Liberty Valance

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Liberty Valance

Post by Lzcutter »

I posted this over in the City but wanted to share my thoughts with all of you as well!

I missed it today (see Film Preservation forum for why) but Tivo'd it for viewing later this week.

I love this film. Ford brings full circle his look at legend vs truth, a topic that influenced a number of his films.

Here we see the other side of the coin, the dark side of the truth. At face value the film is the story of two men vying for the love of a woman with the days of the frontier in its last throes.

But, it is a much deeper story than that. Tom Donaphin gives up everything to save not only the community he loves and is a welcome member of but also by saving Rance Stoddard, he gives up Hallie knowing that she will have a better life as Stoddard's wife.

The toll Donaphin's decision takes on all of them is in some ways what the story is about. Hallie does have a better life with Rance but by the time we see her and Rance returning to Shinbone, theirs is not a happy marriage and hasn't been for quite some time. While she did have a better life, it wasn't necessarily a happier life.

Rance, of course, had to live with the lie and build his career on that lie. For a man with Rance's principals, that could not have been an easy thing to do and as we see in the film, it took a toll on him and his marriage. He became a different man from the principaled young lawyer who wanted to change the West.

Donaphin, of course, sacrificed the most. Unable to live without Hallie and watching as the other man got not only his girl but the public recognition (which likely wouldn't have mattered all that much to Tom but did on some level), leads him towards the path of self destruction that he never recovers from.

The decision that he made to save Stoddard, while likely made in a hurry and without a lot of thought, haunts him for the rest of his days and makes it impossible for him to return to his former life.

So, three lives are changed forever by one man's actions and yet that action touches all their lives to their cores.

Or, it's just another story of the taming of the West.

Your choice!
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Post by movieman1957 »

You summed it up quite well. It's much deeper than a "changing of the west" picture. I never thought of Valance, the man, as the last of a dying breed, he was just a man who made that town miserable.

I'm not sure Doniphan is doing anything more (at that moment) than saving his friend. I'm sure he wasn't thinking of the implications of what he was doing even just for Vera.

I seem to remember this as my first introduction to Lee Marvin. I thought hew was the meanest person I ever saw. He beats Stewart with such gusto that it seemed more violent than one would have thought possible for a movie.

Who wouldn't want ot fight over Vera Miles?

Your opinion - Edmund O'Brien - too much or just right?
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Post by Lzcutter »

Chris,

The first couple of times I saw this film I thought O'Brien was way over the top.

However, the older I get, the more I appreciate his performance.

Jeffrey Jones, in HBO's Deadwood, does a wonderful tip of the hat to O'Brien but, in the end, lacks the courage of his convictions that O'Brien had.

I love this film.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Post by Lzcutter »

Mr Cutter and I watched Liberty Valance last night. Surprisingly, Mr Cutter had never seen the movie (this now makes two JW/JF films that I have introduced him to in the last few months).

Anyways, here are some notes that I took while watching the film:

The scene in the small funeral home when the newspapermen ask Ranse for an interview. The look on Hallie's face when he agrees gives an indication to the state of their marriage. Hallie has come home to pay her respects to Tom and Ranse is more interested in making the news than paying his respects to the man who made his political life possible. At that point, Ranse hasn't made the decision to come clean about who shot Liberty, he's just doing the interview to "mend political fences". This tells us a great deal about their marriage.

Linc (Andy Devine) looks toward the Shinbone Star before offering to take Hallie out to Doniphon's place.

"I'm sorry" she tells Pompey. Sorry for the loss of Tom and possibly sorry for the turn their lives took when she asked Tom to save Ranse.

"Tom hadn't carried a gun in years" the mortician tells them. Which tells us a great deal about the toll that killing Liberty and the lie took on Doniphon.

In the flashback scene when Hallie first meets Ranse. The shadow of Doniphon's hat is on the wall when Ranse is sitting on the bed. I love this image and for me, it foreshadows that the shadow of Tom Doniphon was always with Ranse and Hallie.

Either Ranse doesn't understand the significance of the cactus rose to Hallie or he tries to minimize it by talking about how much prettier real roses are.

"Nobody fights my battles" Ranse tells Doniphon early in the film and yet, Ranse goes on to live with the lie that someone else did in deed fight his battle but Ranse got the glory.

After the shooting, Doniphon finds Hallie and Ranse together and walks away from the doorway leaving Hallie standing there. Doniphon rejects them and rejects his former life. In The Searchers, Ethan Edwards cannot enter the house at the end of the movie and turns and walks away. Here, Doniphon just out right rejects it all by storming away.

I think Tom Doniphon expected Ranse to stand up and correct the mistaken impression that everyone had but Ranse "Nobody fights my battles" Stoddard was all to happy to ride the fame that being the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance brought him.

