fire storms? In any event, strategic bombing of cities is simply a modern day version of the Turko-Mongol tactics of the past. Must admit though that given the high casualty rate for the the bomber force as a whole, it did take a sort of courage to fly those missions.

  71. @R.G. Camara

    My dear R.G. Camara, the name Doniphon is unlikely to have anything to do with Latin or Greek. It’s just John Ford using an alternative spelling of the Irish surname Donovan. A clue to this is Ford’s next (1963) film, also starring John Wayne & Lee Marvin, Donovan’s Reef. Irish surnames and first names are transliterated variously into English, and Doniphon is one of those various spellings of Donovan, so it’s possible that Ford used that spelling to evoke Latin & Greek, but it seems unlikely. But, gee, you did have me going there for a while!

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  72. Verity: “Careful viewing reveals that Rance’s last shot goes high breaking a window behind and above Liberty; Tom’s shot drills him dead! End of story.”

    Hmm, I’m not so sure about that. It looks to me like Tom fires first, and the window that breaks is only behind Liberty when seen from Tom’s angle. From Rance’s angle the window couldn’t be hit as it’s parallel to his direction of fire. It’s possible to think it broke because Tom’s bullet either went through Liberty’s body and broke the glass, or that Tom missed. But it’s confusing, because Liberty falls backwards as if hit by Rance, not Tom, and the glass falls outwards to where Liberty had been standing, as though the bullet that broke the window had been fired from inside the building. Was there a third shooter? Perhaps this is a backhanded homage to High Noon, where the main bad guy engaged in the climactic gun fight with Gary Cooper is finally shot dead through a window by Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper’s woman.

  73. Skeptikal says:
    @D. K.

    Probably the idea was that both men shot Liberty Valance.

    Kind of like, in East of Eden, very likely two men were the actual fathers of the “twin” brothers Caleb and Aron—not one or the other man.

    • Replies: @D. K.
  74. syonredux says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    “You are focusing on the drink rather than the strong streak of Irish-Catholic identity politics in Ford’s films.”

    Cf Ford’s adaptation of The Last Hurrah, with its celebratory portrait of an old-time Irish-American political boss. The Boston Brahmin villains in the film are played by veteran movie bad guys John Carradine and Basil Rathbone….

    Incidentally, since you’ve done Valance, I would strongly recommend two stronger Ford flicks as follow-ups, My Darling Clementine (Poetic and poignant film about the creation of law in the lawless Old West) and The Searchers (Taxi Driver can’t be fully appreciated without discussing the film that inspired it).

  75. @Auntie Analogue

    My dear R.G. Camara, the name Doniphon is unlikely to have anything to do with Latin or Greek. It’s just John Ford using an alternative spelling of the Irish surname Donovan. A clue to this is Ford’s next (1963) film, also starring John Wayne & Lee Marvin, Donovan’s Reef. Irish surnames and first names are transliterated variously into English, and Doniphon is one of those various spellings of Donovan, so it’s possible that Ford used that spelling to evoke Latin & Greek, but it seems unlikely. But, gee, you did have me going there for a while!

    My dear Auntie, you do know that great artists —such as filmmakers like John Ford—can have more than one meaning in what they portray? Multiple readings are both possible and equally valid for high-level artists; they are that darn good.

    Although sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, in this story there can be more than one meaning behind Tom Doniphon’s name. Although I am by no means 100% convinced of my pun being on purpose, your casual dismissal because “it means only one other thing” is quite ignorant.

    In fact, your own argument supports my reading—-Ford choosing here to use an unusual spelling of a more common name (Doniphon for Donovan) bespeaks that he wanted to draw attention to the name and its spelling for some reason.

    • Replies: @D. K.
  76. D. K. says:
    @Skeptikal

    My point was merely that it is ambiguous who killed ‘Liberty Valance’– except that the song (with a lyric by Hal David) says that “he was the bravest of them all.” It is obvious to me that ‘Ransom Stoddard’ was the bravest man in Shinbone, that night! Again, in the flashback version of the shootout, you can stop the action at 2:04 of the video that I linked to, above, and slowly advance the video, seeing that ‘Rance’ shot first, of the three, and was standing much closer to ‘Liberty’ than was ‘Tom’, shooting from across the street. If that first shot did hit ‘Liberty’– and, unlike our friend, above, I see no window broken, in either version of the shootout!?!– it certainly hit him before the one from ‘Tom’ would have; and, if ‘Liberty’ had been hit by that earlier bullet, and reacted accordingly, that would have made the shot by ‘Tom’ less likely to hit its target, because the target would have been instantaneously displaced. As for ‘Rance’ being a bad shot, it is easier to aim at a man like ‘Liberty’ by pointing at his chest, at a distance of about five yards, than trying to shoot a can of paint off of a post, at a much greater distance. The key to winning a shootout is in firing first, and the video extract showing all of the characters firing clearly shows ‘Rance’ shooting first.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  77. @ruralguy

    By that reasoning one could justify the immigrant invasion of Europe as Europeans fought wars with each other and were quite vicious throughout their history, or just about any aggression or occupation by anyone anywhere. And then didn’t all these nation states originate from some war, occupation, colonisation by one tribe of another’s territory and it got normalised and accepted under international conventions and laws? And so to Israel, a legitimate member of the UN, legitimate for now until one day it is replaced by Palestine.

  78. Z-man says:
    @Dutch Boy

    He made many great movies but yeah he really fit the Irish stereotype.

  79. unit472 says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    Modern interpretation:

    Liberty Valance represented the cattlemen ( who were there first). They needed an open range to graze and move their cattle to market. Real Estate speculators wanted to subdivide and fence in the range and, to be honest, Stoddard was the puppet political leader they used to outvote the cattlemen. Liberty was the cattleman’s candidate for the same office Stoddard sought but Stoddard had the media and the gun of Tom backing him up otherwise Liberty would probably have won the election!

    The real question is why was Tom Doniphan backing the immigrants and farmers? He was neither.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  80. @D. K.

    The argument over who shot Valance is pure conjecture on the part of the commenters.

    Seeing as how, and easily verified by these two videos, the scences where Valence is shot were taken at separate times which is common in movie productions. Multiple shots are taken, no pun intended, and then the editor uses that which suits their fancy.

    If you play the top video and stop at 4:01 and then run the bottom video and stop it at 2:04 you’ll notice the difference. In the top video you can see that Rance’s left arm is nearly held straight out at the same level as the shoulder.

    In the bottom video you can see that Rance’s left arm is held at a lower elevation with the elbow bent.

    And, you can see quite easily that Rance shoots at Valance first due to the fact that smoke is exiting Rance’s gun barrel before smoke exits Tom’s gun barrel.

    Now, it’s quite common for people to miss even at that close range. Try taking a pistol to the range and shoot at targets with your left hand at approximately the same distance. If you have limited experience shooting pistols like Rance then hitting hitting a human cutout may be hit or miss.

    But, of course all of this is meaningless since both angles were taken at different times in the movies production. This may be due to a limited number of cameras which as another commenter pointed was due to a limited budget to make the movie. Seeing as how a lot of the production money was probably spent on star salaries.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  81. @no jack london

    Lee is buried next to Joe Louis

  82. D. K. says:
    @R.G. Camara

    The names of James Stewart’s and John Wayne’s characters, inter alia, were changed from those in the source material– a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson. Whether the new names were coined by the two credited screenwriters, James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, or by director John Ford himself, I cannot readily discover. I cannot find a copy of the short story, online, either.

    https://www.isba.org/sites/default/files/teachers/Liberty%20Valance%20-%20Civic%20Education%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  83. I’m pretty sure the dispute in the restaurant was over money Valance owed Doniphan. Valance actually “gave” it to him, but not in his hand, or on his table, but at his feet, on the floor, a clear offense, and not a proper way to pay anyone. When Doniphan told him to “pick it up”, he was referring to the money, not the steak.

    It’s been a couple of years since I re-watched this movie, but I’m fairly sure I’m right.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  84. Skeptikal says:
    @D. K.

    If Ford had wanted us to know who shot Liberty Valance we would know it.

    So, Ford didn’t want the viewer to know who shot LV.

    So I am going to stick with my view: in fact, or in effect, both men shot him.

    It is also possible that Rance’s shot hit LV but didn’t kill him. Tom’s sure did, though.

    So, both men shot LV.

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
  85. @He do jjjjhh

    You are mistaken. The confrontation was over the steak on the floor. Valance tossed a coin down to pay for another before exiting.

  86. John Ford’s last great film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) enjoys the status of a classic. I find it a deeply flawed, grating, and often ridiculous film… John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, both fine actors given the impossible job of playing men in their 20s, even though they were aged 54 and 53 at the time. It just doesn’t work… The film is poorly paced as well, burning through screen time… Shinbone was built on a soundstage. Ford was known for shooting on location because he loved authenticity. But Shinbone’s cleanliness and newness—its clear artificiality—were quite deliberate representations of progress and the end of the frontier.

    It’s certainly an old man’s movie. It was made at a time when the Western too had grown old and was on the way out, ironically not least due to its great success on the TV screen. When the Western became generic fare in every living room, it lost the silver screen luster, and in a way, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE seems to be addressing the issue of TV and its impact on the Western. The use of sound-stage over actual locations suggest at this. Not only has the West been tamed but the Western itself has been tamed as weekly TV shows on all three networks. (Hitchcock likely also had the impact of TV on mind when he made PSYCHO, especially as he lent his name to a TV series.) Likewise, Sam Peckinpah’s THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND is partly a commentary on the rise of home video and its impact on culture, not least cinema.

    In a way, the West had a second life through the Western. Already by the time the first Western movie hit the screen, the Wild West was mostly thing of memory. The West had already become ‘old’. But the Western genre made it ‘young’ again, and a very handsome John Wayne was there almost from the beginning, especially as the star of Raoul Walsh’s magnificent THE BIG TRAIL. It was as if Manifest Destiny reborn, happening all over as American Saga in the form of the Western. The West was old but the Western was young, and in movies like STAGECOACH John Wayne conveyed that youthful spirit of the frontier. Indeed, John Wayne aged along with the Western. By the time he made THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, he’d aged along with the genre that was soon on its last legs. And John Ford was even older.

    So, LIBERTY VALANCE takes on different meanings depending on the context with which one watches the movie. Minus any context, one will notice many ‘flaws’ that may even seem ridiculous. Why didn’t John Ford insist on using makeup to make Wayne and James Stewart look younger? Why do they look VISIBLY OLDER than the characters they’re playing? And yet, this ‘flaw’ becomes a point and takes on meaning if seen as Ford’s commentary on the Western and his place in it. As a story of recollection, it’s taking place inside the soundstage of Ransom Stoddard’s crusty old mind. It’s sort of like a ghost-play. It’s also as if Stoddard has forgotten how young they were and revisits those young days trapped in an old-man mentality. Thus, what seems slow-paced and even boring has to be seen as unfolding at an old-man’s mental pace. It’s a narrative with cobwebs. Stoddard has to rummage through the closets and attics of his mind to recall how things had been. Also, there’s added tension because Stoddard’s intention is to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but personal memory is never a sure thing. The stage-like quality of the movie conveys this: the past has to be reconstructed to be deconstructed. Also, as the story is essentially subjective, drawn from Stoddard’s memory, and shows the limitation of Stoddard’s perspective. He’s a man of words & ideas and never felt at home in the actual Wild West. He was too busy building order out of it, and the narrative and the setting are ordered and arranged like so many toy houses and train set. However, for a story that is largely subjective recollection, there are scenes without Stoddard. How could Stoddard know of them if he wasn’t there? At best, he could have heard of what happened elsewhere or surmised with his own intuition(and limited imagination). Or, maybe John Ford just used the age-old convention where the flashback, though initiated as subjective memory, turns into a kind of omnipotent survey of the past. But then, LIBERTY VALANCE is less about actual facts of the West than about a certain myth. In the end, all the details of something, true or not, matter far less than the key issue of myth. And the element of myth was inseparable from the West and especially the Western. In a way, a Western trying to be real or truthful is a fool’s game as its very essence is the myth. Pull on the loose thread of truth from the Western fabric and the whole thing comes apart. This was because the Western was constructed as a myth than as history, and John Ford played as big a role, maybe the biggest, as anyone else. Initially, in movies like THE BIG TRAIL, the Western had yet to be formulated into a genre or convention and could be lots of things. Indeed, CIMARRON, unjustly overlooked, features so many real-life aspects of the Old West. For the Western to live on as popular entertainment, it had to dispense with too-much-truth and too-many-details and be streamlined more into myth of movement and heroism. With STAGECOACH, John Ford contributed to the formulation of the Western into a tight genre, but he also remained true to the original vision of the Western as a sprawling and unruly genre with big cast of characters, which is why THE SEARCHERS is such a rich movie: it’s about far more than Cowboys and Indians. Ford generally showed more of life and community than fixating on the ‘lone hero’.

    One of the central myths of the West was the good guy winning at the end, but of course, it wasn’t so. Often the bad guys won, and the West grew out of corruption, compromise, and tyranny as much by morality, community, and civilization. The Western Myth says there was this Wilderness full of savage Indians and unruly outlaws who made it difficult for good decent hardworking folks. But then, some redemptive hero or upright sheriff came to town and cleaned things up, and the good triumphed over the bad. But in truth, those with power generally kept the power, got to appoint the lawmen, and cut deals with politicians. In the West, the big ranchers won over the ‘sodbusters’, especially as the land there wasn’t much good for farming.
    This was suggested by HIGH NOON where the good folks in town want Will Kane(Gary Cooper) gone. Why have him stick around and fight for honor and pride when what the town needs is Good Publicity that will attract investment? Frank Miller may be a bad egg, even a rotten egg, but his ilk will always be around and may even loosen things up for business as profits are associated with vice. It’s like Pottersville is a more ‘happening’ place than Bedford Falls in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. So, the Western Myth is just that, a fiction for the most part. It was not the case of mostly good folks terrorized by a handful of wicked folks who were vanquished by the hero who then rode off while the good folks finally had their community. Rather, civilization came with the power, corruption, compromise, and violence. Indeed, it is the very forces of business and progress who hire the goons in MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER to be rid of the ‘independent’ businessman. (And today, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Wall Street work with Deep State to crush the opposition, slander dissidents, and suppress critics.)

