Classic Film Review- Shane (1953)


In 1953, Shane changed Western films forever. It is based on a novel by Jack Schaefer. I have not read it the book, so it will not factor into this classic film review. The Western is directed by George Stevens and stars  Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin,Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance, Emile Meyer, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ben Johnson, and others. It was nominated for six Oscars at the 1954 Academy Awards, but only brought in one: Best Cinematography. It was the first film shot in a widescreen format. At the time, its wide panoramic view was the first of its kind to moviegoers of the day.

Shane is a gunfighter with a mysterious past. He rides into an isolated part of Wyoming and onto the property of homesteader Joe Starrett, his wife Marian, and their son Little Joe. After being given some water, he witnesses the Starretts being harassed by land baron Rufus Ryker. He wants the Starretts and the other homesteaders off the land so he can use it for cattle. Shane stares them off, but Ryker promises to return.

Mr. Starrett convinces Shane to stay on and work for him. Little Joe becomes enamored with Shane and tries to pester him for answers about his past, but he only provides bits and pieces. Meanwhile, the homesteaders continue to make a stand courageously. Ryker hires a gunfighter of his own to challenge them. As Shane and the Starretts grow closer, the mysterious gunfighter realizes that even though “his kind” is fading, he can use his skill to find for the Starretts and their friends.

Shane is the first film of its kind. It has spawned several clones and copies including the superior Pale Rider (starring Clint Eastwood) and the not so superior B-Action film Missionary Man (starring Dolph Lundgren).

I did find the film unique and unlike other Westerns films like Big Jake (for instance) which focuses on the prime of the gunfighter, Shane instead focuses on the decline. Shane is a man lost in the world as it develops and changes from the Old West to the modern world. His world is changing, but can he change with it? I found that premise rather stimulating instead of the same old post-Civil War drama that Western movie often give us.

I want to praise Alan Ladd. He was fantastic in the role and very was engaging and interesting. He was fine in the role and the supporting cast melded well with him. The film won other awards and has since received several honors as a classic.

FAVORITE QUOTE: A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.


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