Doniphon, on the other hand, couldn't return to his former life after being the man who actually had shot Liberty. Shooting a man in cold blood, even one as evil as Liberty, violated some code that Doniphon lived by and altered his life from that point on.

Hallie, it seems, always loved the man who shot Liberty Valance.

Perhaps Patton was right "all glory is fleeting".
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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Post by ken123 »

Lzcutter,

An amazing analysis of a GREAT Western, directed by a Great ( Irish _ American ) artist. :)
klondike

Post by klondike »

I think it was during either the 8th or 9th time I watched TMWSLV that I realized the very insightful, very Fordian juxtaposition of having my favorite character, Pompey, defying his best friend/boss' disapproval in order to attend school ( a rare opportunity for an adult black of that era), and then to show his disapproval of his best friend/boss' paint-can hazing of Lawyer Stoddard (a rare example of interracial candor), and then to refuse his best friend/boss' defiant insistence of his being served a drink in public (a very rare occurence). Combine those incidents with the multiple times Pompey's swift & stalwart Winchester has Tom Donophan's "back", and you can begin to appreciate the hallmarks of quiet dignity that Woody Strode brings to his portrayal of a Man who walked tall enough to ignore being called a "Boy".

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Post by Lzcutter »

Well,

I guess I did have lots to say about Liberty Valance. But I want to know what others think as well.

In the final scene on the train going home, Ranse asks Hallie if it would be okay if he gave up politics. She is overjoyed.

My two questions:

If and when did Ranse realize the toll that killing Liberty took on Tom Doniphon?

and

Did Ranse stay in politics because he thought that was what made Hallie happy?

I look forward to your comments!
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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Post by movieman1957 »

Lynn:

My thought, such as it is, would be that Stoddard wouldn't have realized the impact until after he had become a senator and probably well into his career.

I doubt that he thought Hallie enjoyed him being in politics. He may have thought she enjoyed the social standing and income provided. That may be hair splitting but I think she would have been happier in another line of work. I think Stoddard was more forced into politics. After awhile he probably felt as though he couldn't get out.
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Post by MissGoddess »

Lzcutter wrote:Well,

I guess I did have lots to say about Liberty Valance. But I want to know what others think as well.

In the final scene on the train going home, Ranse asks Hallie if it would be okay if he gave up politics. She is overjoyed.

My two questions:

If and when did Ranse realize the toll that killing Liberty took on Tom Doniphon?

and

Did Ranse stay in politics because he thought that was what made Hallie happy?

I look forward to your comments!
Hi! I don't think Ranse realized it until the day of the funeral. I believe Ranse as portrayed by Stewart is a good man and an idealist but I also believe he had become a bit puffed up with his station in life. Which is understandable, going from an apron-wearing whipping boy for Liberty Valance to Ambassador to the Court of St. James is enough to turn anyone's head---not to mention he "got the girl". But he is man enough, sensitive enough, to fully recognize not just the truth about Tom and it's impact but the truth about himself.

To the second question, I don't think so. I think he wanted Hallie to be proud of him but I get the feeling always that he was fully conscious that he was giving Hallie a much better life than she would have had if she stayed in Shinbone. That gives a man a bit of an edge over his wife, even a good man might be a tad patronizing toward his less educated bride, no matter how much he loved her. And I never actually got the idea that he worshipped Hallie the way Tom Doniphon did. Hallie clearly looked up to Ranse, though, especially when she came to him after he "shot" Liberty. That look she gave Ranse was the look that would have gone to Tom had she known.

Which brings up a question of my own! Did Hallie know who shot Liberty Valance soon after it happened----because no indication is made that Ranse was going to/or did tell her.

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Post by MissGoddess »

Well, I got to see this classic on the big screen at Lincoln Center on Saturday and it certainly has multiplied, if that was even possible, my appreciation for it. I keep repeating myself, but I always feel it's like the first time whenever I get to see a favorite in a cinema, as opposed to on TV. I can really pick up on nuances, subtle gestures and shots that I might miss on the small screen, and this movie was no exception in that department.

Of course, I bawled like a goose all throughout. The music always got to me---and now I realize it's the same melody as used in Belle Starr, which I believe someone speculated might be based on "The Blue Bells of Scotland"??? Gosh it's really effective here.

Stupendous film---and Lee Marvin's antics really explode off the screen. I'm continually reminded of a savage ape by his characterization. It's the body language---which I noticed particularly in all three of the male leads, all so distinctive to each other and entirely suited to denote character.

One other little moment that stood out as never before: When Liberty first strides into "Pete's Place", the little eatery owned by Hallie and her parents, he gives Hallie a look and Ford cuts to Hallie's first look at Liberty, and moves the camera slightly into her face putting the entire focus on her reaction. Now, this is the only interaction between Liberty and Hallie throughout the film and I wondered why. Liberty had established his savagery toward women in the first scenes with Anna Lee so we know what can be expected of him.