    [MORE]

    Many conservatives were offended by HIGH NOON though it later came to be loved by them. For classicists like Howard Hawks, it wasn’t only an affront to the American Way but the Western genre. He hated the way the hero acted, filled with doubt and desperately hoping for support. And finally, he killed Frank Miller with the help of his wife who scratched the bad man’s face. Ford may have agreed with Hawks in some respects, but he had his own doubts about the West and the Western, and it surfaced in THE SEARCHERS but especially with the later three: SERGEANT RUTLEDGE, CHEYENNE AUTUMN, and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. The Woody Strode movie SERGEANT RUTLEDGE is the most blatantly political one. An innocent upstanding Negro military man is charged with rape, and etc. It’s a bit too stiff and preachy. Some see CHEYENNE AUTUMN as a kind of atonement on part of Ford who often featured Indians as shooting ducks but also formed a bond with Indian communities who respected him. It’s a good movie but, like SERGEANT RUTLEDGE, marred by the heavy-messaging. Ford was good as a sentimental moralist but didn’t fare well as a preacher or pontificator. Of the three movies, LIBERTY VALANCE works best because the message is slowly revealed and reflected on than just pushed in front of us.

    It’s been said it’s impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, and this was true enough of John Ford(but not so with John Huston, but then, he was always young-and-lion at heart). John Ford understood this about himself and didn’t try to keep with new trends. That said, he was aware of what was happening in world cinema, and his later movies, while resolutely and unmistakably Fordian, reflected on the changes. Thus, THE SEARCHERS is more complex than his earlier movies, and some might even say LIBERTY VALANCE borders on a kind of experimentalism, a kind of Ford’s version of CITIZEN KANE and RASHOMON(or even LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD).
    In style, one might say it’s even stiffer, stodgier, and stuffier than Ford’s earlier movies, but the very deliberateness suggests Ford’s intentions were artistic than economic. It’s more threaded than threadbare. Andrew Sarris rated it higher than LAWRENCE OF ARABIA(which he detested) and even JULES AND JIM(which he loved), but then, he was a Ford-nut. Also, just when many cineastes in America were favoring Foreign Cinema(as art) over the American(as tired entertainment), French critics(who would turn out to be very influential), argued that the Hollywood ‘auteurs’ were not only great entertainers and genuine artists but remarkably personal, experimental, and innovative in their own right, thereby relevant and inspirational to New Cinema.
    So, the man who shot THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE was far more than he let on. Though Ford to the end claimed he was nothing more than a maker of Western movies, part humility and part pride in the common-man, but the care put into works like MY DARLIING CLEMENTINE and THE SEARCHERS show he took film-making very seriously. He was a drunk but no slouch. At any rate, perspective shaped one’s view of Ford. For those who didn’t take him seriously as an artist but acknowledged his skills as entertainer, his earlier works were the best for their relative simplicity and straightforwardness. It’s like Pauline Kael loved early Hitchcock and could tolerate an early Ford, but she had little use for later and more elaborate Hitchcock and even less for movies like THE SEARCHERS that some of her colleagues were beginning to take seriously. From the vantage point of Ford-as-entertainer, LIBERTY VALANCE is the work of a tired old crank. It seems stiff and stodgy. But from the vantage point of Ford-as-artist, the work seems stark and striking in its barrenness. It’s like a musical artist going unplugged or picking up an acoustic guitar with minimum accompaniment after working with a band and electricity. Also, LIBERTY VALANCE, with its unmistakable studio-setting, which renders it more like theatre than cinema, reminds us of the artificiality of all cinema, whether shot in a warehouse or in actual locations. So, even as LIBERTY VALANCE seems less real and ‘authentic’, it could be said to be more honest in the make-believe-ness of the movies.

    When Ford first used James Stewart in TWO RODE TOGETHER(which I haven’t seen), he surely had in mind the latter’s roles in Anthony Mann Westerns that significantly deviated from the ‘classic style’. They were like Noir Westerns, far darker and twisted. And Stewart played it neurotic, bordering on unhinged over trifles. WINCHESTER 73 boils down the violence to childhood psychology, kids fighting over toy guns. Not just ‘boys will be boys’ but ‘men will be boys’. Granted, Stewart already displayed amazing range in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, surely one of the greatest movie performances, ranging from light comedy to the darkest tragedy. Mann and Hitchcock, especially in MAN FROM LARAMIE and VERTIGO, picked up this side of Stewart. (Stewart in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH also played someone faced with the crisis of uttering the truth.) They used Stewart like the homo-preacher was going to use Joe Buck in THE MIDNIGHT COWBOY. There was an All-American straightness to Stewart but also an element of hysteria to the can-do boy-wonder exuberance. Mann picked up on this one-man Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde quality about Stewart who plays straight-man to his own repressed craziness bursting forth.

    In the Western Comedy DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, Stewart played a lawman who doesn’t carry a gun, at least initially. By the time Mann got around to casting Stewart, things got a lot darker, and this may have owed to Mann making his mark in Film Noir before he moved onto Westerns. While actors like Marlon Brando profoundly changed movie to movie, the classic Hollywood stars carried their careers like a baggage. They weren’t just playing the latest roles but representing the entirety of their screen persona. So, by the time Stewart signed onto Ford movies, he couldn’t help but carry over the changes to his stardom in the 1950s, especially under Hitchcock and Mann, and this adds to the meaning of LIBERTY VALANCE.

    From the beginning, the American West was rife with myth, not least because it was part wild and wild settled. It was settled enough for messages to get out by horse, train, and telegraph, but wild enough that tall-tales and legends could win out over facts and truth. It’s like the opening of EXCALIBUR. Dark Ages give rise to legends and myths because stories, unverified, take on a life of their own, transformed as they go from person to person who embellish them with their own imagination, lapses, and biases. In a way, the Wild West was like the history of Western Civilization itself from barbarism to civilization in truncated form over less than a century. It had elements of the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Modernity. Some of the wildest, most savage, and most pristine land were transformed within two or three generations into the Modern World.
    In the established part of the world, the truth could be just as false. Indeed, at the end of LIBERTY VALANCE, it is the media elites of Shinbone, now a completed town, who reject the fact and keep with the legend. And it’s hardly different today with the myth of MLK who was really a lout and punk as well as the spokesman of a great movement. And who can forget the myth of John F. Kennedy’? (Also, the JFK conspiracy theories, far from favoring facts over falsehood, have only added to the myth of ‘Camelot’.) Still, if the powers-that-be determine the Narrative, whether mostly true or not, in the developed/established world, the power of narrative was far more democratic and unruly in the Wild West, a kind of worldwide-web-on-horseback, and so many tales and legends proliferated. In a way, the newspaper man in LIBERTY VALANCE is a courageous champion of freedom and truth, but he also represents the coming of the institutionalization of information, with all its problems as well as advantages. It’s like the media conglomerates today make a lot of noise about misinformation and disinformation on the internet(which is an understandable concern) but use their great power and reach to spread their own ‘fake news’ and PC nonsense, like BLM and ‘mostly peaceful riots’. And who can forget WMD. And the official story on 9/11 seems far from complete. Ideally, the powerful will defend truth against falsehood, but in truth, the powerful push whatever, factual or false, that favors its power. That being so, it’s better that the masses have their own power to lie as well. Lies vs Lies is still better than Only-These-Lies.

    In a way, LIBERTY VALANCE is a study in futility. After all, most Americans got used to the Western Myth. Most Americans knew that all those stories of Billy the Kid in books and movies weren’t the real truth. Same went for Jesse James(though his story was more Southern than Western). Europe had its Dark Ages, and the Near East was a place of God and gods in the Ancient World, but America was founded on Christian probity, material ambition, and rational politics(based on the Enlightenment). Those had great advantages but lacked in the stuff of myth. Granted, even the rationalist underpinning of Americanism had its own lore and myth, like the fake story of young George Washington chopping the cherry tree but vowing not to lie to his father. But because America was founded on rationalism, it envied the Old World with its deep history where gods, dragons, fairies, and heroes once dwelled. And yet, the Wild West provided an opportunity for such tales to develop. While Western heroes weren’t exactly knights with magic swords and Western villains weren’t exactly dragons or monsters with horns, their stories happened in a world where most information spread as tall-tales or songs.
    So, given that the very appeal of the West and especially the Western was based on its mythic content, one may wonder why a work like LIBERTY VALANCE was necessary. It wasn’t as if anyone took the Western as the real story of the West. And yet, it mattered to John Ford because he was perhaps the most important practitioner of the myth. Also, even if people consciously knew that the Western is myth than real history, it still exerted tremendous influence on Americans(and people around the world) in how they regarded America. In a way, all the more so precisely because myths are more appealing than mere history. It’s like the appeal of so much of Black History is more myth than reality. In a way, Black America serves as something akin to the Last Frontier or the New Dark Ages where strange tales and mythic lore can rise because things are so crazy, murky, and chaotic in them parts. But even as blacks on the street are ‘democratic’ in their power to spin their own lies, it is the powerful Jewish-controlled media that select whichever of those lies are most useful to the Establishment. In 2020, it was evil ‘racist’ white cop killed saint George Floyd in TRUMP’S AMERICA. And the same is done with events in the Middle East and Ukraine, which seem as distant to Americans as the Wild West once did to Americans in the established Eastern cities. Just as those in NY media picked and chose the Wild West narratives that were useful to themselves, the current oligarchs of American Media pick and choose only those narratives in Syria and Ukraine that suit their agenda. “Assad gassed his own people.” More things change, more they remain the same. So, what’s been true of the Western Narrative has been true since the beginning of time and shall be to the end of time. After all, there are four Gospels, and they don’t exactly agree on all the details. Also, even academics who obsess over ‘texts’ and ‘subtexts’ are less interested in the truth than on how the power used those ‘texts’ and how the current power should manipulate the ‘text’ to push a certain agenda. Today’s academic put power above truth. Truth is everything and anything, and man lives with power, not truth. Power selects certain truths and mixes them with useful myths to create an alloy of authority. But then, what is higher than power itself? The gods, or what is considered holy and sacred. In the Current Year, the holies are Jews, Negroes, and Homos, and so, the big idea is that power must be summoned and solidified to serve those gods.

    To those interested in ‘textual’ arguments, LIBERTY VALANCE is useful because it reduces everything and everyone into what is now called a ‘trope’. It has all the elements of past John Ford westerns and even seems something like a ‘highschool reunion’ for the old gang(like in PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED). But they’re so much reviving their older screen personalities as wearing them as ‘conventions’. It’s like everyone is carrying a cardboard replica of themselves. It’s John Wayne as ‘John Wayne’, and the same goes for the rest of the gang. It’s old John Wayne playing young John Wayne, which is both poignant and awkward.

    Consciously or not, Martin Scorsese, a great admirer of John Ford, made a couple of films that have something in common with LIBERTY VALANCE. The controversial THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, or The Man Who Would Not Be Christ. In the fantasy sequence, ‘Jesus’ came down from the cross and chose the life of a normal Jewish man with wife and family. Later, he comes upon ‘Paul’ and accuses him of spreading lies. He, ‘Jesus’, didn’t die on the cross. But ‘Paul’ says it doesn’t matter what happened as long as the legend sticks as myth and fills so many lives with happiness. In other words, ‘Jesus’ doesn’t need to die on the Cross for the myth of Christianity so spread and dominate the world. The myth is bigger than the man. And yet ultimately, ‘Jesus’ cannot accept this. No matter how successful and powerful Christianity may become and change people’s lives, it would be based on a lie if he didn’t die on the cross, and so, he returns to the cross and accepts his fate. A similar kind of logic underlies MEET JOHN DOE where a powerful social movement grows from a lie, that a certain John Doe chose to kill himself as protest against the inhumane world. The lie is exploited by the powerful as ‘truth’ but then ‘exposed’ as a lie when ‘John Doe’ turns against them. But then, ‘John Doe’ decides to really kill himself to give the movement a foundation in truth.
    The other Martin Scorsese film on Man vs Myth is THE IRISHMAN. Though almost certainly based on a lie(especially on how Jimmy Hoffa was killed), it examines the contrast between the world of appearances and of the world of shadows(or disappearances). In the end, the film is less about how-Hoffa-died than how a man squares himself to himself, his family, and finally God in terms of what he knew, what he felt, and what he did. Quentin Tarantino, a harsh critic of John Ford, did something opposite to LIBERTY VALANCE with ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD. If Ford was aiming for the truth hidden by the myth, Tarantino fantasized a myth over the ugly reality of what really happened to Roman Polanski’s wife. Tarantino is his own Noodles, the camera is opium pipe, conjuring a fantasy of what-might-have-been. But then, he’s a very pomo creature.

    Ford thought that drunkards and men with funny voices were hilarious… There is also a great deal of scene-chewing overacting and overbroad parody that often seem downright cartoonish. Beyond these lapses of taste…

    Ford was not a man of taste, and even though he could make relatively high-toned dramas like MARY OF SCOTLAND, he felt most at home with folkish tales of rough men in vulgar worlds. THE QUIET MAN certainly isn’t a work of ‘taste’. This is the meat-and-potatoes of Fordism. You got to take it all or not take it at all. The folkish style especially fell out with the rise of the Cool where most Americans became embarrassed to be associated with hee-haw and anything old-fashioned. This even affected Westerns. PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID has the first ‘California Teeanger’ in Beaver.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance also contains Left-liberal messages on race. For instance, Devine’s Marshal Link Appleyard is married to a Mexican woman… This must have been Ford’s preference… Wayne’s character Tom Doniphan has a loyal negro sidekick named Pompey (Woody Strode). Pompey even endures the indignity of being refused service at the saloon, but Doniphan stands up for him, although he does refer to him as “my boy Pompey.” …Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) teaches reading and civics to a class of white adults, plus Pompey and a brood of Mexican children. (All the children in Shinbone are nonwhite, a poignant sign that white civilization has not yet been established there. Now such classrooms are signs of white civilization in decline.) Lawyer Stoddard teaches that the fundamental law of the land is the Declaration of Independence, which holds that “All men are created equal.” The Declaration, of course, is not the fundamental law of the land. That would be the Constitution, which says nothing about all men being created equal.

