Shane (1953)

shane poster 1953 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Solid Western that is good for even people who don't like Westerns

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Movie Info

Movie Name: Shane

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Genre(s): Western/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): April 23, 1953

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

shane alan ladd

The trailer if Shane was made in 1989: Bad guys better watch out when Shane comes to town…because they’re about to be smoked!  Starring Sylvester Stallone

In the Wyoming Territory, trouble is brewing.  The homesteaders are finding themselves at odds with the ranchers…with both laying claim to the land.  When a mysterious man named Shane (Alan Ladd) encounters a farmer named Joe Starrett (Van Heflin), his wife Marian (Jean Arthur), and their son Joey (Brandon De Wilde), Shane finds himself embedded in the battle.  Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) intends to force the homesteaders out…even if it means bringing in a hired gun named Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) to do it.  Shane finds his past catching up with him, and a fight is simmering.

Directed by George Stevens, Shane is a Western action-adventure.  The movie adapts the 1949 novel Shane by Jack Schaefer which was originally published in Argosy in 1946 and called Rider from Nowhere.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography—Color with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Brandon De Wilde and Jack Palance), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 19993.

I first saw Shane in middle school after we read a shortened adaption of the novel.  I can remember the class making fun of the ending of the film with us insinuating an affair between the mother and Shane (the teacher wasn’t happy).  I can’t “not” think of this when watching Shane.  It is a good movie covering interesting issues which becomes even more relevant as time goes on.

shane alan ladd jack palance ending

Want to see me do a one-armed push-up?

The story has its basis in the Johnson County War from 1892 where homesteaders battled cattlemen, but it brings up a larger issue of “who deserves the land”.  The cattlemen think they tamed it, but it is rightly put out that there were people there before the cattlemen.  The Native Americans are kind of glossed over, but it is implied that they are there.  In addition to this there is a strange “southern” storyline embedded in the story.  It is post-Civil War and Stonewall (one the hero homesteaders) is a former Confederate soldier.  The bad guy (aka Jack Palance) ridicules the south and their loss…this is a strange turn today when the idea of the character being rebels is a negative thing.  Palance’s character is kind of speaking today’s perception of the Civil War.

Alan Ladd plays the noble and mysterious Shane that obviously has a sordid past.  In the film he’s very noble and does the right thing at a cost.  While Brandon De Wilde is good, he’s pretty annoying (he’s supposed to be, he’s a kid).  He feels like a bit of a precursor to Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird in that he’s see the story with “pure eyes” and not understanding all that he’s seeing.  The film is largely drafted around his perspective of the events.  Jack Palance does get the loathsome Jack Wilson down, but in a small part where he contradicts Rufus Ryker’s perception that “they” will have to kill the homesteaders, he gives a little more depth to what could have been a stock character.

shane ending come back shane

“Come back, Shane…Mother has been saying weird things about you in her sleep!”

The movie looks great.  The Jackson Hole location has the Grand Tetons looming in the background and the scenery feels vast and open.  It goes a long way in exploring what it must have been like for homesteaders and cattle ranchers who took to the area early in American history.  The core set of the Starrett’s cabin still exists in ruins and is a tourist attraction.

Shane is a classic Western and often considered one of the best Westerns.  It is simple in its story, but the bigger issues looming in the undercurrent of the story are what makes the film interesting.  The classic ending with Shane riding off and Joey yelling for him to come back feels true…it would be good for Shane to come back.  Everyone needs someone like Shane.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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