"Shane! Shane! Come back!"

Classic Western, released in 1953. It was directed by George Stevens, produced by Stevens and Ivan Moffat, and written by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., based on Jack Schaefer's novel. The stars included Alan Ladd as Shane, Jean Arthur as Marian Starrett, Van Heflin as Joe Starret, Brandon De Wilde as Joey Starrett, Jack Palance as the evil Jack Wilson, Ben Johnson as Chris Calloway, Emile Meyer as Rufus Ryker, and Elisha Cook, Jr. as Frank "Stonewall" Torrey.

You may know the plot by now: the Starretts and other homesteaders are being victimized by the cattle ranchers. The ranchers hire gunslinger Jack Wilson to run off or kill the homesteaders, and Shane shows up to defend the weak and powerless. In the end, his job completed, Shane rides off into the sunset.

I don't consider this the best Western ever (personally, I prefer the films of John Ford), but "Shane" is certainly the most beloved Western ever. Ladd's white-hatted cowboy and Palance's black-hatted murderer have become Western icons, like De Wilde's shouted pleas at the end of the movie. The themes of self-reliance and the noble stranger protecting the weak from evil men are classics that never grow old. The performances are almost universally outstanding, though some of the dialogue is a bit hackneyed.

"Shane" won an Academy Award for cinematographer Loyal Griggs. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Palance and De Wilde were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Interesting trivia: Montgomery Clift was originally cast as Shane, and William Holden was cast as Joe Starrett. Also, Palance was not, at the time the movie was filmed, very good with horses. He had only one good mount during filming, and his riding was so unsteady that, for his first scene in the movie, Stevens had Palance walk his horse into town instead of riding it. The scene, of course, ended up being one of the most memorable in the film.

Shane: "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."

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

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