    This is reverse-PC and ideological bean-counting. I would have an issue about mixed-race marriage in a movie is out-of-place, unlikely, and/or pushed as a message. But Shinbone is set in the Southwest. It could very well be a Texas town, and there were lots of white-Mexican marriages there. The legendary Billy the Kid had many Mexican girlfriends, and Pat Garrett was married to a Mexican woman. So, the fact that a white man has a Mexican wife in Shinbone hardly seems out of place or unlikely. Could there be a message in there somewhere? But it’s hardly ‘left-liberal’. The white man mating with non-white woman goes back to Pocahontas in American lore. Possibly the greatest American song, “Shenandoah”, is about some white guy in love with the daughter of an Indian chief. In a way, these could be construed as love-conquers-all stories, like in ROMEO-AND-JULIET, but they could also be taken as white sexual imperialism. After all, sex has never been neutral between men and women. It’s a matter of who does what to whom. As men are the dominant sex, the race with the men humping the women of another race has the upperhand. When whites ruled over blacks, most interracial offspring were white-male-and-black-female. Today, with black men dominating sports and rap music and kicking white butts in schools all across America, most mulattos are products of ACOWW or Afro-Colonization of White Wombs. When the Mongols invaded Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, it was yellow men sexually conquering white women. When white Americans militarily took over South Vietnam, it was a case of white(and black) men sexually colonizing me-so-horny yellow women. In a way, one could argue that even white-male-and-non-white-female pairing is ‘anti-racist’ in its ‘interracism’, but it was also used as a form of imperialism. This was especially true in South America or Latin America, traditionally far less ‘liberal’ than North America. There, Spanish men took many brown wives and created the mestizo race.

    Doniphan-and-Pompey is a traditional relationship of that time. LIBERTY VALANCE takes place after slavery has been abolished, but if the South had won the Civil War, Doniphan could be Pompey’s master. (Ironic that a former slave would be named ‘Pompey’ after the great Roman general. It either suggests Americans are ignorant of history or hints at black ascendancy in the future.) The thing is, apart from social distinctions, there is a personal bond between Doniphan and Pompey that go beyond the political. Doniphan is surely no racial egalitarian(and even Ransom is rather condescending to Pompey who is later given ‘pork chop money’), but he’s generally not a mean person(when he doesn’t have to be) and much appreciates Pompey as his loyal sidekick, his Tonto.
    Of course, Pompey might be happier joining with Liberty Valance. Then, he could be a wildass ni**a, the mode of most blacks these days. I read somewhere that 20% of all cowboys were black, and most Westerns never took this into account. Among them, there must have been some crazy fellers so different from Pompey. Sergio Leone brought out the dark side of Woody Strode in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. There, he is a menacing badass ni**a than a loyal servant.

    A lot of children in Shinbone are Mexican because Southwest had a sizable Mexican population. Indeed, parts of the SW had already been settled by Mexicans and taken from Indians long before white folks arrived in numbers. Unlike the Great Plains and Northwest where white man took the land from savage Indians, the story of the Southwest was about white man taking the land from the semi-civilization already established by Mexicans, from whom Anglos also picked up lots of cowboy tricks.

    While the Constitution isn’t the same as the Declaration of Independence, the spirit of the latter is reflected in the letter of the former. After all, laws aren’t just laws but guided by a spirit. If guided by monarchical spirit, laws reflect royal authority. But the US Constitution was guided by the spirit of the Declaration, and it’s why the direction of American History and its Laws has been toward securing more rights and equal protections to all regardless of race, creed, and color.

    Ford did not, however, identify with outsiders against America’s WASP ethnic core because he was Jewish. Instead, he did so as an Irish Catholic.

    Chances are that, during most of John Ford’s life, most WASPS were more ‘progressive’ on race than your average Irishman, Ford included. As a matter of idealism, Wasps were the main pushers of ‘liberalism’ on race. Jews pushed it for reasons that were more tribal than idealistic(though there was some of that too as many leftist Jews back then sincerely believed race was skin-deep). Many Irish were Democratic but more for ethnic and economic interests than high-minded idealism. Generally, Irish Catholics followed the Wasp lead on racial politics. While most Irish were opposed to stuff like the KKK(who bashed Catholics as well as Negroes), even the Irish Democratic Machine operators were a bunch of Archie Bunkers at heart.

    Judging from Ford’s cavalry trilogy—Fort Apache (1948), She Wore the Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950)—the West could not have been won without the help of golden-hearted, silver-tongued Irish drunkards. These stereotypes seem rather broad and offensive today, but Ford—a heavy drinker himself—obviously regarded them affectionately and thought their inclusion to be progressive.

    They wouldn’t be offensive today because PC only cares about Jews, blacks, and homos. Mocking or making fun of whites or white groups is not only okay but obligatory. John Ford was profoundly Irish but in attitude and swagger than identity politics. He wasn’t into Irish victimology or separatist thinking, but one can’t help sensing the distinction between the Anglo way and the Celtic way in some of his works. It’s buried somewhere in LIBERTY VALANCE as well. Ransom is very much an Anglo-kind of character. Very Waspy, whereas Doniphan is Irish-like. And the movie hints at the troubled but symbiotic relationship between the Anglo and the Irish. Anglos led with their big vision and ideas, and yet, no civilization is merely the work of ideas and principles, not even the US founded on liberty and rights. A lot of dirty work had to be done, and as the Irish and Catholics were generally poorer, cruder, and disadvantaged than the Anglos and Protestants, they ended up taking up a lot of the ‘dirty’ jobs involving muscle and sweat. Often, it was ham-fisted Irish cops who kept the blacks in line. In battles, the officers were more likely to be Anglo, whereas the Irish took the lower positions as footsoldiers. Granted, the Irish gained real fast in America, but the Anglo-Irish thing was like an ethnic version of the class-divide in England between the gentleman ‘caste’ and cockney-speaking laborers. In the film RAGTIME, the privileged family that takes in the Negro orphan is very Waspish, whereas the firemen who harass the Negro driver are visibly Irish, right down to the red noses from too much drink. In some ways, the rowdier side of the Irish could be seen as more honest and real, but it could also be seen as brutish and bigoted. The Irish developed a dual mindset in regard to Anglos. In a way, they were the first victims of British Imperialism, and their resistance later inspired other rebellions against the empire. And yet, the Irish were also like the pitbulls of the empire. They went wherever the Anglos went, terrorized the darkies, and did the ‘dirty work’ as overseers and enforcers. Thus, to those on the ground, the Irish seemed even more bigoted, tyrannical, and exploitative than the genteel Anglo who gave orders on horseback. Irish were at once the hammer of the empire and under its heel, and it’s no wonder that today’s Irish are both filled with victimology but also share in the ‘white guilt’. (But then, blacks have been no different. They were oppressed under white rule but also benefitted from white victories and took part in neo-imperialist aggressions around the world. Blacks in today’s military don’t ask why they are ordered to bomb Syria or to threaten/invade other nations. They just do it, just like the Irish under Anglo orders long ago.)

    The film’s message is deeply anti-liberal. Indeed, although Ford could not have known it, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance illustrates many of Carl Schmitt’s criticisms of liberalism.

    It depends on what you want to see. One could pick out the ‘anti-conservative’ elements of LIBERTY VALANCE and include it in ‘left-wing cinema’. This is a fool’s game. While some works are clearly ‘liberal’ while others are ‘conservative’, LIBERTY VALANCE can’t be ideologically pigeonholed one way or another.

    Played to cartoonish excess by Lee Marvin, Liberty Valance is a cold-blooded murderer and thief. He’s also a drunkard and a petty bully. The entire town of Shinbone lives in terror of him. He’s the kind of man who needs killing, so decent people can plant crops, raise children, and sleep at night.

    Actually, Valance plays it both ways. He is a thief and killer but not at all times. He isn’t merely a wolf or coyote but a weasel. When he robs a coach, he covers his mask. But in town, he act just lawful enough to pass as a member of the community. If he were a total outlaw(like the bandits in THE WILD BUNCH), he would be no use to the ranchers. In contrast, Valance wears many masks. He steals when he can, but at other times takes up regular jobs with the ranchers. In that sense, he’s more like a proto-gangster, the creature of civilization, than a classic Western outlaw. Valance can easily adapt to the New Order. Indeed, the likes of Jimmy Hoffa operated as criminals as well as labor bosses. In the West, there were outlaws and then there were OUTLAWS. One bunch couldn’t do anything but rob and steal. Another took up stealing as a hobby or side-job while doing other things as well. They had their feet on both sides of the fence, and Valance is quite an adaptive bastard. Thus, even as he intimidates the people of the town, his ilk can co-exist with change because the Power always needs muscle for hire. Today, the likes of him could work as a mercenary and blow things up in Syria.

    It seems odd that an American movie would have a villain named Liberty. Isn’t America the land of liberty? But Liberty Valance is not really an American. He’s a man of the Wild West. America is a Republic with laws. The West is the state of nature. Liberty Valance represents the liberty of savages in the state of nature, where one man’s liberty is exercised at the expense of another’s.

    It’s also odd that the good guy’s name is ‘Ransom’, usually associated with kidnapping and extortion. Anyway, I don’t think Valance represents only the Wild West. His name ‘Liberty’ doesn’t represent the state-of-nature or savage-freedom. Rather, it’s ironic, a suggestion that American Liberty has always been compromised, corrupted, and hypocritical. Also, the name of ‘Ransom’ suggest that American Progress was brought about by holding all of us hostage to some faulty narrative.

    For no sensible reason except that he likes her, Tom(John Wayne) awakens Hallie, who works as a waitress at a local eatery, to help tend to Stoddard’s wounds.

    Doniphan doesn’t see Ransom as a rival, understandably so as the latter is just barely alive after getting beaten up by Valance. He figures Hallie is ideal for taking care of Ransom as if he’s a little child beaten up at school by bullies. He has more manly things to do than playing nurse. It’s almost like finding an orphaned doe in the wild and handing it off to a woman to take care of.

    Incidentally, there’s a scene with a woman nursing a man in SERGEANT RUTLEDGE as well, and it might have been Ford’s way of, wink-wink saying, THE NEGRO IS GONNA ROB US OF OUR MANHOOD. Unlike scrawny James Stewart, Woody Strode was a well-built guy, so there could have been sexual tension when the white woman tends to him though the times discouraged that stuff when it was made. On the one hand, Ford as an Irishman with bitter national memories, sympathized with Negroes who faced discrimination. But he was also mindful of racial differences. On the set, he often mocked John Wayne’s manhood as movie-fake and pointed to Woody Strode as the Real Athlete of the bunch.

    Rance doesn’t see any difference between force used by criminals and force used by decent men against criminals. He’s an idealist who apparently thinks the laws can magically enforce themselves.

    No, Ransom isn’t against guns or use of violence. He’s against vigilantism. For the law to work, it has to be properly enforced by legal authority. And Ransom wants the people of the town to create and uphold a system that can ensure peace and stability by rightful use of force.
    But the state is weak in Shinbone. Its fatso sheriff is a nice guy but weak and a flunky. Doniphan is a good guy and perhaps has the ability and popular appeal to rally the citizens of the town to together to sustain proper law-and-order, but he’s too much of an individualist and maverick(in his own right) to do what’s good for the whole community. He’s usually out for himself and into everyman-for-himself, something he favors precisely because he has the natural talent to take care of himself. He knows Valance is bad, but as long as Valance doesn’t mess with him, he doesn’t mess with Valance. He lacks a sense of the common good. He’s a proto-libertarian and has something in common with Valance, the difference being Valance is nasty whereas Doniphan isn’t. Doniphan has a good nature but doesn’t stick his neck out any more than he has to. He believes it’s up to every man to protect his own life and plot of land. The problem is that not everyone is made of the same stuff. Doniphan is big, strong, good with the gun, and has natural courage. He could take care of himself, but he’s an exception than the rule. Most men, even though they own guns, dare not stand up to Valance. Valance feels he can rough up just about anyone, and Doniphan feels he has no obligation to protect anyone but himself and those closest to him. Such cannot be the basis of social order. In contrast, Ransom knows that justice-for-all can only be ensured by the enforcement of the law by the state. He’s for the law-for-everyone than everyman-for-himself, which is essentially Doniphan’s position.
    Indeed, the argument over the steak between Doniphan and Valance is less a matter of general principles — “it is wrong for Valance to act that way anywhere and with anyone” — than a matter of personal pride. Doniphan is enraged because Valance messed with HIS steak. If Valance had messed with another man’s steak, Doniphan might just as well have looked the other way(and even despised the weakling who couldn’t fight for his own steak).

    (Ransom) is spindly, priggish, progressive zealot. He reminds me of Barack Obama.

    No, Obama is no zealot, no real progressive. He’s a smooth version of Valance, a globo-gangster and weasel with many masks. He could play race-hustler, cultural-marxist, cosmo-elite, genteel buppie, machine crook, warmonger(for the Jews), Wall Street shill, deep state flunky, and etc. Whatever faults Ransom has, he is a true man of principles. Also, he’s very courageous, in some ways more than Doniphan, who is naturally big and strong and grew up doing all the Western things. In contrast, Ransom is an outsider who sticks his neck out even at the risk to his life and for total strangers. When the coach is robbed, most people just stand around passively and afraid. In contrast, Ransom rebukes Valance to his face. Foolish perhaps but it took real courage. Obama is just a gangster who looked around, noticed Jews got the power, and played their waterboy to be president.

