#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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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The two have much to learn from each other…

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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.

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

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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…

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

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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!

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

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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)

#180 Rio Bravo

Watched: May 17 2018

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Claude Akins, Ward Bond, John Russell

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 21min

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A brawl (of the murderous kind) in a saloon leads to the arrest of Joe Burdette (Akins), criminal brother of a local hot shot rancher. As many forces are looking to get Joe out, sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) enlists the help of former deputy Dude (Martin) to keep him safely locked away, despite Dude’s alcohol problem and the fact that he was one of the reasons for the brawl in the first place.

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“We’re getting the band back together!”

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Together with comic relief Stumpy (Brennan) they must defend the jail, the sheriff’s office and the town, something which proves difficult when Joe’s henchmen and Big Brother Nathan (Russell) get involved. Reinforcements (reluctantly) arrive in the form of young gunslinger Colorado Ryan (Nelson) and, in another way, poker player Feathers (Dickinson).

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“Age gap? 24 years is no age gap! My last boyfirend was 78.”

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How will this ragtag team of alcoholics, kids, oldies, cripples and (gasp!) women manage to survive until the Marshall comes to pick up the condemned prisoner? Why, with song and explosions, of course!

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First we sing. Then we blow shit up.

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Rio Bravo has everything you could ever hope for in a western – rugged men; feisty women; fancy, semi-colour-coded hats; shootouts; explosions; horses; clearly defined bad guys and romance.

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One man learns that there exists a different kind of romance than that between a man and his horse

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We loved the silent scene at the start, the tension throughout, the character names (Chance, Stumpy, Dude and Feathers – are we sure this isn’t a cartoon?) and Angie Dickinson. Clocking in at well over two hours, this movie just flies by and was great family entertainment when we sat down to watch it with our parents and brother on May 17 – the Norwegian national day. After a day of wholesome fun with nephew and niece, what’s better than watching a bunch of manly, yet sensitive, men kill each other?

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“Hear that, boys? The crowd is ready for an encore!”

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What we learned: Wild West men were surprisingly sensitive and in touch with their feelings. Also, some will go to great lengths to ensure justice is served.

Next time: Sapphire (1959)

#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

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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.

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You just know this is too idyllic to last…

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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.

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Funeral first – then vengeance!

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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.

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It also leads to some great, heroic poses

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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.

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Treacherous wench! Adapting to survive!

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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.

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

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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)