Welcome to today’s show, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to classicmovierev.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is a great western movie. It shows the struggle between the open range cattle barons and the new town folks looking to have a quiet life. The cast for this movie is outstanding in terms of modern western. But it is an amazing cast by any standard.
I’ll run through the actors we have seen before first. These include:
James Stewart plays the role of Ransom Stoddard, eastern lawyer and new comer to the west. Jimmy Stewart was first featured in Episode 53 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
Andy Devine played the role of town marshal Link Appleyard. Andy Devine was first introduced in Episode 61 – Stagecoach (1939). He played the same character in both. Married to a Mexican lady with lots of relatives, the father of a dozen kids, always hungry, and a big coward.
John Carradine played Maj. Cassius Starbuckle the mouth piece of the rich cattle barons north of the Picketwire River. John Carradine was first introduced in Episode 12 – Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966).
Willis Bouchey played the role of Jason Tully, train conductor. This role is only important because he delivers the last line of the movie. Willis Bouchey was introducted in Episode 37 – The Violent Men (1955).
Denver Pyle played Amos Carruthers who was a background character often seen playing cards. Denver Pyle was introduced in Episode 49 – The Alamo (1960).
Strother Martin played Floyd, one of Liberty Valance’s toadies. The great Strother Martin was first introduced in Episode 3 – McLintock! (1963).
Woody Strode played the role of Pompey, the assistant of Tom Doniphon. Woody Strode was first introduced in Episode 61 – Stagecoach (1939).
Vera Miles played the role of Ms. Hallie, the lover interest of the two male leads. Vera Miles was born in Kansas in 1929. By 1948, she won the title of “Miss Kansas.” The beauty title lead to roles in Hollywood and it was long before she was spotted by two of the greatest directors of all times. John Ford started casting her in westerns such as The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). While Alfred Hitchcock thought she was the new Grace Kelly and cast her in The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960), although she has to withdraw from Vertigo (1958) due to a pregnancy.
She became a persistent star in movies like The FBI Story (1959), Back Street (1961), and Sergeant Ryker (1968). She was also popular on television. Miles retired in 1995, never reaching the stardom she deserved.
Lee Marvin played the evil Liberty Valance, hired gunman for the cattle barons. Lee Marvin was born in New York City, I’m seeing a trend, to wealth parents. Marvin was thrown out of dozens of schools until he ended up at St. Leo’s Preparatory School in Florida. He was thrown out of there as well. When your guidance counselor says you have no future – See your local Army, Navy, Marine, or Air Force recruiter. Marvin joined the Marines and fought in World War II. At the Battle of Saipan in June 1944, Marvin was shot in the buttocks severing his sciatic nerve. He medically discharged. Marvin did receive the Purple Heart and is buried at Arlington Cemetary.
There has been a consistent rumor that Marvin stated on “The Johnny Carson Show” that he served under the bravest Marine ever at the Battle of Iwo Jima, Bob Keeshan AKA Captain Kangaroo. However, Snopes.com says this is not true and while both men were Marines Keeshan never say action. Mr. Rogers was not a war hero either.
After Marvin’s discharge he was working as an apprentice plumber in Woodstock, NY. While fixing a toilet at a community theater, he was asked to replace a sick actor for rehearsal. He got bite hard by the stage bug. He started doing stock work and off-Broadway. His first movie role was in You’re in the Navy Now (1951). He went to Broadway for “Billy Budd” and then off to Hollywood to become one of the greatest villains of all time. He was in Eight Iron Men (1952) and then The Big Heat (1953). That same year he played opposite Marlon Brandon in The Wild One (1953). The next year, he was in The Caine Mutiny (1954) with Humphrey Bogart.
Marvin took time to do television in the police detective series “M Squad” 1957-1960. He did two westerns with John Wayne , The Comancheros (1961) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Perhaps his greatest role, and the one for which he earned an Oscar, was Cat Ballou (1965) where opposite Jane Fonda, he played a washed up drunken gunfighter named Kid Shellen. He also played his twin brother who was an evil noseless killer who I’m pretty sure is a copy of Liberty Valance.
