Friday, July 29, 2016
Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer, Shane is the story of a man who comes to the aid of a farming family to deal with a gunman who is threatening their lives. Directed by George Stevens and screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., the film is the story of a man just trying to help a family as he also tries to move away from his violent past. Starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon deWilde, Emile Meyer, Elisha Cook Jr., Ben Johnson, and Jack Palance. Shane is a rapturous and evocative film from George Stevens.
Set in the mid-1800s years after the American Civil War, the film revolves a farming family who take in a mysterious gunslinger who helps them deal with cattle barons wanting their land. It’s a film with a simple story that plays into a baron trying to drive homesteaders away from their land yet it is more about this man who would stand up to this baron and his men where a farmer’s son would idolize this man. The film’s screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., with additional dialogue written by Jack Sher, doesn’t just explore a family trying to maintain their homestead but also in taking in this mysterious man who is trying to move away from his violent past. The titular character (Alan Ladd) is just a man wanting to do something other than go into gunplay where he would help out this family and do some farming.
He understands the struggle the homesteaders are dealing with against this baron under the Homestead Act as he would also spark some ire on the baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer). Shane would also deal with the attention of a farmer’s son in Joey (Brandon deWilde) who sees him as some iconic figure as he’s reluctant to show him how to draw a gun much to the dismay of the boy’s mother Marian Starrett (Jean Arthur). Shane would help Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) in not just deal with Ryker but also bring some hope to other homesteaders who are being driven by Ryker’s men as it would include the infamous gunslinger Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) who would kill someone during a confrontation. That confrontation would be key in the third act where Starrett tries to make a stand against Ryker but Shane realizes what is at stake where he would have to make a decision for himself and the Starrett family.
George Stevens’ direction is truly stunning not just for the gorgeous visuals and setting of the film but also in playing something that is a bit larger-than-life but also grounded in realism. Shot on location in Jackson, Wyoming with some shooting on sets in Hollywood, the film plays into this growing emergence of the American West where people are trying to make a home in open land growing crops and work hard for themselves and the community. Much of Stevens’ direction uses a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the scope of the locations where the Rocky Mountains are always present in the background as it help display some of the beauty of the West. Even in the way life was in the West as it was hard but at least it’s better than working for someone yet not everything is great as it relates to Ryker and his rule.
Stevens also uses some close-ups in scenes set at home along with a few medium shots for the intimacy as it would include a barroom brawl involving Ryker’s men against Shane and Joe Starrett. When the character of Jack Wilson emerges, there is something that is chilling as the scene where he kills a man is one of the most startling moments in the film and the way the man is killed just shows the dark reality that is emerging. There are some little moments Stevens would put in the film as it would help say a lot by doing so little as it eventually play into what is to come. All of which has Shane not only be back down to Earth but reveal a lot of who he is and what he needs to do to help this family. Overall, Stevens creates an intoxicating and touching film about a gunslinger trying to help a family deal with a cattle baron.
Cinematographer Loyal Griggs does amazing work with the film‘s beautiful Technicolor film stock to capture the beauty of the locations and that attention to detail in the skyline and the Rocky Mountains as well as some of the interiors with the usage of available and artificial light for those scenes. Editors William Hornbeck and Tom McAdoo do excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts for the action and drama as well as some stylish usage of dissolves to create some superimposed images in the film. Art directors Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler, with set decorator Emile Kuri, do brilliant work with the look of the small town that the characters live nearby at as well as the home of the Starrett family.
Costume designer Edith Head does nice work with the costumes from the look of the dresses that the women wear as well as the clothes of the men including the different looks of Shane and Wilson. Sound recorders Gene Garvin and Harry Lindgren do terrific work with the sound to play into some of the chaos as well as the sound of gunfire to create something that is natural. The film’s music by Victor Young is fantastic for its orchestral-based score as it include elements of country-western music as well as some themes that play for certain characters as it is one of the film’s major highlights.
The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Leonard Wright as a homesteader who would leave because of Ryker, Douglas Spencer and Edith Evanson as a couple of Swedish homesteaders who are friends of the Starretts, Paul McVey as the local trading post/bar owner in the town, John Miller as the bartender, Edgar Buchanan as the homesteader Fred Lewis, and John Dierkes as Ryker’s son who helps his father handle things. Elisha Cook Jr. is terrific as a former Confederate turned homesteader in Frank “Stonewall” Torrey who tries to confront Ryker and Wilson during a chilling scene at the bar only to later get into some serious trouble. Ben Johnson is superb as Chris Calloway as a member of Ryker’s gang who would get into a tussle with Shane as he tries to provoke him only to get a serious ass-kicking. Emile Meyer is excellent as Rufus Ryker as a cattle baron that is trying to maintain rule into the land he claims is his as he does whatever he can to get people to work for him or else kick them out of their home.
Brandon deWilde is wonderful as Joey Starrett as a young boy who sees Shane as some larger-than-life figure as he would idolize the man unaware of the realism and what Shane has to do to survive. Jean Arthur is brilliant as Marian Starrett as Joe Starrett’s wife as a woman who is trying to maintain some control as well as dealing with the danger of what is happening as she becomes concerned for her son’s fascination with guns. Jack Palance is phenomenal in his small but eerie role as the gunslinger Jack Wilson as this sadistic and scary man that brings fear and is also one of the fiercest killers in the West. Van Heflin is amazing as Joe Starrett as a farmer/homesteader trying to save his land as well as do whatever it takes to keep where he would also succumb to his own sense of pride. Finally, there’s Alan Ladd in a magnificent performance as the titular character as this laconic gunslinger that is trying to find a life away from violence as he does whatever he can to avoid conflict as it is this towering performance that is also grounded in reality as it is Ladd at his most iconic.
Shane is a tremendous film from George Stevens that features great performances from Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, and Jack Palance. Featuring a compelling script, gorgeous visuals, and a powerful music score, the film isn’t just one of the defining films of the western genre but it is also a film that is about a man trying to do what is right in a troubled world during the West. In the end, Shane is an outstanding film from George Stevens.
George Stevens Films: (The Cohens and the Kellys in Trouble) - (Kentucky Kernals) - (Bachelor Bait) - (Laddie) - (The Nitwits) - (Alice Adams) - (Annie Oakley) - Swing Time - (Quality Street) - (A Damsel in Distress (1937 film)) - (Vivacious Lady) - (Gunga Din) - (Vigil in the Night) - (Penny Serenade) - (Woman of the Year) - (The Talk of the Town (1942 film)) - (The More the Merrier) - (That Justice Be Done) - (On Our Merry Way) - (I Remember Mama) - A Place in the Sun - (Something to Live For) - Giant (1956 film) - (The Diary of Anne Frank) - (The Greatest Story Ever Told) - (The Only Game in Town)
© thevoid99 2016