    Rance’s role in the community, however, is distinctly feminine. In a land where men wear guns and settle problems for themselves, he refuses to wear a gun and expects the law to settle disputes . . . somehow. Thus in the Ericsons’ restaurant, Rance wears an apron while washing dishes and occasionally waiting tables. (Obama also allowed himself to be photographed in an apron.) When Rance learns that Hallie can’t read, he takes on another stereotypically female role: schoolmarm.

    Ransom not only expects the law to settle disputes but pushes for changes that finally bring that about. Thus, he’s a visionary, and he’s keen on practicing what he preaches, something rare these days. While it’s true that Ransom partially comes to appreciate Doniphan and his ways, reverse is also true. Grudgingly, Doniphan acknowledges that Ransom has his own kind of toughness, courage, and resilience, a real tenacity. They sort of merge into one another, like Lawrence and Ali in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and Mendoza(Robert DeNiro) and Gabriel(Jeremy Irons) in THE MISSION. Mind envies the muscle, the muscle envies the mind.

    Plenty of men in the West wore aprons. Sure, Western movies focus on the gunslingers, but most men did regular work to build the West. Butchers wore aprons. Grocers wore aprons. So many men wore aprons. It was not a woman’s thing. It’s like what Nixon’s pa says in the movie:

    Nixon’s Ma – “Could thee at least remove that apron, Frank?”

    Nixon’s Pa – “This blood pays the bills, Hannah. I’m not ashamed of how I earn my money.”

    The problem of the Western Formula was it so over-emphasized the men-with-guns that it relegated to insignificance all the men who did the real work to make the West work. Naturally, we want to see men with guns than men with aprons & ladles, but the earlier Westerns did have a wider and more embracing vision of the West. The real West wasn’t about men-with-guns and men-with-aprons but men-with-aprons-and-guns, and womenfolk learned how to use guns too, like the woman in RED RIVER. It’s like the guys in GOODFELLAS both cook and kill. Paulie has a system of slicing garlic. And Clyde nearly got crushed by a man in an apron. In MIDNIGHT COWBOY, Joe Buck is someone who works with an apron but goes off to New York to play cowboy stud, a gunslinger with the ladies. He chases after the myth and runs from reality. In New York, he sees other men like himself working with aprons in restaurants. He is one of them, a regular Joe, but has been poisoned by the myth that dreams come true for the cowboy.

    Of course, a Western could deviate too far from the men-with-guns narrative. There was a recent one called FIRST COW(which should be called FA**OTY MOO) that was ‘gayish’ or ‘homo-social'(as its writer calls it) as shit. It was about two fellas, one Jewish and one Asian, in the Wild West stealing milk from a cow to… get this, bake muffins. It is the fa**otiest thing I ever did see, though I turned it off after 30 min. I didn’t see BROKEBACK MOUNTIN’, but even two cowpokes poking each other’s bung is less ‘gayish’ than the idea of two guys out in the rough frontier having nothing better to do than bake muffins with stolen milk. Can anyone imagine Gary Cooper and Richard Widmark forming a team to milk a cow in the middle of the night to go bake cupcakes? It’s the sort of tooty idea only a comfy city-slicker can cook up in his own world of creature comforts. “Gee, what if a sensitive Jewish guy met a naked Asian guy pursued by Russians(!!) and formed a ‘homosocial’ bond where they pick flowers and bake muffins together?” Total pukeville, but a favorite among critics, but they’re a pansyass bunch who probably went off to get a muffin at Starbucks after the screening.

    How is teaching someone how to read being a ‘schoolmarm’? The hero of VIVA ZAPATA is ashamed he can’t read. And the Viking leader in 13TH WARRIOR learns to scribble some lines from an Arab. Word is Power. Granted, teaching womenfolk(except for lesbians) to read beyond perusing personal letters(like Laurie in THE SEARCHERS) may not have been a good thing as most woman-minds aren’t fit for real thinking and easily get confused. It’s like what the girl says in KINGS OF SUMMER about her ‘woman-brain’. Incidentally, if the tough guy loses the girl to the idea-guy in LIBERTY VALANCE, it’s the opposite in KINGS OF SUMMER, more along the Arthurian Tale.

    This too is an attitude more commonly associated with women. Ford clearly thinks that manliness is connected with a willingness to fight over matters of honor.

    No. Often in Ford movies, women love the fact that men fight for stuff like land, honor, and pride… and especially over women. In THE SEARCHERS, Laurie, trying to be a Good Girl, beseeches others to stop the fight between Marty and the guitar-guy but soon loves the fact that two men are fighting over her. In THE QUIET MAN, the Irish beauty played by Maureen O’Hara doesn’t mind that John Wayne’s character wins her heart by knocking out other men. Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls(though, in our globo-homo age, boys will be girls, and girls will be boys).

    Pro-Law stance of Ransom is essentially beta-male-ish as force is used by legal institutions to secure rights and protection for all men. Still, even though Ransom is physically beta-male, he has alpha-male ego when it comes to pushing others to follow his lead.
    Legalism can be advantageous or disadvantageous to whites. Clearly, laws based on equal protection eroded white power and privilege in the South vis-a-vis the Negro. But laws of equal protection, if properly applied, can be good for whites because individual fights for honor between blacks and whites will favor the blacks. If a Negro and a White fight over a steak, the chances are the black guy will win 9 times out of 10 or even 19 times out of 20.
    Honor as a personal code is a wonderful concept. For example, if you give your word, the honorable thing is to keep it. But in the Western setting, honor wasn’t so much a matter of personal ethos as proving one’s worth by guns or fist. But force doesn’t favor the good over the bad. A good decent man can lose a gunfight to a total son of a bitch. Such ‘honor’ is really a matter of might-is-right, and naturally, Ransom has to oppose it. But would most white males want such an ‘honor’ culture living with blacks? Most times when white guys decide to fight Negroes for ‘honor’, they get beat up and lose their ‘honor’ of manhood, which is why it led to White Flight. Also, the reason for higher death rates in the black community is they fight over ‘honor’ of who done ‘dissed’ whom. They shoot each other over who stepped on whose gym-shoes. They are crazier than Wild Bill of Walter Hills movie where people are beaten or killed over ‘hats’.

    Rance furtively buys a gun and sneaks off to practice shooting. Why the deception? Because he can’t really reconcile it with his self-image and the image he has established with the public.

    Ransom isn’t opposed to guns per se. It’s about who uses it and how. Ideally, he believes, lawmen with the backing of the community should have the power of guns to do away with the likes of Valance. But more importantly, he keeps his practicing with a gun secret because he doesn’t want to lend the impression that he’s a gunman and draw the wrong kind of attention from Valance and the like, especially as he has poor chance of winning any gunfight. He keeps a gun as a last resort. It’s like, if a bully is messing with you, you might take up martial arts lessons and weight-lifting but secretly because it will take time for you to learn how to build up strength and learn how to fight. If you do it openly, it sends the message that you’re cruisin’ for a brusin’. (Indeed, weaker nations build up their military without fanfare. The last thing they want is attention.)
    Also, when Doniphan toys with Ransom by shooting cans and dousing him in paint, Ransom throws quite a punch and knocks Doniphan down hard. Ransom has quite a temper, just like when he stood up to Valance in their first encounter. One thing for sure, Ransom is the way he is out of commitment than cowardice.

    There’s also a love triangle in the mix. Tom is in love with Hallie. Everybody sees it. But he hasn’t screwed up the courage to propose. It is his one failing of nerve as a man.

    No, it’s not due to a lack of nerve. Rather, he’s so sure that Hallie will be his that he takes it for granted and goes about at his own chosen pace. It’s like the hare that takes a nap in the race with the tortoise. He figures he will first build a nice place for them both and then ask her for marriage and then settle down. He’s so sure of himself that he doesn’t rush it with her.

    Rance is pretty much zilch as a man, certainly nobody Tom would regard as a rival.

    Dissident Right is full of brainy literary types who are more like Ransom than Doniphan, so I find it odd that Lynch would keep calling Ransom’s manhood into question. Also, there are different kinds of power. There is brute power, but there is also the power of the mind and power of knowledge. In brute strength, Achilles and Ajax were far more manly than Odysseus, but Athena favored the latter for his intelligence. After all, what distinguishes man from beast is the mind. Most beasts are bigger and stronger than man, but man has dominion over horses and cows. Why? The power of the mind. In raw power, Uther was many times the man than his son Arthur, but Arthur is the one who creates the New Order based on righteous rule and theory of justice. With Uther, violence is the authority, i.e. whoever wins by might is right. With Arthur, might has to be backed by what’s right.
    In Hallie’s eyes, brutishness is a common feature of the world she inhabits. She’s used to seeing problems settled by guns or fists alone. But then, Ransom comes along with a higher/better vision of society, and she is impressed by something so rare in that part of the world. She becomes aware of another kind of manhood, based on knowledge, power of words, and justice. Also, it’s a matter of personality. Some women like muscle men, and some women like mental men. Hallie is illiterate but naturally quite bright and curious. Ransom makes a natural pair with her.

    But Rance is no longer a child. He has faced death in a duel over honor.

    But Ransom was never a child. And everything he did took a good deal of courage, even before the showdown. In a way, it was all the more courageous because he stuck by his figurative guns and kept true to his ideals/principles. It would have been easier for him to just throw up his hands, accept the world as it is, get some guns, and shoot bad guys. Rather, despite all the obstacles and disappointments, he chose to do it right by his principles and conscience. Of course, it too is a kind of personal pride as he doesn’t want to admit he’s wrong, sort of like Albert Brooks character of BROADCAST NEWS who does care about journalistic ethics but is also driven by ego and pride.
    What sets Ransom apart from most people in town? Most are resigned to rule by guns and tough guys. They keep their heads low. And tough guys like Valance and Doniphan also stick with the status quo as it favors them. In contrast, Ransom deviates from both norms, the passive one of most people and the violent one of tough guys. Like Cool Hand Luke, despite all the knocks, he won’t give up and insists on doing it HIS way. And in the end, even Doniphan senses that Ransom’s way is the better way and, furthermore, manly-in-its-own-right becauser Ransom struggles for the whole community whereas Doniphan’s way was mostly for himself. Doniphan always lent a hand to the community but not his heart and soul.

    When Tom sees them together, he knows that he has lost Hallie. He gets staggering drunk and burns his own house down in self-pity.

    It’s something far more than ‘self-pity’. It is a genuine moment of personal tragedy.

    …when he shot Liberty Valance, he became a man and a hero. It also launched his political career. But none of this sits well with Rance’s puritanical idealist streak. He feels that he bears the “mark of Cain” and is perhaps unworthy of public office.

    No, he wasn’t so much troubled by personal conscience over what he did. Rather, it’s the Narrative pushed by the other side: Cold-blooded thug Ransom killed upright citizen Valance. The Narrative totally reverses the roles. So, he’s perturbed by being painted as the very creature that he struggled against with his vision of law and order.
    Also, it’s one thing to have killed Valance the scumbag, but it’s quite another to build a political career on the killing, which reeks of opportunism, like so many politicians who used their war experience to win office as ‘heroes’. But regardless of whether Doniphan or he really killed Valance, it can’t be win-win for Ransom. If he did killed Valance, he’s vulnerable to be clouded by the rival narrative that he’s a cold-blooded murderer. If Doniphan did the killing, then his career is built on the deed of another man. Still, when Doniphan tells him the account of what-really-happened, he feels obligated to go in there and fight. He owes Doniphan one, and he felt this debt and burden all his life.

    I wonder, though, if Tom’s story is even true. Did it really happen, or did he make it up to spare Rance’s feelings?

    What might be true is both Ransom and Doniphan shot Valance at the same time. But surely Doniphan was there on the spot with the rifle because Hallie asked him to, and he couldn’t say NO to her. And, why would Doniphan care about Ransom’s feelings if he did not shoot Valance? He feels responsible for how Ransom feels precisely because he, Doniphan, was there and took action. Given that Doniphan lost Hallie to Ransom, protecting the latter’s feelings would be the last thing on his mind if indeed he did NOT kill Valance. In a way, by telling of his role in the killing, he is owning the narrative between himself and Ransom. Indeed, it serves him more than it serves Ransom. Ransom often derided Doniphan as hardly better than Valance, a tough guy beast and thug, but Doniphan, with the tale, reveals that he is a beast with a heart of gold and even violated the Western code to protect Ransom, even if it meant risking losing Hallie to him. And it is that account by Doniphan that makes Ransom and Hallie feel forever indebted to him and even attend his funeral long after the whole town forgot who he is. Doniphan takes on the role of the ‘unsung hero’.

    (Ransom) no longer thinks his public esteem is based on killing, but shouldn’t he be bothered that it is based on a lie? Perhaps he can live with the lie by telling himself that he is doing good things for the people. But couldn’t he say the same thing about killing Liberty Valance?

    Though not stated by Ransom and Hallie, I think the biggest sense of guilt on Ransom’s part(as well as Hallie) is not about the killing or the matter of justice but that he took Hallie from Doniphan. That part is shown to us in the movie but surely not told to the newspapermen as Ransom tells the tale. (What we are shown is much more than what Ransom tells the newspaper man.) But what really complicated the three of them was Doniphan gave up Hallie. Seeing her in Ransom’s arms, she still belonged to Doniphan if he’d asked for her hand. Not only did he court her for a long time but even saved Ransom due to her pleading. They both know this. But Doniphan knew that if Hallie married him, the bigger part of her would regret it and truly be in love with Ransom. He would rob her of true happiness. So, he let her go. He knows it, she knows it, and Ransom knows it. So, even though Ransom told the truth to the newspaper, he didn’t tell the deeper truth, which was personal than political. The real issue involving Doniphan isn’t “who shot Liberty Valance?” but “Who took Doniphan’s girl?” Doniphan killed Liberty, but in a way, Ransom killed Doniphan who spent the rest of his life rather like Noodles in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Feeling sad, going to bed early.