Of course he played Major Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (1967), one of the greatest war movies of all time. He was in Hell in the Pacific (1968) battling Toshirô Mifune’s character. He played the drunken gold miner Ben Rumson with Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg. He fought trainman Ernest Borgnine in the severally underrated Emperor of the North (1973). I am very partial to his role as the tough sergeant in The Big Red One (1980). His last film before he died on a heart attack in 1987, was the terrible but fun, The Delta Force (1986) where Chuck Norris helps us win battles that we have lost.
Ken Murray had a background role as Doc Willoughby. Born in 1903 in New York City, I’m seeing a trend. Murray was the son of a vaudeville comic and learned the business. He worked in the declining years of vaudeville and then began filming with a 16mm camera in Hollywood. His moves of stars began to be used by Columbia in a series called “Screen Snapshots.” Beginning in 1942 and continuing for 7 years he ran “Ken Murray’s Blackouts”, a mix of risqué humor, sexy young starlets, music, and novelty acts. He only had a few movies roles like this one in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Jeanette Nolan played Nora Ericson a worker at Hallie’s steakhouse. She studied acting at the Pasadena Community Playhouse and debuted for “Omar Khayyam” in 1932. He first film role was a lady MacBeth opposite Orson Welles and her final film was as Robert Redford’s mother in The Horse Whisperer (1998). In between was in more than 300 television shows. She died, aged 86, in California.
John Qualen played Peter Ericson the cook at Hallie’s steakhouse. John Qualen moved to the US from Norway. He won an oratory contest and was given a scholarship to Northwestern. During this time he became interested in acting. He went to New York in 1929 and found work with Director John Ford in Arrowsmith (1931). He quickly became part of the “Ford Family.” He worked with Ford for the next 35 years. One of his greatest roles was Muley in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). In all he had over 200 roles including parts in The Searchers (1956) and Casablanca (1942). He died in 1987.
Carleton Young played the 1910 editor of the Shinbone Star newspaper Maxwell Scott. Young went from Broadway to Hollywood in 1936. He started getting small film roles and the most well-known of these would be Reefer Madness (1936). He began getting larger roles in westerns and was in Dick Tracy (1937). He was in a lot of oaters at Republic. Young made westerns through the 1940s. He slowly became a favorite of Director John Ford resulting in his casting in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). He also appeared in film noir such as Kansas City Confidential (1952) and fantasy movies like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). Young retired in 1970 and died in 1994.
Lee Van Cleef played Reese and was the second toady for Liberty Valance. Born in New Jersey, Van Cleef served in the Navy during World War II on a minesweeper and subchaser. Following the war he began working as an office administrator but began acting in his free time. He had a non-speaking role as Jack Colby in High Noon (1952). His hawkish nose and slit eyes established him as a villain and so his career went.
Some of his greatest villain roles include the film noir The Big Combo (1955), Clint Eastwood’s For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). He was also the guy that sent Snake Plissken over the wall in Escape from New York (1981).
He had a short run on television as a ninja in “The Master” 1984. He continued to make movies until his death in 1989.
Joseph Hoover played the role Charlie Hasbrouck a very young report for the Shinbone Star. Born in 1932, this actor is only mentioned because of two other movies he starred in, Hell Is for Heroes (1962) and The Astro-Zombies (1968).
The movie begins in 1910 showing a train moving through the vast country side, a John Ford hallmark. The train pulls into the town of Shinbone and an elderly Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) nervously waits. Ms. Hallie (Vera Miles) and Senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) get off the train the train with the help of conductor Jason (Willis Bouchey). A local reporter, Charlie Hasbrouck (Joseph Hoover) finds out that Ransom is a senator and goes running for a story. Ransom agrees to give an interview only because Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien), the founder of the Shinbone Star once fired him. As Ranse, Hallie, and Link load in the buckboard the current editor Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) comes over to take the senator for the interview. Link and Hallie talk about the desert, the Cactus Rose, and head out to see an old abandon farmstead. They pick a beautiful Cactus Rose.
