An ageing senator returns to a frontier town for the funeral of an old friend and reminisces over his life as a young man.
Considered one of John Ford’s best and a classic of the genre, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the closest Ford came to making a Frank Capra movie. It charts the transition of the west from law of the gun to law and order, as an idealistic young lawyer comes to town in the shape of a typically fantastic James Stewart and finds his courage and knowledge are useless in the face of the violence he encounters. Up steps John Wayne as a pragmatic gunman and as was the case with many of John Ford’s films, there was a perfect John Wayne shaped hole in the script that enabled him to shine. Add enjoyable turns from Lee Marvin as the total shit-heel of the title and Edmond O’Brien as a sozzled newspaper man and you have one the the great tales of the old west.
It’s a shame that the script gets a bit wordy and heavy-handed at the very end, but it’s still essential viewing for true cinephiles.