Top 100 Movie Review: No. 77 Shane (1953)

Ranked 077 on the IMDB Top 100 Movies (as at May 2017). Watched December 2018.

Cast: Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Brandon deWilde (Joey Starrett), Jack Palance (Jack Wilson), Ben Johnson (Chris Calloway), Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis), Emile Meyer (Rufus Ryker), Stonewall Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.)
Director: George Stevens
My rating: 7.5 / 10

Shane (Alan Ladd), an enigmatic gunslinger Shane rides into a small Wyoming town hoping to settle down to a quiet day. Shane takes a job on Joe Starrett’s (Van Heflin) farm which directly leads to Shane being drawn into a battle between the local farmers and a ruthless cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) trying to run farmers off their land using hired rogues and henchmen to harass them.

Stonewall Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.), a hot-tempered ex-Confederate homesteader, is taunted by hired gunslinger Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), who then shoots Stonewall dead outside the saloon. At Stonewall’s funeral, the settlers discuss abandoning their struggle and leaving the valley; but after witnessing a fire set by Ryker’s men, they find new determination and resolve to continue the fight.

Shane’s growing attraction to Starrett’s wife, Marian (Jean Arthur), and his fondness for their son Joey (Brandon de Wilde), who idolises Shane, lead Shane to realise that to save the family who took him in he must thwart Ryker’s plan.

Ryker invites Joe Starrett to a meeting to negotiate a settlement with the purpose of killing him however one of Ryker’s men warns Shane of the double-cross. Shane knocks Starrett unconscious and rides into town for the showdown. Shane kills Wilson, Ryker and Ryker’s brother. Shane sees Joey, who had followed Shane to town outside, notices Shane is bleeding. Shane bids Joey farewell, and rides off in to the valley while Joey cries “Shane! Come back!”

What’s to Like
The rough American frontier, the grandeur of the mountains.

What’s not to Like

While Shane comes down to a typical shootout as the climax of the movie what sets it out from other Westerns is the many conversations about how to resist without leading to a shootout.

The underlying sexual tension between Shane and Marian Starrett highlights that they both are good people as they resist temptation as responsible adults, Shane respects Marian’s husband Joe too much and Marian respects her wedding vows, her husband and young son.

The good versus bad narrative, small hard working families against the big ruthless wealthy cattle man is always an inspiring story often as we know in real life the small hard worker loses fa too often to those with all the power.

Academy Awards

  • Best Cinematography, Colour (Loyal Griggs) – winner
  • Best Picture (George Stevens) – nominee
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brandon De Wilde) – nominee
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Palance) – nominee
  • Best Director (George Stevens) – nominee
  • Best Writing, Screenplay (A.B. Guthrie Jr.) – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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