Back at the newspaper, Ranse tells the men that he came for purely personal reasons. The editor says he needs a better story than that. He tells them that he is in Shinbone for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). The newspaper men don’t even know who Doniphon is. The pair go to the undertakers building and in addition to the coffin of Doniphon there are the relics of the old west, like a stagecoach. In the corner Pompey (Woody Stroud), Doniphon’s friend and assistant is holding vigil.
The newspaper crew comes in and ask again for a story. Ransom begins to tell the story and it goes back in time 25 years. Ransom tells that he came by stage when he first arrived. He was fresh from law school. The stage is held up by four men. They take Ransom’s fathers watch and when they try to take a pin from a lady he tries to defend her. The leader of the robbers is Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Valance use a silver riding crop and beats Ransom senseless and leave him for dead.
The next morning Doniphon and his Pompey (Woody Strode) find Ransom and bring him into town. They drop him at Hallie’s steakhouse. Nora Ericson (Jeanette Nolan) and Peter Ericson (John Qualen) who work and live at the steakhouse come in to help as well. They tell Ransom that the man with the silver whip is Liberty Valance and that he works for the cattle barons. Doniphon says you have to kill out west and Ransom says he wants to put him in jail.
Peter brings the marshal Link Appleyard. Link is a coward and is terrified that they want him to go after Liberty Valance. Link says he has no jurisdiction for stuff that happens outside of the city limits. Link is perpetually hungry and always eating on credit.
The town has a regular salon across from the steakhouse and a Mexican cantina next to the Shinbone Star newspaper. The founder of the paper, Dutton Peabody goes outside and sees Link hiding from Valance. Peabody goes to the steakhouse for dinner. Ransom is washing dishes in the steakhouse to earn his keep as he heals. He reads law books as he washes. He finds the jurisdiction issue and ask Hallie to read the passage. She says she can’t read and gets upset. He says he can teach her to read and she says he looks silly in his apron. Peter and Nora argue about whether Doniphon should propose to Hallie. Link comes in the back door and mooches some more food. Link almost climbs into his shell when Ransom tell him he wants him to arrest Valance. Hallie ask to the reading lessons and Nora says she wants to learn as well.
Doniphon comes in dressed up and give Hallie a beautiful Cactus Rose. Pompey plants the cactus and Doniphon tells Ransom to be a lawyer he will have to carry a gun. Doniphon joins Peabody at the dinner table. Shortly after Liberty Valance and his two toadies Reese (Lee Van Cleef) and Floyd (Strother Martin). They just take the food away from three guys and run them out of the restaurant. Everyone is showing fear except Doniphon. Valance goes on about how they town has been spreading lies about him being a robber and such.
Peter ask Ransom to take Doniphon’s food out and he does wearing an apron. When Ransom walks by Valance trips him. Doniphon steps up and demands Valance pick it up. Liberty says three against one until Doniphon points out Pompey holding a rifle on them from the kitchen. When Floyd tries to pick up the steak Doniphon kicks him in the face. Ransom grabs the steak and stops the killing. Valance and his company leave and shot up the town. Doniphon again warns Ransom to get a gun because Valance will be back. Doniphon tells Hallie that he will be out of town for a while horse trading.
Ransom begins working at Peabody’s office and hangs out his law shingle at the Shinbone Star. The edition of the paper shows that the cattle barons north of the Picketwire River are opposing statehood. Link comes in to check on his half a dozen Mexican children. Sound familiar, yeah it’s the same as Stagecoach (1939). In the back of the newspaper Ransom is teaching a very large reading class of all ages. He also teaches them about government. He also explains about the statehood issue and the need to vote.
Doniphon returns after three weeks and chastises Pompey for taking class. He tells them that Valance has been recruiting hired guns to fight a war for the cattle barons. Doniphon tells them that he was ambushed and he killed one of them. Doniphon tries to send Hallie out of class and she throws down on him.