The questions I have are: Surely Hallie had seen Liberty before---he was a well-known figure, and he surely came to Pete's Place before. So why the look? What was it's significance? Was she just plain scared of him in general---or for a specific reason? Had he tried something before? He doesn't say or do anything else about her presence in the following scenes, doubtless because Tom Doniphon is there, but I can't help but be piqued by the significance of the look between them.

Ford rarely moved the camera into a closeup except to make a point and I want to know if anyone else has any thoughts on what that point might have been?
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Post by Lzcutter »

Surely Hallie had seen Liberty before---he was a well-known figure, and he surely came to Pete's Place before. So why the look? What was it's significance? Was she just plain scared of him in general---or for a specific reason? Had he tried something before? He doesn't say or do anything else about her presence in the following scenes, doubtless because Tom Doniphon is there, but I can't help but be piqued by the significance of the look between them. >>

MissG,

Glad you enjoyed the film! It is one of Ford's best.

As to the question about Hallie and seeing Liberty:
It happens after Tom has brought Ranse in from his beating. Everyone knows that Liberty was the culprit.

I think Hallie, for the first time, is realizing how dangerous a man Valance really is. Tom keeps the peace in town so Valance cannot take his anger out on the regulars without having to face Doniphan's wrath.

They hear tales of Valance shooting up the countryside and beating up folks, but here it is brought into Pete's when Doniphon brings Ranse in to be patched up.

For Hallie, it is an eye-opening and significant moment because her perception of Valance has been altered forever and she realizes just how dangerous he really is.

I don't think Pete and his wife are Hallie's parents. I think she was an orphan who found her way to Shinbone and Pete and his wife think of her as family.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Post by Lzcutter »

<<Which brings up a question of my own! Did Hallie know who shot Liberty Valance soon after it happened----because no indication is made that Ranse was going to/or did tell her.>>

MissG,

I think Hallie was too busy be glad that Ranse was still alive to have given it much thought.


Before the shooting, we see her and Pompey running to find Tom. Tom was there when the moment came and did what had to be done. He wouldn't have killed Valance in cold blood like that unless he had a reason.

She was the reason.

However, everyone who was on the street that evening believed that they say Ranse Stoddard shoot Liberty Valance in self defense. The word spread, and in a twist ol' Peabody would appreciate, the story took on a life of its own.

Ranse believed he had done the killing until the meeting for Statehood and Tom tells him what really happened.

I don't think any of the characters were prepared for what happened in the aftermath of the shooting.
Tom didn't expect his life to be destroyed by killing Valance but on many levels it was.

Hallie didn't know her asking Tom to save Ranse would destroy him

And none of them expected Ranse to become a folk hero and worshipped around the state as the man who shot Liberty Valance.

I think Tom and Hallie expected in the morning that the truth would come out and their lives would go on. Tom would get the credit.

Applebee would call it self defense and case closed.

Hallie would take her time deciding which man she would choose and Ranse would continue to talk of modern times coming to Shinbone.

Instead, in an instance, their lives were changed in ways they never imagined.

Tom knew the moment he saw Hallie and Ranse together after the killing that things from that point on were going to be different.

It took the other two much longer to figure that out and live with it.

But Hallie knew that Tom had done the shooting because she begged him to save Ranse.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Post by MissGoddess »

>>>But Hallie knew that Tom had done the shooting because she begged him to save Ranse.<<<

Hmmm...wow, I'm afraid if that's the case then it really lowers Hallie in my eyes. They both built their lives on a lie.
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Post by Lzcutter »

Miss G,

It is possible that Hallie asked Tom to save Ranse's life and Tom rebuffed her request.

She went back to Pete's and Pompey and Tom went down the alley to save Ranse, Hallie not knowing.

It's hiis reaction to seeing the two of them together after the killing that gets me.. His angry reaction, stomping out of the back room and going to burn his house seems an indication that something went on off-screen between Tom and Hallie before Liberty was killed.

Hallie may have agreed to go with Tom if he saved Ranse and when Tom saw the two of them together he knew that Hallie loved Ranse and he didn't want to live in the shadow of another man.

Hallie, I think, was torn between the two and the mythmaking that started almost immediately after Valance was declared dead helped propel her towards Ranse.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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Post by movieman1957 »

It always seemed to me as if there had been an "understanding" between Tom and Hallie. Never very open but there.

If I remember right the scene where Stoddard and Hallie talk about her learning to read seems to upset Tom a little. It's as if that were the first hint of jealousy.

Frankly, I'm not sure why they weren't married already. Of course, if they were there wouldn't be a story.
Chris

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