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Shane Movie Review

starrett stevens ranchers joey

1953 – George Stevens –

With the 1950s came the two most influential westerns of their time— High Noon and Shane. Though High Noon was the more intense and introspective of the two, it was Shane that won more widespread acclaim and was the number three moneymaker of 1953. Its format and style have won it the reputation for being the one of the best examples of the Hollywood western. It has been a lesson for many directors and imitated by the best. Some critics even maintain that film's only fault is that it is too obviously perfect—the cinematography too beautiful, the characters too pat, and the presentation of good and evil too delineated. (Adrian Turner's comment in Hollywood: 60 Great Years states this view well: “the film is a stacked deck devoid of the jittery intensity of the [Anthony] Mann films or the spontaneity of a Hawks.”)

Filming in the Grand Tetons, director Stevens contrasts the vast Wyoming wilderness with the small town and homesteads of the story. The conflict between civilization and brutish nature, peace and violence, is represented by the homesteaders and the ranchers. The premise of the mysterious stranger with a past riding in to save the farmers from the ruthless cattle ranchers is classic western material. Shane (Alan Ladd) is a retired gunfighter who would like to rid himself of the ghosts of his past and settle down with a home and family of his own. He becomes the friend of Joe Starrett (Van Heflin), maintains a suppressed love for Starrett's wife Marian (Jean Arthur), and becomes the idol of Starrett's son Joey (Brandon de Wilde). Shane evokes considerable empathy, but it is Joey who embodies the enthusiasm of every boy of the 1950s who ever dreamed of being or at least knowing a “gunslinger.”

Every deliberately magnificent scene of this story directs the audience toward the final showdown between Shane and the ranchers. Shane realizes that it is only his knowledge and skill as a gunfighter that can save the farmers from having to give up their lands. The home and family he has acquired in this newly found civilization can only be saved by killing the menacing ranchers and relying on the part of his past that he would like to forget. In doing so, he protects the farmers but also loses the type of life for which he truly yearns. Joey's closing comment echoes the sentiments of the entire audience: “Shane, Come back!”

Cast: Alan Ladd (Shane), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Starrett), Jack Palance (Jack Wilson), Ben Johnson (Chris Callaway), Elijah Cook, Jr. (Torrey), Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis), Emile G. Miles (Rufe Ryker), John Dierkes (Morgan Ryker), Ellen Corby (Mrs. Torrey), Helen Brown (Mrs. Lewis), Martin Mason (Ed How-ells), Nancy Kulp (Mrs. Howells), Paul McVey (Grafton) Screenwriter: Jack Sher, A.B. Guthrie, Jr. Cinematographer: Loyal Griggs Composer: Victor Young Producer: George Stevens for Paramount Running Time: 117 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1953: Color Cinematography; Nominations: Director (George Stevens), Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Brandon de Wilde, Jack Palance); National Board of Review Awards, 1953: 10 Best Films of the Year, Director (George Stevens) Box Office: $8M.

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