Peabody tells Hallie that Ransom has been practicing with a gun so he can fight Valance. Hallie tells Doniphon and he catches up with Ransom to give him a lesson. At Doniphon’s ranch they are building a room so he can propose to Hallie.
Doniphon has Ransom shoot at some cans on the ground. It goes very poorly. Doniphon ask Ransom to set paint cans on the post and when he sets the middle one Doniphon shoots the cans and covers Ransom with paint. Ransom knocks Doniphon to the ground and for the first time he sees there is more fight in Ransom than he thought.
On Election Day all the men gather at the salon to vote for delegates to the state convention. Ransom nominates Doniphon but he refuses. Doniphon turns around and nominates Ransom. About that time Valance and his toadies show up and demand he be elected. He makes threats but the town folks hang strong. The three nominees are Valance, Ransom, and Peabody. Valance only gets votes from his toadies.
Valance tells Ransom to get out of town or be on the street to fight that night. Doniphon recommends he flee. That night Peabody is drunk as usual. He goes out for whiskey and finds Link hiding by the cantina. When he returns Valance and the two toadies are waiting. They beat the hound out of him and destroy the newspaper office. Hallie is mad because she thinks Ransom is leaving. Valance et al shoot up the town as they head to the salon.
Ransom finds Peabody and sends Link to tell Valance that he is coming out in the street to fight. Ransom goes to get his gun and Hallie sends Pompey to get Doniphon. In the saloon Valance is playing poker and guess what hand he has? That’s right, aces and eights. The old dead man’s hand.
Ransom faces Valance on the street still wearing his apron. Valance shoots a water bottle near Ransom and then shoots the gun out of his hand. Ransom picks up the gun with his left hand as Valance fires in the dirt. Valance aims his gun and Ransom fires killing Valance.
Ransom goes back to Hallie and she says she is glad he stayed. Doniphon comes in and sees the pair together hugging. He says he is sorry he didn’t get back in time help. The toadies are in the saloon trying to get support for hanging Ransom. Doniphon beats the crap out of them and rages on everyone else.
Doniphon, in a drunken haze, goes to his ranch. The room for Hallie is ready. He sets the house on fire. He would have died except Pompey comes in to save him.
Ransom and Peabody head off to the statehood convention and it’s a riot with trick riders on horse running up and down the stage, trick ropes, and long-winded speeches. One of the finest is by former southern gentleman Major Cassius Starbuckle. He places into nomination the name Custis “Buck” Langhorne, the cattle baron anti-statehood candidate. Peabody nominates Ransom for delegate to bring law and order. Starbuckle calls him a killer about the time Doniphon comes in to the hall. Ransom sneaks out during the debate. Doniphon, who looks like he has been on a two week bender, tells Ransom that the killer of Valance was in fact Doniphon. They fade back to that night in the smoke of Doniphon’s cigar. They show the killing of Valance from Doniphon and Pompey’s view. Doniphon says he killed Valance to make Hallie happy and he was sorry he saved Ransom’s life.
Ransom is elected and has a long and distinguished career which Doniphon sinks into a life of no importance. Back in current time the editor Maxwell Scott takes the notes from the reporter and destroys them. Scott says “This is the west, Sir. When the legend becomes fact print the legend.”
Ransom returns to the casket and sees a cactus rose on top of the casket. As they head back east, Ransom asks Hallie if she would like to return to Shinbone. She is very happy with that news. Ransom ask about the cactus rose and Hallie says she did.
Doniphon was the Cactus Rose. His murder of Liberty Valance allowed the good to happen. His price was the loss of Hallie. He could be beautiful and do great thing. All the good that Ransom received was the direct result of Doniphon’s action. Murdering for good. The list line of the movie is “nothing is too good for the man that shot Liberty Valance.”
World Famous Short Summary – City boy marries country girl
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Beware the moors