    The deeper truth that Rance evades is that, for civilization to come to the West, somebody needed to shoot Liberty Valance. It doesn’t really matter who.

    Civilization would have come with or without Valance. Cities have always been full of crooks, thieves, and killers as any gangster movie makes clear. Valance is a bad guy but rather crafty and adaptive. Lyndon B. Johnson was equally a crook and politician; he may even have been a killer. What happened with Jeffrey Epstein is a clear indication that civilization is a gangster-operation at the top, and Japan and Italy have been known for fusion of organized crime and politics.

    Also, it does matter who kills whom. After all, outlaws, thugs, and criminals are always killing one another. But when a thug kills a thug, the thug is once again triumphant. Had Valance been killed by another Valance, thug would be replaced by thug. So, it matters who does the killing and why. Doniphan is half-Ransom and half-Valance. Like Ransom, he’s a good guy and sides with the good people in town. Like Valance, he relishes the wild anarchy of the West where a tough guy is king-of-the-hill, a natural nobleman. He doesn’t use his might for evil, but he rather likes might-is-right as it favors his kind of skills. Doniphan is someone who could have thrown his lot with the Valances of the world, but he chooses Ransom, even though he could have had more fun and better relations as a partner of Valance who respects other tough guys. So, that Doniphan kills Valance is significant as it symbolizes the struggle in the heart of power between the good and evil. In killing Valance, he kills a part of himself. It’s like the circular opening scene of PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID that suggests Garrett’s killing of Billy the Kid was essentially killing himself. But if killing the outlaw is a good thing in LIBERTY VALANCE, it is a bad thing in PAT GARRETT.

    The possibility that the story is false is supported Ford’s frank exploration of noble and ignoble lies later in the movie. Although the newspaper editor has pried the story out of Rance by insisting on his “right to the truth,” once the tale is told, he burns his notes and tells Rance he will not print the truth. “This is the West, Sir,” he says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    This makes no sense. The motives of Doniphan in telling his account to Ransom and of Ransom in telling the truth to the newspaper editor are totally different in kind from the motive of the editor in burying the fact. Doniphan really wanted to get it off his chest, mainly because he lost Hallie to Ransom. It was his way of saying, “I saved your ass and lost my girl to you, so you better go in there and fight.” He gave up the world as she meant everything to him. And Ransom tells the tale partly out of idealism and partly as tribute to Ransom. There is still that idealistic part of him that believes in truth and etc., and he sees in the newsman his younger self starting out in the West. But he also feels that Doniphan, so long forgotten that few even showed up at his funeral, should be credited as the unsung hero who really killed Valance and saved Ransom’s life. Both Doniphan’s and Ransom’s motivations are in favor of truth. In contrast, the newsman’s decision to edit out those facts is political or social. Why overturn a beautiful myth when so many people have come to believe in it? He figures the truth can do more harm than good.
    And yet, even his reasons are in sync with Doniphan and Ransom on some level. After all, there is a reason why Doniphan told no one but Ransom and why Ransom kept it a secret all these years. They all understood that it’d be better for themselves and the world if it was kept secret. Doniphan wanted it that way, and in a way, Ransom’s revelation is both an act of tribute/reverence and betrayal. He told the story in honor of Doniphan, but Doniphan wanted to take the secret to his grave. And perhaps, the editor understood that as well, and it’s no wonder Ransom doesn’t object when the editor says, “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    But why replace the truth with legend? What’s wrong with the truth? The superficial truth deals with who shot Liberty Valance: Tom or Rance? If Tom shot Liberty, he can’t be punished now because he’s dead. Rance, of course, kept the secret. Perhaps there would be legal consequences for that. But the real need for deception has to do with the deeper truth: somebody needed to shoot Liberty Valance so that civilization could come to the West,

    But that doesn’t make any sense. If what really mattered was that, in order for civilization to take root in the West, SOMEONE-ANYONE had to shoot Valance, then what does it matter if it’s revealed that Doniphan did the killing? The editor would have been perfectly happy with the new fact as SOMEONE killed Valance. If the main issue is ‘Valance had to go’ and therefore, ‘someone, just about anyone, had to kill him’, then the story of ‘Doniphan as killer’ would be just as acceptable as ‘Ransom as killer’. It’d be a case of “What does it matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice?”
    But in LIBERTY VALANCE, the story is rejected precisely because it is an issue of WHO. The official story has been about Ransom Stoddard, a man who bridged the East with the West with high ideals and vision. He wasn’t only a man of books but soon became a man of the West. He stood up to a killer face to face and shot him dead and proved his mettle. And he built a career and served his community and nation well. He is a local hero, even a national figure. So many people have come to admire him and pay him respect. So, it would be a big deal to say that another man actually killed Valance and that the much admired Ransom built his career on a lie. It’s like John McCain’s career was built on his undying loyalty to America despite being tortured endlessly by the North Vietnamese. Actually, it was a big lie, and McCain and those around him knew the consequences of the lie being revealed. Granted, Ransom’s lie wasn’t ignoble like McCain’s. Ransom really believed he’d killed Liberty, and when he found out otherwise, he knew Doniphan told him the tale to make him go into the political arena and fight. It’s not like he stole the glory from Doniphan. Rather, Doniphan did him a favor and wanted him to follow upon it. Still, a lie is still a lie, especially in the public eye.

    Liberalism seeks to do away with force and fraud in human relations.

    No, liberalism seeks to concentrate force in the state governed by laws. Also, liberalism accepts that fraud is a part of life and ineradicable, and therefore there must be laws and procedures to deal with fraud and violations that will always be with us. Liberalism isn’t utopianism, a vision of future where all people will be free, equal, and just. Liberalism is based on tolerance than perfectionism. Liberalism says we will never have perfection, and so, we must learn to tolerate the flaws and failings, but there is still a workable solution by systems of laws and enforcement to ameliorate the worst abuses of society.

    Of course, ‘liberalism’ has many meanings. It could mean classical liberalism or libertarianism. It could mean the New Deal and Big-Governmentism. It could mean high taxes and social-democracy. It could mean the Welfare State and Great Society. It could mean the Nanny State where the state passes ever more rules and regulations(about guns and smoking) to make us do what’s right. Or, nowadays, it could mean Neo-Liberalism where the globalists oligarchs, deep state elites, and ivory tower operatives all conspire to gain more control via monopolization, more wars, and hate propaganda against whomever they hate. Currently, what is called ‘liberalism’ is just Jewish Supremacist Gangsterism with globo-homo and magic-negro as gods.

    Liberalism, in short, depends on illiberal men and extralegal violence for its very survival. But, instead of questioning their own ideological premises, liberals simply lie about this fact.

    There is much truth in the above statement, but such hypocrisy isn’t limited to liberalism. When barbarian lords became kings and fancy aristocrats, they begin to put on airs. Their power was based on violence and brutality, but the kings invoked some divine right. And aristocrats acted as if they were born of finer blood and that their authority was based on culture and sophistication than on exploitation of the masses who toiled in the fields. The Christian Churches pretended their authority was the blessing of God when it depended on an alliance with the military caste that rarely acted according to Christian ethos. Liberalism inherited than incubated such hypocrisy.

    This is why we need fascism that is most honest in exploring and explaining how power really works, but fascism was disgraced by the Ridiculous Fascism of Mussolini and Ludicrous Fascism of Hitler who turned fascism into mindless personality cults.

    • Replies: @Too Long Didn't Read
  87. @My SIMPLE Pseudonymic Handle

    The argument over who shot Valance is pure conjecture on the part of the commenters.

    I wonder if this scene is a joke on THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

    Who shot the bandit?

  88. @Priss Factor

    I’m not quite sure what it is that you are trying to say. Maybe because your comment was rather short and terse. Perhaps if you could explain in more detail and at greater length it would be clearer?

    Thanks!

  89. @Bardon Kaldian

    As regards Stewart, I forgot about his moral dilemmas after the shootout. In the movie, he is presented as a civilized modern man (I haven’t ever thought of him as effeminate, just moral and civilized). Now, as for his dilemmas after the fight: I don’t recall whether he was anguished because he killed a human being, or was it because he had let himself be sucked into violence & savagery of the old West? In other words- is he unhappy because he is now a killer (this has something to do with ethics based on religions etc.), or because he has become just like them, a white savage macho yada yada? Did he betray high universal moral principles -as he sees them, or civilization?

    Stewart wasn’t a manly man but he was certainly not effeminate, not to mention ‘gayish’, like Farley Granger. Also, we have to take his motivation into account. His refusal to use a gun the Wild West way is a matter of courage and principle, not cowardice and passivity. There’s a difference between refusing to pick up a gun out of fright and refusing to do so out of principle. Also, most men in town have guns but still don’t stand up to Valance. Guns alone are as useless as the Law alone. Guns need to be backed by skill, ability, courage, and resolve(and even a bit of reckless derring-do).

    Ransom’s long-term vision is the right one. The only way to secure real peace is by everyone working together to create a stable system. That’s the only insurance against men like Valance. If the town relies on men like Doniphan to keep the likes of Valance at bay, it all depends on whim and chance. It’d be like Greeks relying on temperamental Achilles in the war against the Trojans. Sometimes, Achilles feels like fighting, sometimes he does not, even if the Greeks are getting battered. Also, what if there is no one like Doniphan around in the town? The good folks would be totally at the mercy of the Valances of the world. So, for there to be real justice, there has to be a system of justice enforced by the arm of the law, and that system can come about only with everyone taking part instead of looking to the good tough guy to fend off the bad tough guy.
    Of course, until such a system is established, a man like Doniphan sure comes in handy against the Valances, but in order for justice to be stable and reliable, mere guns won’t do.

    So, Ransom is essentially right. He is wrong in his unwillingness to resort to rough justice in the interim period before a more stable system is brought about. It’s a fault of detail, a matter of degree, than of design.
    That said, one could argue against Law and Order on grounds that people don’t deserve it, i.e. good times for good folks lead to decadence and degeneracy among the young ones who take things for granted and put on dumb attitudes. The ‘greatest generation’ did so much to create a new order for the young ones, but what did the latter do? Indulge in sex, drugs, and rock & roll. And law-and-order did wonders for cities in the 1990s and 2000s. Crime rates dropped precipitously. But instead of being grateful for the relative peace, the progs virtue-signaled about ‘racism’ and waved BLM signs, and we are back to chaos again. And Western Europe got progressively worse because of the prolonged prosperity after WWII. Generation after generation taking the good times for granted and making a mess of everything. On those grounds, maybe good times based on law and order aren’t so good for the people. Once people get their minds off elemental needs, they grow decadent and stupid.

    Ransom is troubled by the killing of Valance because he wants to lead by example. But the killing has been characterized by his rivals as cold-blooded murder of an upstanding citizen. Of course, his supporters have no problem with the killing of Valance, a bad guy, but they don’t have lock on the local Narrative. It’s no different today. We know George Floyd died of overdose, but the Narrative favors the ‘murder’ story. And the officials messed things up at Charlottesville by setting Antifa goons on Alt Right people, but the Jewish Supremacist Media that control the Narrative blamed it all on ‘white supremacists’.

    Ransom is in the long line of heroes who try to do the right thing in the wrong place. Kirk Douglas’ character in PATHS OF GLORY is similar. What matters in his world is ‘politics’, but he sticks to principles. There’s nothing he can do to stop the executions of the accused men, but he still does his best. That the men will die is pre-ordained, but he goes against the currents nevertheless in a lost cause. The pragmatic thing would have been to just play along, go through the motions, and further his own career prospects. But he stands by his principles and is called a ‘fool’ by the devious general who is ‘wise’ about the ways of power.

    That Trevor Lynch is so harsh on Ransom is a bit odd since he is involved in the ‘effeminate’ calling of ‘letters’. Also, he has eschewed the confrontational tactics of Alt Right politics in favor of the Contest of Ideas with books like THE WHITE NATIONALIST MANIFESTO with the hope that the world will accept ‘white nationalism’ as a moral principle; there’s less chance of that than Ransom’s vision of the New West. He was also taken aback by Amazon’s decision to ban his books, as if the corporate world(in cahoots with the Deep State) ever played fair. Could he be projecting onto Ransom some of his own self-doubts?

    Ransom is caught in a moral trap. If he sticks by his idealistic guns, he is strong on principle but weak in practice. If he pick up the guns, he’d be stronger in practice but weaker on principle. Not gifted as a natural fighter, his power derives from this natural advantage of intelligence.
    Still, he’s not a pacifist nor opposed to the possession of guns. He just believes justice shouldn’t be a matter of which side has more guns or has the faster draw. After all, such ‘justice’ will always favor might. If Valance were to kill Doniphan in a gunfight, then the ‘law’ would on the side of Valance. It’s almost as if Ransom is his own hostage in this moral trap.

    [MORE]

    He is like Kirk Douglas in PATHS OF GLORY in that both men are essentially liberal(without current connotations). They do have principles but, when push comes to shove, accept the world as it is and compromise. This is different from Tom Courtney’s characters in KING RAT and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. He is honest to a fault in KING RAT but unlikable because of the setting where pride of virtue is a fool’s game. In DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, he’s more admirable as a purist radical. He won’t make his men do anything he himself won’t do. He charges into battle ahead of his men, and his commitment to the Revolution is total and selfless. His radicalism is very different from Ransom’s liberalism, but they have something in common in the insistence of doing it right by the letter of the book, be it the laws of liberty or laws of history.

