Join us May 30 as we tune in to the classic John Ford western starring John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin.
Sure, we know: If you’re a C&I reader, you’ve probably already seen John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But, really, wouldn’t you love to see it again? And maybe ask someone who’s never seen it to accompany you — on social media, if not in person?
Well, pilgrims, come join the party: On Saturday, May 30, you can join us as we Live Tweet while Ford’s 1962 classic airs on the INSP digital cable and satellite television channel at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT. Look for the hashtag #ciLibertyINSP on Twitter, and don’t be shy about sharing your own thoughts and observations in real time. Maybe we’re still living in lockdown, but so what? For two hours or so, we aim to establish our very own online movie-watching community.
For the benefit of those who tuned in late: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a fascinating and affecting attempt to tell the story behind the story of Wild West myth.
When tenderfoot Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart, an idealistic young lawyer, arrives in the frontier town of Shinbone, he discovers his legalisms are of little use against legendarily lethal outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Fortunately, Stoddard finds an unlikely ally in Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). For all his gruffness, Doniphon emerges as an honorable knight errant, a selfless hero who ultimately plays the key role in a fateful shootout — but insists that Stoddard take credit for being the hero of the title.
There is a distinctively melancholy edge to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ford’s last great western. Stoddard goes on to become a successful politician, bringing the dubious values of civilization to the Wild West, while Doniphon fades into obscurity, becoming an anachronism long before his death. Even when Stoddard nobly offers to set the record straight, his truths are dismissed as inconvenient. As a newspaper editor remarks in the movie’s most-quoted line: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’’
As Scott Eyman notes in his definitive Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford: “For Ford, every triumph carries the embryo of eventual failure… In The Searchers, as well as Liberty Valance, the kind of men needed to master the wilderness are the kind of men that only function in wilderness; they are men who civilization must expel. If society is to benefit from someone’s sacrifice, legend must take precedence over truth… Liberty Valance deftly, shrewdly shows the ragged process by which stories become legends, and legends become history.”
Dismissed by many critics during its initial theatrical release, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance now is widely acknowledged as one of the filmmaker’s most heartfelt and fully realized works. Indeed, it was selected in 2007 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
For all those reasons, and more, we’re looking forward to taking another look at Ford’s late-career masterwork May 30 on INSP. And we invite you to join us
Just to get you in the right mood: Here is the Top 10 hit song inspired by the movie, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (the same paid who later wrote “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and sung by Gene Pitney.