The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [Review 38 for FQ13]

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Why I Saw It: My uncle, who loves movies as much as I do, gave me this movie over a decade ago, and although I know I had watched it, I couldn’t remember anything about it (probably because I wasn’t paying enough attention). The first time I saw it was available on Netflix Instant, I knew that I owed it to myself and my uncle to give the movie its fair due.

What Was It About?  “A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Memorable Performances: I’m a huge fan of some of Jimmy Stewart’s other performances, and although he did a great job here, it wasn’t amongst my favorites. It probably will be memorable, though, but it won’t surpass the one from HARVEY. Prior to this movie, I can’t recall really enjoying a performance from John Wayne, aside from maybe TRUE GRIT, but this is hands-down my favorite of his work, as he really showed some serious acting range in this role. And when it comes to villains, Lee Marvin’s work as the titular Liberty Valance put himself fairly high on the list of excellent performances.

Potential Nominations for Film Quest ’13:  

  • Best Supporting Actor and Best Villain – Lee Marvin
  • Best Actor – Jimmy Stewart
  • Best Actor – John Wayne

Favorite Parts: I really enjoyed the scenes where there was dialogue from all three of the main characters, as you really got a sense for the differences in mentality and character. The final shootout for Liberty Valance was certainly a strong point in the film, as was the scene where they were voting on delegates.

ManWhoShot-Wayne-Miles-StewartThe Regrettable Aspects: There aren’t many things I’d change about this film, though perhaps they could’ve developed certain aspects of the story better in terms of character motivations.

The relationship between Jimmy Stewart and his future bride a bit better, as that turned out to be a central part of the overall plotline. More time should have been spent showing Jimmy Stewart’s struggles being an effective lawyer and trying to decide whether or not to get a gun.

For such a tough guy who didn’t appear to be afraid of Liberty Valance, the film should have delved deeper into explaining why John Wayne was willing to stand up to Liberty Valance early in the film, but not do much of anything about the outlaw’s obvious criminal offenses.

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I’m wearin’ a gun, and I could shoot you and make everyone in the room happy except for your low life friend… and you deserve it… but I think I’ll just taunt you instead and let you go about hurting more innocent people.

Would I watch it again? I don’t see myself watching this more than once every year or two, but I’ll be surprised if I wait five years before watching it again.

To Whom Would I Recommend It?  Anyone who’s willing to watch a film in black and white (which should be everyone) should watch this film. It’s a great character study and certainly isn’t your typical “western” by any means. If you’re a film fan at all, you have to see this movie.

Other Recommendations:

- HARVEY – It’s unquestionably Jimmy Stewart’s finest performance, and one of the best in movie history.

- HIGH NOON – I will probably recommend this film each and every time I review a western, because quite honestly it’s that vital to the genre.

- 3:10 To Yuma (the new one) – Typically I prefer the original versions of films, but that’s not the case with 3:10 To Yuma. Just like LIBERTY VALANCE, this film has a strong plotline with some interesting questions posed about motivations and humanity along the way.

If you’ve got recommendations for alternatives to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, or for other similar films, let me know!

Next up, THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

3 responses to “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [Review 38 for FQ13]

  1. I watched this years ago and had good memories of it – I must revisit it. Great recommendations here too. Btw, I like the recommendations feature of your blog :-)

    • Thanks Matthew, glad people are enjoying it! Honestly, that’s sometimes the most difficult part of these reviews, coming up with what I would recommend to go along with / in place of the movie I was discussing. Sometimes there’s a movie that I know would work well… but I haven’t seen it yet.

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