#217 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: John Ford

Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode

Year: 1962

Runtime: 2h 03min



Shinbone, somewhere in the Wild West. Senator Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Miles) arrive to attend the funeral of old friend and town loner Tom Doniphon (Wayne). Together with former sheriff Link Appleyard (Devine), they recount to reporters the reason they returned to pay their last respects to Doniphon.

“That man could grow a cactus like no one I ever met.”


Flash back 25 years, and Stoddard is an idealistic lawyer ready to start his practice in the then lawless Shinbone. On the way into town, his stagecoach is ambushed by local gang leader Liberty Valance (Marvin). After refusing to yield to the bully, Stoddard is brutally beaten and left to die in the desert. He’s found by Doniphon and nursed back to health by Hallie.

“I have a good mind to throw this dish in your face, you dirty rotten scoundrel, you!”


Once he recovers his strength, Stoddard decides to go ahead and open his law practice, as well as start a school to teach all the locals to read, something Valance is not happy with. Doniphon tries to tell Stoddard that he needs to use force in order to deal with the outlaw, but Stoddard is sure that the only way is the way of the law. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between “Ranse” and Hallie, although Doniphon is also in love with the only eligible woman in town.

After all, Hallie is of Norwegian ancestry. We’re scientifically proven to be irresistable [citation needed].


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a wonderful and tense Western where philosophies collide with the transition from old to new ideals. On the one hand, we have the old west represented by the rugged, stoic and righteous gunslinger Doniphon, and on the other we have the new hero and male ideal: the educated, sensitive and refined Stoddard.

The two have much to learn from each other…


Stoddard woos the girl and wins over the townspeople by teaching them about history and politics, and how to better themselves. Meanwhile, badass macho man Doniphon protects them with force and his own form of love: he works hard to build his farm in order to have something to offer Hallie, but he never actually got around to asking her to marry him, or to ask her what she actually wanted from him.

She might have married him ages ago if he ever actually thought to ask her


There are some not-so-subtle references to all men being created equal, which would have been very timely in 1962 and, sadly, also in 2019, and which we absolutely loved. We also loved James Stewart, but then again, we always do…

Even injured and in an apron, 10/10 would marry!


This movie has it all: sassy women (mother more than daughter), bad criminals, intriguing politics, a stoic gunslinger, a young idealistic educated man, a love interest, and a bumbling town marshal. And once again, we find ourselves loving a Western classic. Fantastic stuff!

He’s only an elected official – he can’t make decisions on his own!


What we learned: That they used “dude” in the 1800s in the Wild West. Also, a beer is not drinking.

Next time: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

#143 The Searchers

Watched: November 12 2017

Director: John Ford

Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood, Ward Bond, Henry Brandon, Hank Worden, Harry Carey Jr.

Year: 1956

Runtime: 1h 59min



Somewhere in Texas, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) returns to the homestead from the Civil War. Which ended three years earlier. He may have been involved in some shady business in the interim. After years away, he joins his brother’s family to (possibly) settle down and stay away from conflict.

You just know this is too idyllic to last…


A neighbour’s stolen cattle lures most of the men, including Ethan, away from their homes in search of the thieves, but it turns out that the theft was a decoy to raid the unprotected houses. Ethan returns to find his brother, sister-in-law, and nephew killed, and his two nieces missing – the work of Comanche warriors.

Funeral first – then vengeance!


Along with his 1/8 Cherokee adopted nephew Martin Pawley (Hunter) and niece Lucy’s fiancĂ© Brad Jorgenson (Carey), Ethan starts his search for his lost relatives – a search which will take several years and claim its share of casualities.

It also leads to some great, heroic poses


On the surface an adventure movie, The Searchers deals with some very uncomfortable questions of racism, mainly through main character Ethan, who is willing to kill his beloved niece once he learns that she has assimilated and now lives as a Comanche.

Treacherous wench! Adapting to survive!


We loved Laurie, Mose, and the fight between Charlie and Martin, and there are some amazingly beautiful shots in this film. It’s a Western epic spanning several years with lots of interesting characters – especially Ethan is intriguing if not particularly likable. Our dog was also very into it – anything with horses, dogs and shootings quickly becomes a favourite for him.

Like us, Doggo is less keen on overly tanned white people playing Native Americans, but he appreciated all the Native extras


What we learned: If someone you love has assimilated to another culture, it’s not reason enough to kill them… Also, what makes someone “white”?

Next time: Written on the Wind (1956)

#53 The Grapes of Wrath

Watched: October 29 2016

Director: John Ford

Starring: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charly Grapewin, Russell Simpson

Year: 1940

Runtime: 2h 9min



The schizophrenic opening music perfectly sums up The Grapes of Wrath – it is in turns depressing and uplifting, and while a lot of bad things happen to the Joad family, there’s always hope and love. Sister the Oldest had read the Steinbeck novel before, but none of us had seen the film, possibly because we feared it would be too depressing. As it turned out – yes, it’s depressing, but we loved it nonetheless.

During the Great Depression, Oklahoma native Tom Joad (Fonda) is released from prison and hitchhikes back home only to find his family home deserted. He learns from former preacher Jim Casy (Carradine) and another local they come across that all families have been driven from their homes by the deed owners due to ruined crops. Tom eventually catches up with his family at his uncle’s place, and the Joads, along with Casy, start their arduous journey west, believing there’s work for them in California.

Cue not-so-hilarious road trip!


Along the way, they are faced with the deaths of two family members, xenophobic locals (“Okies” apparently ranked somewhere between Gypsies and rabid dogs back in the ’30s), cynical employers and corrupt police officers. However, they also meet with the occasional kindness, and the family members love each other and stick together, led by the wonderful Ma Joad (Darwell) who we absolutely adored.


Pictured: a true American hero (and Oscar-winning performer)


Tom’s experiences awaken his philosophical and political side, although it is former preacher Casy who becomes an activist and strike leader. However, when Tom tries to defend Casy from camp guards during an illegal strike meeting, he inadvertently kills the guard and becomes a liability for his family. He decides he has to go off on his own, but he waits until his family has found a safe place to stay (he is a good son after all).

“But, who will lead the family if you go, Tom?” “Oh, come on, Ma. Don’t even pretend I’m the real leader here.”


The dark side of the American Dream is evident in The Grapes of Wrath: if you’re poor, it’s somehow your own fault (you probably haven’t worked hard enough!) and so no one should feel sorry for you or help you out. The film is heartbreaking, sad, melancholy and occasionally infuriating. The Joads are loving and lovely though, and they give us a feeling of hope despite the bleak world they live in. The film is beautifully shot, and even the decrepit, dried-up land looks beautiful. Definitely worth watching!

It is also very stylish and has a lot of cool shots, if that’s what rubs your Buddha


What we learned: We’re sure glad business owner never exploit workers anymore in the USA (or anywhere else for that matter). And also that there’s no racism, xenophobia, generalisation of entire groups of people or anything like that anymore. Phew!

Next time: Citizen Kane (1941)