Western movie directed by John Ford, written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck (based on a story by Dorothy M. Johnson), and released in 1962. It starred John Wayne as Tom Doniphon, James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard, Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, Vera Miles as Hallie Stoddard, Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody, Andy Devine as Marshal Link Appleyard, Ken Murray as Doc Willoughby, and John Carradine as Major Cassius Starbuckle.

This film, though largely ignored when it was released, is now considered one of the enduring classics of the Western genre, not only because many of the giants of Western cinema were involved in its production, not only because of what it says about the nature of heroism, both in the Wild West and in today's society, but also for its unexpectedly complex characters and story. This movie is not about White Hats vs. Black Hats--it's about mythology, real life, and what happens when they conflict with each other...

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
Although Gene Pitney was paid a tidy sum to record a theme song written by Burt Bachrach and Hal David for this movie, the song never appears in the actual movie. The usual reason given was a mix-up between the Paradise Record company and Paramount Pictures. Apparently, Pitney learned during the recording session that the movie had already been released1! There was little skin off Pitney's nose; when his recording was released in 1962, it shot up to #2.

It's not difficult to conclude that the song would have been extremely inappropriate if taken seriously given that the film was a satire of the glorification of the Old West, and the creation of heroes. The movie's theme song builds up Ransom Stoddard's legend even as the movie tears that legend down.

But it's still a shame that this song did not appear in the movie; it could have been used to spectacular ironic effect.

I imagine a scene, cut from the very beginnng of the movie:

We fade in to the busy main drag of the new State Capital, accompanied by the instrumental opening to our theme song, heard as from a distance.

As the camera passes down the street, we notice that there are handbills posted on every pole.




appears on the screen, the camera zooms into one of the handbills. Scrawled in the ample white space beneath the words U.S. SENATE are the words:

THE Man who Shot LibeRty Valance

The camera pans into the doorway of a nearby saloon, where the music is clearly coming from.

We are treated to a somewhat more elegant scene than is usual for this venue: This is a campaign rally. Men in tuxedos, Women in elegant dresses, or at least their best Sunday-go-to-meetin' outfits.

The camera pans past Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), looking quite ill, choking on the pain he has created for himself. The look on his face is indescribable; he is staring not at the stage, but somewhere else; our camera changes its angle to follow his line of sight, ending at the table where the ostensible protagonist to our movie, Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), is in attendance, with his lovely wife Hallie (Vera Miles) on his arm. But there is something wrong; The famous Mr. Stoddard appears somewhat discomfited as a man on stage (Gene Pitney) begins to sing:
When Liberty Valance rode to town
The womenfolk would hide, they'd hide
When Liberty Valance walked around
The men would step aside

'Cause the point of a gun was the only law
That Liberty understood
When it came to shooting straight and fast
He was mighty good.......
After the song ends, we cut to the usual opening of the movie: Senator Stoddard pulls into the town of Shinbone, where everything had happened many years in the past, for the funeral of the aforementioned Tom Doniphon. As the Stoddards arrive, they are met by their old friend Link Appleyard (Andy Devine), and a reporter from the local paper. After a few glasses of whiskey, and some rather naive questions from the newsman, Ransom Stoddard pours out his astonishing, tragic story.

But perhaps that wasn't subtle enough for John Ford.
1Paramount re-used the music from its 1938 film, Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda.

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