    In a way, what happens in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA gives us a clue as to Ransom’s dilemma. Lawrence initially looks upon the Arabs as a cruel and silly people who live by petty tribalism and superstition. The Arabs say, “It’s written”, and things are what they are, and nothing can be done about it. One must resign oneself to what is ‘written’. When a man falls off a camel in the desert, Lawrence goes to retrieve him when others just give up on him. His death is ‘written’, and nothing can be done about it, the Arabs say. But Lawrence believe in free will, in agency. So, he goes to rescue the man and brings him back alive. He has taught the Arabs the lesson of Western freedom, the power of the individual will against adversity. After all, he’s leading a campaign that seems impossible, doomed to fail. But later, the very man he saved must be killed by his own gun. Perhaps, the Arabs were right after all. It is ‘written’. Lawrence could alter the script a bit here and there, but in the end, it is ‘written’. Ransom is a far humbler character than the vain Lawrence bordering on megalomania, but both men believe in their rightness and destiny. In the Wild West, people act as it’s ‘written’ or ‘branded’ that guns decide what goes and that’s that. The Law of the West is written in blood. Ransom has a better vision of the West and works to create it… but in the end, he ends up using the gun according to the Western script. (And of course, it’s ‘written’ in the Western genre script that it must come down to a gunfight.)

    In a way, Ransom is a pain-in-the-ass, but people like him is why the Anglo World created better institutions and fairer laws than the Latin World and beyond. To be sure, men like Doniphan were also instrumental as to why the Anglo world was better. The Doniphans had the balls to stand up to bad guys, and the Ransoms were sticklers for the law and made it stick. In contrast, Mexico had few Doniphans. Most people were like the passive peasants in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Mexico also had few Ransoms, men of the law. The result was a world of corruption and passivity.
    And consider THE GODFATHER. It begins with Michael determined to be like a Good American, but an incident turns him overnight into a tribal gangster who no longer has any use for the American Way. Once he goes ‘Sicilian’, he never looks back.

    Ransom’s way isn’t easy. And it’s especially hard if one is fallen but chooses to crawl out of the hole, which is the case in PRINCE OF THE CITY, a story of a NY cop who joined his partners in corruption but tries to set things straight and de-tox himself of the compromises. But it means giving up his partners, something he vowed he’d never do. Whichever loyalty he chooses, to the Law or his partners, he ends up betraying something. Treat Williams played a labor activist in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA who tries to be clean but soon joins with gangsters as protection. He does the realistic thing but is corrupted in the end.

  90. AReply says:

    Zach Snyder’s Justice League: a Four Hour Ayn Rand Fantasia BY ANDREW STEWART
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/03/26/zach-snyders-justice-league-a-four-hour-ayn-rand-fantasia/

    • Replies: @eD
  91. @unit472

    Modern interpretation:

    Liberty Valance represented the cattlemen ( who were there first). They needed an open range to graze and move their cattle to market. Real Estate speculators wanted to subdivide and fence in the range and, to be honest, Stoddard was the puppet political leader they used to outvote the cattlemen.

    But cattlemen often vied for land and water with other cattlemen. So, they too put up fences and barbed wire. Cattlemen were very territorial AGAINST other cattlemen. They were for ‘open grazing’ only within their own territory. Indeed, many cattle wars flared up over access to water and pathways. It wasn’t as simple as laid out in SHANE.

    Also, unlike the Indians who went away, cattle barons were there to stay, and it’s been a big part of the West ever since. The biggest challenge to them was less real estate speculators than Big Government that finally stepped in with regulation and protection of wilderness.

    Perhaps, the real dirty secret, one that Ford’s movie doesn’t touch upon, was that the partnership of American ‘progress’ was really between the Stoddards and the Valances. The Stoddards of the world weren’t so clean, and they needed people like Valances, sociopaths willing to do anything for a cut.
    Take THE IRISHMAN. Jimmy Hoffa is a legit labor union boss but has goons working for him. Indeed, US government itself is about legit-seeming politicians and leaders out in the public, but behind them are sociopaths in the deep state who do the dirty work. The thing about Doniphan is he has too much pride and integrity to do dirty work for powerful men. He wants to be left alone and do his own thing. He likes being his own boss. In contrast, Stoddards of the world want to gain power over others(for reasons good or bad) and need others to do the bidding for them: Valances of the world will do anything for anyone for pay; they can be bought in the way that Doniphans of the world cannot be. Valance, though a maverick, is also willing to be a flunky for pay. Thus, he is more useful to the powerful than Doniphan is.

    In ALL THE KING’S MEN, an idealistic politician soon learns the ropes and surrounds himself with a bunch of Valances, tough guys who will play as dirty as the other side. After all, civilization in the West wasn’t only about womenfolk & churches and children & schools but saloons and prostitutes. Las Vegas is part of civilization but more about whores and saloons than schools and churches. Indeed, vice industries provide the revenues to run the schools and libraries. And churches too money from sinners from the beginning. And the biggest sinners sometimes had the most money to give.

    Perhaps, this is why myths are so important. It’s like the song “Both Sides Now”:

    I’ve looked at life from both sides now
    From win and lose and still somehow
    It’s life’s illusions I recall
    I really don’t know life at all

    So, there are two layers of myth in LIBERTY VALANCE. The myth within the story that has the public believing that Ransom slayed the fire-breathing dragon-beast Valance. The truth is Doniphan is the one who did the killing.
    But one may surmise another myth, that outside the story, i.e. that the entirety of Western Narrative is a myth, the Manichean one about civilization and progress coming to the West to drive out the savages and outlaws for the sake of womenfolk and the children. Rather, it was about gangsters taking over from cowboys who took over from the Indians. In Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the railroad oligarch hires the likes of Valance. Outlaws who continue like the bandits in THE WILD BUNCH will be hunted down, but outlaws willing to work as strongarm of the New Order are highly prized.
    It’s like the myth of the Good War Narrative where all the War Criminals were supposedly brought to justice. In fact, especially due to the Cold War, the US protected and worked with ‘war criminals’ in Germany and especially Japan. While some high-profile ones got hanged, many were made ‘respectable’ as collaborators with the New Order.

    The problem with certain facts is it doesn’t end with that fact alone. If the string of factuality is pulled, the whole fabric may come apart. This is why Jews don’t want to give an inch to the Palestinians. If even a key fact of history is conceded to the Palestinians, it may lead to other facts that lead to yet more facts, with the result that the whole foundation of the Zionist myth falls like a house of cards. Jews surely know this from their dealing with Anglo-Americans or Wasps. White Power gave an inch of moral authority to the Jews, and Jews kept pulling and pulling on that string until the whole edifice of White Power came tumbling down.
    So, the fact in LIBERTY VALANCE isn’t just one fact or single fact. It’s like a brick within the foundation of building. It’s hidden and can’t be seen but plays a crucial role in holding up the entire structure. Keep it hidden and serving its function because exposing it as fact may expose other hidden bricks that do the real Atlas-like work of holding up the building; then the whole thing will tumble down. Some facts are mere facts, but other facts are like keystones that hold it all together. It’s like the game of Jenga. Removing a certain piece affects the whole structure.

    This is as true of personal myth as public myth. LIBERTY VALANCE is about public myth, whereas MULHOLLAND DR is about personal myth known only to the character of Diane Selwyn. This myth, dark and perplexing as it is, gives her hope and comfort whereas the stark truth is dank and depressing. She lives in her myth and lives in fear of a certain ‘key fact’ that may break the spell and lead her back to drab and dreary reality where she isn’t just a loser but the murderer of her friend.
    When dream becomes reality, follow the dream.

  92. Resartus says:

    But cattlemen often vied for land and water with other cattlemen. So, they too put up fences and barbed wire. Cattlemen were very territorial AGAINST other cattlemen. They were for ‘open grazing’ only within their own territory. Indeed, many cattle wars flared up over access to water and pathways. It wasn’t as simple as laid out in SHANE.

    Speaking of Cattleman vs Cattleman….
    A better example is “Open Range” instead of “Shane”….
    Though many movies are the largest ranch owner vs the nearest town…

    Still we get to, someone reviewing a 60 yo movie based on today’s standards….
    Although, the movie is written using the standards of those days vs
    the those of the era the event would have occurred….

    Open Range seems to have a better grasp on the ideals of the era, eventhough it was done
    basically in the one we live in now….

  93. eD says:
    @AReply

    Zach Snyder’s Justice League: a Four Hour Ayn Rand Fantasia BY ANDREW STEWART

    This is off topic, but for those who are curious about whether they should click on the link for the counterpunch review of the Zach Snyder “Justice League” just released on HBO Max streaming, the answer is don’t bother unless you have time to kill.

    The review reads like someone set out to write a parody movie review in the style of post Alex Cockburn “Counterpunch” (the site and publication was actually pretty good while Cockburn was still alive). Its pretty enjoyable on that level, but goes on way too long. What the review does not do is tell you much about the movie itself, though there is a good deal of commentary on the key people who produced, directed, and acted in it, and their political believes.

  94. Sparkon says:

    I thought both John Wayne and Lee Marvin were pretty darn good in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Certainly, John Wayne cuts a likable figure, but again, he was the Cowboy on the White Horse on quite a few of those movies he made in the ’30s, like this:

    That’s what you call a tall cowboy hat, pardner.

    According Wikipedia, John Ford’s health and eyesight were failing by 1960, and on the set of TMWSLV, he needled and ridiculed Wayne incessantly throughout production of the film, which is flawed despite the flashes of brilliance, most of it from John Wayne and Lee Marvin. Apparently, John Ford was a hero in his own mind for taking motion pictures during WWII, and getting wounded.

    Of course that great song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David should have been in there. It’s said Ford didn’t like it, but I think Ford was by that stage at least, a drunken, half-blind, egomaniacal A-hole.

    Here are a couple nice editing jobs with scenes from the movie and the Bacharach-David song, starting with this version from Maricatrin’s Music Videos sung by Roger Johnson:

    And here by Ellis with the familiar, famous version, a #4 hit for Gene Pitney, who reportedly was in the studio recording the song when the movie was released:

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  95. @Sparkon

    Of course that great song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David should have been in there.

    I like the song but it doesn’t belong in the movie. It’s too upbeat and clever(and near parodic) for the elegiac tone required for what amounts to tragedy, or unsung tragedy(as it’s about a sad story buried under a happy story of good guy killing bad guy).

    I like the song ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ too but it shouldn’t have been used in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID. We don’t want Dylan coming between the elder couple in that sad moment in the movie. It should be just them two instead of Dylan spelling it out that the guy is dying.

  96. Watching THE IRISHMAN again last night, it struck me how the film-making takes after John Ford’s ‘elements of style’, or the economy of poetics. Gone is the flashiness, the visual flourishes borrowed from Fellini, the funhouse of Welles. Scorsese was drawing on Ford’s way of paring it down to essentials and serving it straight. A tribute to Ford? Or the lesson mastered by pupil in late stage?

    • Thanks: SeekerofthePresence
  97. anon[712] • Disclaimer says:

    If the movie was mediocre the song by Gene Pitney was great.

  98. Unrealistic, ponderous, stupid movie. Lee Marvin (Valence) is terrified of John Wayne, hence he’s a poor excuse for a villain. Panned when first released, and for good reason. Lauded as years went by due to overreaching by critics similar to the poster.

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
  99. Carwin says:

    “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
    I always like that line, and sums up the movie, which is okay, not brilliant, but a solid valediction to the western. The cast is too old, but hey, we like them all, and it works as entertainment. Interesting how Ford later made Cheyenne Autumn, which turns against all the cavalry movies he made, showing liberal guilt also came to him, but such was the 60’s, when liberal guilt was a Covid of the soul.

    I think of other essays about the western when I read this. There is the brilliant What Western Movies are All About, by Walter Karp (Horizon, Summer 1975), where Karp compared the western dilemma of the loner, villains, frightened townspeople with the dilemma of Italian Renaissance city states dealing with the corruption of civic virtue. Or Alex Linder’s 2004 Vanguard News Network review of Ride with the Devil, where freedom of the civil war bushwhackers fights against the ‘civilization’ of the Yankees, where, as one character said, the south will lose because the first thing the Yankees do is build a schoolhouse where ‘they rounded up every pup-pup into that schoolhouse because they fancied that everyone should talk and think the same freethinking way they do…’

    I don’t see Stewart (Rance) as effeminate. He sure does talk, though. Gregory Peck as Rance would have given a different texture to the role. The apron isn’t effeminate here, although in Rebel without a Cause, the father wearing it certainly is.
    I think the movie simply covers the well worn tracks of the outsider dealing with a new civilization, that of Doniphon challenged by Rance. This is a common theme. Also, should law prevail over power? That was what High Noon was all about, Stewart only a masculine version of Grace Kelly.

    Certainly there is a conflict about civilization needing power to ensure its survival. Orwell said that the pacifist is able to peddle his tracts because there is an army and navy to protect him, or, as Kipling put it, ‘It’s Tommy this ‘an Tommy that, and chuck him out the brute; but it’s savior of ‘is country when the guns begin to shoot.’

    “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’ Again, the journalist seems the winner, because reality is always at war with what the perceived (necessary?) reality is. Churchill, a very flawed leader, nevertheless succeeded in defining what WWII was all about, and the overview we have of WWII is his.
    Tom fades, although strong and a shadow across Shinbone, even though he lives outside of it…echoes of The Searchers or, in an earlier film, Allegheny Uprising ( a review is available at Counter currents Publishing). As for Doniphon. I think it’s just a good name, and recalls, to me, our Missouri hero Alexander Doniphan, who lead Missourians to victory in the Mexican War and Civil War…for the Union.

