I have to admit that I’ve never been terribly keen on Westerns. I find most of them impossible to believe; they’re simply not accurate depictions of the “Old West”. They get all sorts of details wrong, beginning with women wearing twentieth-century hairstyles. And they show cavalrymen shooting guns while riding their horses. In real-life, they had to dismount before firing, otherwise the horses would panic. And of course, there’s that whole business of the good guy and the bad guy facing each other in the middle of the street in a shoot-out. (Of course, the good guy always happens to have faster reflexes than the bad guy does.) In reality, gun battles were usually fought the same way they’re fought today: people hiding behind things and shooting at each other.

The Cartwright family, moments before they were gunned down in the middle of the street.

George Stevens’s Shane is one of the better Westerns that I’ve seen. A retired gunslinger, Shane (Alan Ladd), who is fleeing his past, passes through the land of a homesteader, Starrett (Van Heflin). There he learns that a wealthy landowner named Ryker (Emile Meyer) is trying to force Starrett and other homesteaders off their land. Shane spends the night with Starrett and his wife, Marian (Jean Arthur), and his son, Joey (Brandon deWilde). He decides to work as a farmhand for Starrett. Meanwhile, Ryker hires a gunslinger named Walker (the wonderfully creepy Jack Palance) to help him intimidate the homesteaders. The rest of the film basically builds towards the inevitable confrontation between Shane and Walker.

Shane is entertaining to watch. The characters are complex, and the cinematography is beautiful. Still, while I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help feeling that it could have been better. It hints at a love triangle between Shane, Marian, and Starrett; but this idea is never developed. At the same time the film puts far too much emphasis on the business of Shane forging an emotional bond with Joey. At times this is almost embarrassing to watch. And I thought they could have done more with Palance’s character. (Palance’s mere presence in a film automatically makes it better.) Still, I can see why this film is considered a classic. If you want to see a good Western, you can’t do much better than Shane.

4 Responses to “Shane”

  1. Immigration Adviser in Essex Says:

    Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her
    ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  2. les Says:

    “If you want to see a good Western, you can’t do much better than Shane.”

    au contraire.

    here’s a list of of 10 movies that, each in their own way, take the conventions of the western genre and go well beyond it, some. by taking the mythical aspect of the western and expanding it into the a realm of imagination, others, by taking that same myth, and exploding it.

    1. Once Upon a Time In the West (the long version)
    2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    3. No Country For Old Men
    4. Pat Garret and Billy the Kid (again, the long version)
    5. The Magnificent Seven
    6. High Noon
    7. Dead Man
    8. High Plains Drifter
    9. The Missouri Breaks
    10. El Topo

  3. The Spanish Prisoner Says:

    You list some pretty good films there. I should re-watch them. And I will definitely watch the ones I haven’t seen.

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