Monday, July 02, 2007


After the Folklife festival, I headed to Silver Spring for the first of two Friday night movies at AFI's Silver Theater:* the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962).* Senator Ransom Stoddard returns to the little berg of Shinbone, state unknown, for a reunion around the coffin of old acquaintance Tom Doniphon, triggering a hubbub at the local newspaper. Who is Doniphon to the senator? Braced with questions, Stoddard sits everyone down to relate his story in flashback. It wasn't so many years ago that young Rance Stoddard arrived in a wilder Shinbone, unconscious in the back of Tom's wagon. He'd been beaten by a black-clad villain with a silver-tipped whip. "I said his name was Liberty Valance," drones Tom when Rance regains consciousness. Tom has a habit of addressing the future senator as "Pilgrim". Rance plans to practice law in this territory destined for statehood. The wild west's been won, and he's there to tame it. Rance pledges to visit the letter of the law on Valance, just as soon as he's convinced the gluttonous comedy-relief sheriff to jail him. Tom thinks he should get a gun, handle this the wild west way. The sheriff is too frightened of the outlaw, and anyway lives in the lockless jail. Rance is adamant that Liberty Valance will face legal justice. But Rance is wrong. This is a great and bitter movie, made when westerns were undergoing their political sea change, shedding innocence for social deconstruction. John Wayne, as Tom, yet again subverts his supposed legacy, swaggering manfully outside of society, an antihero apart; yesterday's knight looking after yesterday's dragons. James Stewart, playing Rance, as the center of the movie focuses its bitterness: his helpless failure secures a legacy, should he surmount his chagrin and accept it. Ten stars. [Cavin]

Then, a 2 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger qemuel added:

"yesterday's knight looking after yesterday's dragons"

I like that phrasing. :)

Monday, July 02, 2007 4:22:00 PM  
To which Blogger Ian McDowell added:

That is indeed good phrasing.

TCM has been running Budd Boeticher's (sp?) great 50s Westerns with Randolph Scott. I was particularly impressed by SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, in which Lee Marvin was a terrific charismatic villain. They also run a cool documentary on Boetticher (goddam it, I'm too lazy to look up the spelling), with running commentary from Tarantino and Eastwood. Boetticher was an even tougher sumbitch than Hawks or Ford, despite having started out as a pampered East Coast fancy lad. He got into movies because of his expertise as a madator, leading to his directing debut with THE BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY, produced by John Wayne and with some editing by Ford (Boetticher actualy once tried to train Wayne in the corrida, but at the first charge, Wayne allegedly said "fuck this shit, I'm an actor!", so the lead in BULLFIGHTER ended up being played by Robert Stack, who's surprisingly good).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:32:00 PM  

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