  100. Thank you for the review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It is one of my favorite movies. In your eagerness to portray Ransom Stoddard as an effeminate wimpy liberal, you have decided to show off your ten dollar Stetson on your five cent head. I have no hankering to defend liberalism, but the movie is not about what you call liberal Ransom Stoddard. The hero of the movie is Tom Doniphon. The movie is about the changing west, racism, and the battle between good and evil. The evil is portrayed as Liberty Valance, but Valance is just a representation of evil and power using force against the weak. On one side you have evil totalitarianism (Valance), on the other you have intellect and reason, portrayed by Ransom Stoddard. Ford was an avid anti-communist. He was using film medium (Western) as a parable to make the case that evil cannot be defeated by reason alone, that the good must be willing to be vicious, violent, and barbarous in order to overcome the evil. Ford then shows that there is a cost to such viciousness, as evidenced by Doniphon’s unfortunate and tragic end.
    I breathlessly await your next film review. Maybe you can review Moby Dick, and show how Captain Ahab’s wimpy liberalism contributed to his unhappy demise.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  101. @Jazzy James

    Simpleton. You should really stick to movies such as Lassie. It is a good movie and you can just follow along, I remember seeing it when I was five years old, so it shouldn’t be too intellectually challenging for you.

  102. @Skeptikal

    Ford wanted you to know who shot Liberty Valance. It was in the title of the movie. It is clear it was Tom Doniphon. Everything in the entire movie before and after the shooting points to it. Unfortunately, Ford couldn’t anticipate that some people would watch the movie and would need Ford to insert himself into the movie like Alfred Hitchcock and then point at Doniphon and say, “He did it, he did it, that Doniphon guy right there, he shot Liberty Valance”.
    Please just accept the fact that in this one instance, you are completely and categorically wrong. It happens to the best of us.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  103. Anonymous[321] • Disclaimer says:
    @D. K.

    the source material– a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson…I cannot find a copy of the short story, online.

    Hello, D.K.,

    Late to the party, but here’s a PDF file of Johnson’s short story, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

    https://dl1.cuni.cz/pluginfile.php/400292/mod_resource/content/1/Johnson_Dorothy_M_-_Indian_Country_1953_.pdf#%5B%7B%22num%22%3A100%2C%22gen%22%3A0%7D%2C%7B%22name%22%3A%22XYZ%22%7D%2C5%2C746.1675%2Cnull%5D

    • Replies: @mmcshrry
  104. @Luus Kanin

    The evil is portrayed as Liberty Valance, but Valance is just a representation of evil and power using force against the weak. On one side you have evil totalitarianism (Valance), on the other you have intellect and reason, portrayed by Ransom Stoddard.

    Valance is vile and evil in a petty way but not EVIL in any grand or profound way. And he doesn’t represent totalitarianism but the very opposite: anarchy. Ransom, though not a totalitarian, has more of a tendency toward authoritarianism. He is an idealist into liberty and all that but also a control freak who believes people must follow his way to be truly enlightened and free. He doesn’t care for the rough freedom of the West. Ransom would never support tyranny, but he’s the kind of guy who would push a lot of regulations, some of them good, some of them a pain in the arse.

    He was using film medium (Western) as a parable to make the case that evil cannot be defeated by reason alone, that the good must be willing to be vicious, violent, and barbarous in order to overcome the evil. Ford then shows that there is a cost to such viciousness, as evidenced by Doniphon’s unfortunate and tragic end.

    I’m not sure about this. Doniphan has been a tough guy all his life. Surely, he killed people(varmints) before he killed Valance. But he seems content and confident throughout the movie. He never felt remorse about having used violence on bad guys. What really destroys him is not the killing of Valance but losing Hallie to Ransom. He burns down the house he built for Hallie and himself because he wants her to be happy, and her happiness is with Ransom. The price he pays for killing Valance is not remorse. He feels none. Rather, it’s giving up Hallie to Ransom. Had he not intervened, Valance would have killed Ransom, and Hallie would have been his. But he saved Ransom, and he could see her heart was really with Ransom.

    So, the real tragedy in the movie isn’t about morality or remorse. It’s about the tragedy of love. (JULES AND JIM also showed the problem of love among three.) The movie about the tragedy of political violence is really LAWRENCE OF ARABIA where Arabia serves like a Western frontier for Lawrence, who is like half-Ransom and half-Doniphan(and a bit of Valance as well). He’s an intellectual and idealist… but also an insatiable man of action who comes to realize he loves violence.

    In a way, the key figure in LIBERTY VALANCE is Hallie. She is torn between Doniphan, whom she expected to marry, and Ransom, whom she grows to love more. In the end, she chooses Ransom. She knows this is especially hurtful to Doniphan because he saved Ransom, only to lose her to him. It was a very difficult decision for her to make.

    It’s like the decision in THE IRISHMAN, aka the Man Who Shot Jimmy Hoffa. Frank(DeNiro) must choose between Hoffa and Russell. He loves Hoffa like an older brother, a dear friend. Also, both are Irish. He respects Russell as a man of power and intelligence(and gangster wisdom). In the end, he chooses the Italian over the fellow Irish. As to why, we can guess, but it’s one killing he could never shake off. He is the ‘Hallie’ in this equation.

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
    , @Luus Kanin
  105. mmcshrry says:
    @Anonymous

    That link includes Dorothy Johnson’s short story, “A Man Called Horse.” Also, well worth reading. The story is not long- just savour and don’t peek ahead to those last sentences.

  106. Hallie thinks Ransom really did kill Valance and feels both admiration for him as a Man and pity for him as the wounded underdog. She embraces not only a wounded ‘child’ but a ‘hero’, which makes her love him even more. And yet, the credit for killing Valance really belongs with Doniphan, and yet again, Doniphan doesn’t want the credit because he killed Valance in a dastardly way by Western Code. Ransom ‘stole’ Doniphan’s ‘heroism’ that wasn’t actual heroism. Of course, Doniphan intervened without Ransom’s plea for help, and so, it was less ‘stolen valor’ than ‘bestowed valor’. However, Ransom doesn’t appreciate the ‘heroism’ that really made his name in town. Doniphan feels all the more cheated. He allowed Ransom to own both the heroism and the girl, but Ransom talks about calling it quits over principles and feigned moral outrage from political opponents. Doniphan feels cheated by just about everyone. By the town that acknowledges Ransom as hero, by Hallie who’s with Ransom, by himself who betrayed the Western code in killing Valance, and by Ransom who doesn’t appreciate the good fortune thanks to what Doniphan did. Doniphan is the one with the most to lose, but Ransom feels like he’s the poor guy in the whole equation.

  107. @Priss Factor

    Thanks Priss for your thoughtful reply. I can see how Liberty Valance can be viewed as a representation of anarchy. I reckon that he could not engage in such savage behavior if not for the absence of some type of civil authority. That is why the story is framed in a lawless west with Stoddard as a manifestation of a primitive way of life changing into an improved society that benefits all. It is no accident that Ford chooses to portray Stoddard as an inadequate weakling, and makes sure you get the message when he puts him in an apron. Stoddard is purposely contrasted with Doniphon, and though Stoddard’s ideals are admirable, you can’t help but take notice of the fact that an idealist is impotent without the realist (Doniphon) that is willing to take the appropriate action. My interpretation of Liberty Valance as a representation of totalitarianism is because I believe that Ford was impacted by his work with the U.S. Navy’s Field Photo Unit, in which he filmed several battles, including the Battle of Midway. Ford was a liberal but also a great defender of the military, which seems a direct result of his understanding of the danger of oppressive regimes. I will not inflexibly cling to this opinion as if I am tied to a ball and chain though because I do not know that Ford ever gave his thoughts on this matter. This was Ford’s last great movie, even though there are a few dimwits that think it is just a bad western. To them I say go stand next to a cliff and take a selfie. One of the things that make this movie great is it is open to interpretation. There can be a variance of interpretation depending upon the lens in which one looks.

  108. @Priss Factor

    Priss, I have on numerous occasions had the good fortune to watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I feel as if I am more prepared for an exchange of ideas, but I have watched The Irishman once. I acknowledge that I am not an expert by any means, but will admit one of my many faults is that I am known for having an opinion, even in cases where it is not in my best interests. I disagree that Frank chooses the Italian over Hoffa. As Frank tells his story it seems as if he has removed himself from actually having any role in any outcome. It is as if he is a kite being carried along by the wind. Frank has made many poor choices, but he can’t acknowledge them. He sees that Hoffa must be killed, but it is not his choice, he just sees which way the wind is blowing and goes with it. This is a natural self defense mechanism that people use to justify immoral behavior, Frank’s disconnect is just on steroids. Think back to your earliest awareness of yourself in this world. You had no control over how you got there or the circumstances that you found yourself in. I see Frank’s viewpoint as the same, he is thrust into a world not of his choosing and he is just along for the ride.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
    , @Priss Factor
  109. Skeptikal says:
    @Luus Kanin

    “Please just accept the fact that in this one instance, you are completely and categorically wrong. It happens to the best of us. :

    Oooh, how prissy! And how stupid.
    I certainly don’t have to be right, but you haven’t provided any evidence that I am not.

    “It was in the title of the movie. It is clear it was Tom Doniphon.”

    Erm what? Are you saying that there is just one man in the movie—“The Man”?—and it is Tom Doniphon? Stewart is not a man?

    Nothing that you have written makes any sense.

    I stick to my view, which I came to after watching the actual shooting scene a couple of times.

  110. Skeptikal says:
    @Luus Kanin

    If you want to understand Frank’s viewpoint, read his book, I Heard You Paint Houses.

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
    , @Luus Kanin
  111. @Skeptikal

    My apologies, I agree I was flippant when there was no need. I believe you are spending too much time and effort in the shooting snippet looking for the spotlight of clarity when the non shooting part of the movie explains everything in detail. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is officially Ransom Stoddard. It is why he was deemed a hero and elected to the U.S. Senate. Stoddard himself tells the story to the newspaper editor who the real hero was, and that Tom Doniphon was the one who actually shot Liberty Valance. The newspaperman acknowledges this fact when he says “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend”. There is no room for intrepretation here. It doesn’t matter how much you look for a clue in the shooting itself. I appreciate your effort to defend your analysis, just as I would appreciate the effort of the clown who attempts to be a trapeze artist. One cannot help but admire their gumption, but everyone under the tent, with the exception of the clown, already knows the ugly outcome.

  112. @Skeptikal

    Hi Skeptikal, I feel as if while performing my evening constitutional a stray dog has followed me home. No worries, dogs are typically affable and obsequious. I would say that you could make improvements in your obsequiousness toward me and I would not object. I agree that reading Charles Brandt’s book would help with Frank’s viewpoint in the book. I was referring to Frank’s viewpoint given to him by the director Martin Scorsese. Directors typically are not wed to an author’s premise, but are much more interested in their own intrepretation.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
    , @Skeptikal
  113. @Luus Kanin

    I disagree that Frank chooses the Italian over Hoffa. As Frank tells his story it seems as if he has removed himself from actually having any role in any outcome. It is as if he is a kite being carried along by the wind. Frank has made many poor choices, but he can’t acknowledge them. He sees that Hoffa must be killed, but it is not his choice, he just sees which way the wind is blowing and goes with it. This is a natural self defense mechanism that people use to justify immoral behavior, Frank’s disconnect is just on steroids… I see Frank’s viewpoint as the same, he is thrust into a world not of his choosing and he is just along for the ride.

    Loose Cannon… it’s like this.

    True, Frank is a thinking person and not much of a feeling person either. Either his genetics or his experienced hardened him into a killer for hire. He hardly feels any remorse for all the killings he’s responsible for. Whether he killed in war or back home, he regarded it just a job. He rationalizes by saying it was to ‘survive’ and ‘protect his family’ from a dangerous world, but he chose to enter that world and by, doing so, made the world more dangerous. Still, within that gangster world, he’s a more stabilizing force than someone like Joey Gallo the total psycho. It’s all relative in that sense.

    Here’s the thing. With Hoffa, it was different. Consider Michael Corleone. He had many people killed, but what really eats away at him is the killing of Fredo. GODFATHER III mostly sucks but the confession scene is powerful and totally plausible. Likewise, Frank never cared about most people he killed. It was just a job, like carrying slabs of beef from one place to another. But it was different with Hoffa. Not only was Hoffa like a rock star but he was Irish. The great Hoffa befriended Frank, a hired killer, essentially a nobody. To Hoffa, he was like a brother. Hoffa confided in him, trusted him, and relied on him. Frank is usually a hard man, a brick wall. His heart is sewed tight and covered in concrete. But Hoffa gets to him. Part of Frank thaws in Hoffa’s presence. That a man as great and prominent as Hoffa would open his ear and heart to him and his family, it matters a great deal to Frank. Also, Frank notices that his daughter Peggy lives in fear of him and feels no respect for Russell. But she opens up to Hoffa. As long as Hoffa is alive, there is a lifeline, however weak, between Frank and Peggy.

    So, Frank’s killing of Hoffa has to be seen apart from his other killings. It was a big deal not only because it was Hoffa but because Hoffa embraced as a friend, a brother, a fellow Irishman.
    And this is why Frank asks Hoffa to attend the award ceremony. It is why he tries so hard to persuade Hoffa to change his mind. He even hints that a hit might be planned against him. The last thing he wants to do is kill Hoffa. At the award ceremony, Hoffa publicly and sincerely expresses his affection for Frank. Later at the same place, Russell offers Frank a ring, the only one given to an outside, an Irishman. Frank loves Hoffa but respects Russell. Does he go with love or with respect? In a way, Frank understands that Russell operates on a higher/deeper plane of power. Hoffa, as powerful as he once was, is too much like Moe Green. He’s too loud. He talks too much. Russell remains in the shadows and plays it more smart and devious. The difference between Hoffa and Russell is expressed in their food preferences. Hoffa gulps down ice cream and chili dogs and chews on steak. Russell knows finer cooking, as when he prepares salad with special ingredients. So, when Frank must choose between friend and master, he goes with the master. It has more authority to it.

    Still, it’s not an easy choice. Indeed, Russell keeps it from him until the very end. When they set off on their journey to the wedding, Frank thought they were still working to make some deal with Hoffa. Frank is told of the gravity of the situation only on the night before the killing. And it is only the morning of the killing that he is informed for certain what is up. Russell tells him that he involved Frank in the plan precisely because he knows of Frank’s strong feelings for Hoffa. Russell understands that there is a chance that Frank will try to save Hoffa. To prevent that, he must be made part of the killing. Indeed, he must be the killer.

    On the one hand, this is devastating to Frank. And yet, he’s able to carry it out because there’s that sociopath side of him that can do just about anything. Yes, even after all they’ve been together, Frank can still kill Hoffa in cold blood and walk away as it’s business as usual. Still, this wasn’t like any other killings. It really drained him, and of course, Peggy puts 2 and 2 together and suspects what happened. In killing Hoffa, he kills whatever remained of his relation with Peggy.

    When Michael Corleone breaks down in THE GODFATHER 3, it’s very human. Deep down inside, Michael was never a sociopath. He was being strong for his family. His story is that of the Nobility of Evil, different concept from the ‘banality of evil’. He took on big responsibilities and had to be ruthless.
    In contrast, Frank really is mostly an unfeeling sociopath, more like Luca Brasi. But two people in life really got to him. Russell, a man he came to not only fear but respect and revere. And Hoffa, a man who he came to love or at least an emotion resembling love.

    It’s there at the Award Ceremony when he wants to be straight with both Russell and Hoffa but is torn between the two and must make a choice. Now, given that Hoffa was out of power whereas Russell and his associates wielded considerable power, it made good sense for Frank to bet on the stronger horse, if only for self-preservation. But his reason for going with Russell wasn’t merely that. While both men exuded authority, Russell’s is worthier of respect. His power and ‘wisdom’ arise from a deeper source, whereas Hoffa is comparably childlike and at times even a bit immature in his vainglory. Hoffa needs the limelight to matter whereas Russells of the world have power in the dark.

    Perhaps, the ‘Irishman’ as metaphor as special meaning to Scorsese. He’s been a Catholic in Jewish Hollywood, like Frank is an Irishman in a largely Italian world. Scorsese’s heart may be with Italians but his masters(his Russells) have been Jewish. Likewise, the Catholic priests are exiles in Japan in THE SILENCE and must compromise. (Peggy is the silence in THE IRISHMAN.) And Rothstein is the Jew surrounded by Italians and local yokels in CASINO.

    In THE SILENCE, the priest steps on the image of Jesus but carries the faith deep in his heart. One wonders what really happened with Frank. On some level, was he loyal to Hoffa to the very end despite his betrayal? Or, is that kind of grace only possible in the spiritual realm?

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
  114. Sparkon says:

    Most, if not all Hollywood Westerns already have a fairly high built-in cheese factor simply because of the genre, which attempts to romanticize and glorify the so-called Wild West, or sometimes Old West.

    It was perfect material for the film boys, who glommed onto it from the beginning, aping the Cowboys ‘n’ Indians, wild-west-themed circus and carnival shows of the late 19th century, which showcased traveling performers like Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and Sitting Bull, tapping into the fascination of rubes worldwide for tall tales about cowboys and Indians and the Wild West.

    After all, printing the legend is how the myth of the Old West was formed.

    Anyway, here’s the trailer for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which closes with the exciting announcement:

    Hear the legend
    come alive with
    the new hit song:
    “The Man Who Shot
    Liberty Valance.”

    That’s what it says, in all caps.

    By the time I saw the move, Pitney’s song was a major hit. It was a shocking disappointment to show up early, sit through the entire movie and closing credits, waiting in vain for the great Bacharach-David song. Exiting the theater, my pals and I must have done an early 1960s version of WTF?

    I think Jimmy Stewart was miscast as Ransom Stoddard, but he was also miscast in Ford’s last Western, Cheyenne Autumn, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday appear in that goofy sequence in Dodge, which was included in the film, apparently, simply to have a part for – who else? – Jimmy Stewart.

    Well, that soundtrack for the trailer of TMWSLV is, you know, exciting! or something… but sure, it’s amazingly difficult to come up with a good theme for a trailer, even when you have Bert Bacharach and Hal David working on one.

    • Replies: @Luus Kanin
    , @Resartus
  115. @brabantian

    This review is a bad joke. If the author can produce a better film I’d love to see it.

  116. @Sparkon

    Sparkon, it is truly tragic when one goes to a movie theater expecting to hear a song and then is burdened with having to suffer through a movie instead.

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  117. Resartus says:
    @Sparkon

    After all, printing the legend is how the myth of the Old West was formed.

    Yes, because the truth didn’t present that much of a draw….
    Stats say, only 1 of 200 in the West, ever fired a gun at another person….
    Violence in Eastern Cities during the same period was much worse,
    much the same as today, because of overcrowding….

  118. @Priss Factor

    Priss, thanks for your thesis on Frank’s motivations and mindset. There is not really much that I would quarrel with. I do see your point on why Frank makes the choices that he does. Where I differ is I do not think Frank actually sees himself as making the choice to kill Hoffa. He is only the emissary sent with the message. In this way he can remain above the fray as a bystander that just happened to be placed in the situation, with no real role in anything that transpires. I believe this is how he justified all his killings, not just with Hoffa. In thinking this way, he never has to pick up a mirror and look into it.
    You have an interesting take on Scorsese’s mentality as being an Italian Catholic that has to be subservient to his Jewish overlords. I thought Scorsese kind of thought of himself as an Italian Jew. His Catholicism is definitely represented in his movies, but I am not sure he thought of himself as an outsider. His first wife was Jewish and he also later married Isabella Rossellini. Now you may think of her as Italian, as the name would suggest, but her mother Ingrid Bergman always considered herself part Jewish, as she was told at a young age that she had some Jewish ancestry. You might be on to something though, because in the Wolf of Wall Street he did hide the fact that Jordan Belfort was Jewish. Was this because he identified with the Jews, or was fearful of the backlash? I am not sure on this.

  119. Sparkon says:
    @Luus Kanin

    I‘m surprised it affected you to that degree, but as a 15-year old, shock and disappointment were all I could muster.

    I was a little shocked when Pitney’s song wasn’t in the movie because my older pal, who was a big fan of Gene Pitney’s earlier hit “Town Without Pity,” had convinced a couple of us to go see the movie with him because he said – and we all assumed – that Pitney’s hit “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” would be in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, strangely enough.

    Even so, by that stage and left to my own devices, I certainly wouldn’t have spent 50 cents to go see a B&W cowboy movie, popular song or not.

    You see, I’d already had my fill of the genre well before 1962 because of the many re-runs on TV, along with popular Western-themed series like The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, and Wanted Dead or Alive, along with many others.

    For over 50 years, the Western genre was a reliable theme for Hollywood and later for the boob tube, because there really must be something fascinating about watching a man riding on a white stallion and shooting his gun while pursuing bad guys:

    A fiery horse with the speed of light
    A cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi Ho Silver!

    The Lone Ranger!

    But my older pal was a skilled manipulator who later became a lawyer after a career as a kleptomaniac, and I got dragged into a number of his schemes because I was young, naive, and easily influenced.

    But making fun of cowboy movies was in play with Bob Hope and The Paleface already in 1948, and Son of Paleface in 1952, so I’m not claiming to be any pioneer in poking fun at Hollywood portrayals of cowpokes.

  120. I also grew up watching westerns and at first couldn’t really make a distinction between what you describe as an oater and a western that had a more nuanced complexity. By my early teens I could easily recognize that there was a great difference between a movie such as Frontier Marshall with Randolph Scott, and The Searchers with John Wayne.

    It is not that John Wayne just gave a better performance than Randolph Scott. It was clear that who directed the movie had a much greater impact than the actor’s performances. That is why it is not by accident that critics consider the westerns directed by Budd Boetticher and Sam Peckinpah as Randolph Scott’s best.

    It is widely acknowledged that there would be no John Wayne as we know him without John Ford. John Ford wasn’t just a director of westerns, he is widely recognized as one of the greatest directors, and possibly the greatest American director. There was a time when there was no doubt this was true. You don’t have to take my word for it. Directors such as Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Sergio Leone have all said Ford was a great influence on them.

    Watch Kurosawa’s great movie Seven Samurai and you can see the blending of Samurai period drama and American western. The western movie is probably America’s greatest contribution to cinema. A western movie shows man’s relationship to nature, a people to its landscape, harsh and arbitrary. A great movie like The Man who Shot Liberty Valance could only have been made by one person ever, the great Director John Ford.

    Cinema is an art form, in countless movies it is easy not to recognize this fact. That is why one should appreciate a great western when you see it, it is a representation of what is it to be an American.

    I am not sure what to make of your friendship with a kleptomaniac. I thought most kleptomaniacs were women, but maybe that is just my patriarchy speaking. In his favor I do not believe that kleptomaniacs have much control over their urges, maybe an obsessive compulsive disorder. There is an old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I would say the same for you when receiving a birthday or Christmas gift from him.

  121. I just watched this movie because of the review and I was really disappointed.

    I think you put more thought into it than John Ford.

    I’d describe it as a corny Western that tried to cash in on two actors that don’t share the screen well together. What was with the Marshal? A Western town would not have put a badge on some portly out of shape coward. As you noted Stewart and Wayne are trying to play younger men and it doesn’t work. The whole thing feels like a gimmick. Wayne appears drunk in most of the scenes.

    It really has nothing on movies where they are separate like Winchester 73 or Rio Bravo.

    How about a review of The Searchers. That is a movie that would never get made today.

  122. Skeptikal says:
    @Luus Kanin

    You got it backwards. You are the stray dog following me.

    Don’t you have something better to do, such as sniffing bitches in heat?

    Go do that!

    And leave me alone.

    TIA.

  123. Skeptikal says:
    @Luus Kanin

    “Directors typically are not wed to an author’s premise, but are much more interested in their own intrepretation [sic]. ”

    Duh.

    In this case the director’s interpretation—that is, the script he derived from the book—is weak on the motivation bit. Which is why I mention the book. I expect that many who dig and delve into the film have no idea of the book it supposedly was based on. I was delighted when I heard that Scorsese had bought the rights to the book. It could have been a fantastic movie.

    Scorsese should have stuck closer to the book—the relationship between the two men would then parse. Sheeran was actually a very charismatic man. So was Hoffa, as a matter of fact.

    Sheeran came from the working class. Hoffa came from the working class and was a genuine working-class hero, working for his brother teamsters to build up the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Hoffa was a political radical, within the US context. But the Teamsters got involved with the Mob. Sheeran, fighting at (I believe) Anzio, had developed topnotch fighting skills. He had seen a lot. The war had hardened him, as war is wont to do. After the war Sheeran got involved with the Mob, almost by accident, and once you get involved with the Mob you can’t really go straight—you are locked in. Sheeran was a professional killer, but he was not IMO a typical mobster. I’ll leave it at that. Sheeran and Hoffa had a genuine relationship. The actual backgrounds of the two men were the basis for their relationship. It didn’t really matter that Sheeran was a big Irishman (which DeNiro is not) and Hoffa, a short Italian (Hoffa was smart and pugnacious; Sheeran admired this). This Irish/Italian thing is Scorsese’s own obsession, projected onto Sheeran’s story as told to Brandt. It made for a weak script.

    As for your repetitious grafs on TMWSLV, they don’t refute my point. Because my post was short and concise, unlike your bloviating, you draw silly inferences. I reckon you think following someone around while verbally peeing on their leg is high-class humor.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Luus Kanin
  124. What RASHOMON and LIBERTY VALANCE share is a kind of strangeness.

    Both are stories about what happened in the past. It’s about memory.

    In RASHOMON, each of the three people involved in the incident insist he/she is ‘guilty’ of the murder/suicide. Usually, everyone says ‘the butler did it, not me’.

    In LIBERTY VALANCE, neither of the two principals want credit for the death of Valance.
    Usually in the Western, people boast about how “I shot such-and-such.” It’s like a war hero taking pride in his great exploits. That makes the story sullenly distinct from other Westerns. Neither hero wants the credit for the greatest thing that can happen in a Western: Killing the bad guy.

  125. @Skeptikal

    and Hoffa, a short Italian

    Hoffa was Irish, though also of German ancestry, it seems.

    Btw, one wonders…

    Did Jews and Irish lose out to Italians in organized crime or did the Jews and Irish leave that stuff for the ‘goombas’ cuz Jews figured they would do better with law & finance while the Irish figure they could control entire political machines?

  126. Tom F. says:

    The short story, written by a woman, upon which the film is based is very thoughtful. The two main characters are archtypes for the types of mates available in the mid-1950s; a strong, silent and capable alpha, and the sniveling tenderfoot subbeta who gets manhandled by bullies and doesn’t have the skills or gumption to defend himself.

    The Rance/Jimmy Stewart character is quite unlikable in the written source story. He thinks quite highly of himself for his intelligence and book learning, combs his hair in a vanity mirror while on the job in the general store, and in fact makes a show of reading a book of Plato in public. He resents the John Wayne character, because it represents all that he will never be.

    Another short (25 pages) story in the collection is ‘A Man Called Horse’, and also considers a young smart man from wealthy family, who overestimates his place in the hierarchy of man. He hires some hard men to ride with him in the wild West, and is almost immediately overrun by savage Indians who scalp, torture and slaughter the hirelings and then strip and humiliate the young man caught literally naked in a creek. He learns the hard way that he is somewhere between a horse and a dog in the Indian hierarchy, and there is no room for pride, vanity, envy, sloth or anger in his new world. Yes, all those sins are named, the others of the 7 Deadlys are probably named but we get the idea. Man stripped has no value, and must begin from scratch to establish usefulness and competence. Nice~!

  127. @Skeptikal

    Skeptical, When I wrote that it felt as if you were following me around like a stray dog, you cannot come back with “no, you are the stray dog following me”. That is what is known as an ad hominem attack. I know you would not wish to have people think that you are incapable of winning an argument based on reason and logic. I believe you do have it in you to try this approach. I think your temper just got the best of you for a moment and you lashed out in anger. I forgive you for your blunder and hope for you to give a better account of yourself in future exchanges.

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