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February 07, 2007

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Shane, Revisited

Shaneposter_1The other night I happened to tune in to the climactic last scene from the 1953 western classic, Shane, which starred Alan Ladd. When Shane first came out it was treated with great solemnity as an “adult” western, as opposed to all the dopey kid westerns that Hoppy and Roy and Gene made, and it was taken as a gritty example of the Old West as it really was. That was in 1953. Seen through 2007 eyes, it plays a little differently.

Prior to the last scene, the hero/gunfighter Shane has just engaged in an epic brawl in a barnyard, and having emerged victorious, rides into town for a midnight confrontation with the evil gunfighter Jack Wilson (played by Jack Palance) and the evil ranchers who hired him, the Ryker brothers. (Jack Wilson, by the way, is true to life--a vicious thug who shoots defenseless sodbusters for fun and profit.)

So the scene is set: It’s midnight, thunder rumbles in the Tetons. Wilson sits at a table slurping coffee, and in walks Shane wearing a spotless fringed-buckskin suit, a silver-concho gunbelt, a tooled-leather holster, and a nickel-plated ivory-handled Peacemaker.

Now, no gunfighter in the wild, wild west ever dressed like this. They looked either like vagrants (Billy the Kid) or undertakers (The Earps). Moreover, Shane has just been in a brawl in a barnyard., yet his outfit is spotless. I invite you to roll around in a barnyard and see what happens.

Shane then calls Wilson “a low-down Yankee liar.” Of all the insults I doubt never got hurled in the Old West, this ranks at the top. “Needle-d****d rabbit f****r” would have had the ring of truth to it, however.

Then they slap leather and shoot. But in the real Old West it would never have gotten this far. Wilson would have taken one look at Shane as he entered the saloon and spit his coffee all over the table.

“Oh my God,” he would have choked, “who buys your clothes? Where did you get that outfit? Oh, spare me.”

The Ryker brothers would have been giggling hysterically, and Shane would be too embarrassed to draw.

Red-faced and furious, Shane would have slammed out of the bar, mounted his horse, and headed out of town, pursued by child actor Brandon DeWilde, who played Little Joe and followed Shane around screeching in a manner not equaled until 2006, when Dakota Fanning spent 90 minutes screeching at Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.

Faster than the eye could have followed, Shane would have whirled in the saddle and drilled Little Joe right between the horns.

“Loudmouth brat,” he would have muttered, and ridden off into the darkness.

But it was 1953. What did we know?

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Comments

Chad Love

I may be in the minority, but there's nothing I hate more than a dull and witless gun writer who has neither the desire nor talent to occasionally branch out and write something that isn't directly involved with muzzle velocities, foot-pounds of energy or ballistic coefficients.
Which is why I read this blog. A good and funny post.
Speaking of cowboys, a local rancher friend of mine is hosting a gathering of your gunwriting brethren this weekend as they tromp through our local sagebrush trying out a recently-introduced shotgun. I'll be shooting them (with a camera) as they attempt to shoot a few quail. Perhaps I'll meet a F&S writer? Should be interesting. I haven't had any direct professional involvement with the outdoors writing scene since I was a cub reporter back in '95 covering the Bassmasters Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. Here I was standing in the lunch line with all these crusty-looking old farts who were drooling over the buffet when a writer came running around the corner and breathlessly announced to the line "they've got more gift bags in the press room!"
That's when I discovered I'd rather be treed by a wild pig than get caught between a crowd of professional outdoor writers and a room full of free swag. When it's important, those ruthless old men can really move...

Dave Petzal

To Chad Love: I think you'd find today that the old fat ones are just about gone, replaced with younger, faster ones.

Lee B.

Not one to comment on anothers journalistic abilities...I'll leave that alone.

But I've noticed that alot of people nowadays are rejecting the western fantasy for what is historicaly accurate.
Maybe it's because the direction our society is headed...maybe its just our cultural cycle comming around, but most of me those that I know were never turned on by anything like that.
We were more prone to act like Daniel Boone and John Westly Hardin. We took the time to ask and learn about these things.
It might have been just us, but we were quick to realize we were being had by hollywood.

Bobble

Ah...good times. Don't forget that all-but-in-name remake of Shane, Eastwood's "Pale Rider." Instead of Little Joe we had a young Sydney Penny running after him as he cleared out of Carbon Canyon. Discussion of his use of interchangeable cylinders on his revolvers was all the rage for a while.

Chad Love

Hey Lee, don't be bringin' yer fancy notions of historical revisionism out to western Oklahoma. We still mythologize our cowboy serfs/horsebound indentured servants and you won't find much support for any of the "New West" historians like Patricia Limerick or Donald Worster out here.
I'm a history nut and while at OU I maxed out all my electives on history classes, enough for a minor and if I ever wanted to go back to school a BA in history wouldn't take but a couple semesters.
Anyway, one of my favorite history profs had a cartoon taped to his office door, it showed a cowboy on a horse talking to a lady inside a stagecoach. The caption read "Sorry, ma'am, the west is closed for revision."
I'm not, and never have been a huge fan of federal grazing policy on public lands (All it took was one public-land elk hunt to Colorado to convince me of that) so after school when my wife and I moved to our present location in far northwestern Oklahoma, which is big ranch territory, I kinda projected that attitude. I had a bumper sticker on my jeep that read "Cowboys make better lovers. Just ask any cow."
A few kind souls pointed out that, besides being somewhat of a deterrent to gaining permission to get on some of the those big ranches, my cutesy bumper sticker might also serve to get my head screwed into the nearest lighting fixture at the local watering hole if the wrong group of area cowpokies happened to take umbrage at my assessment of their alleged choices in intimate companionship.
I've been up here in cowboy country 10 years now, and many of my views have been modified or changed by getting to know a lot of the cowboys and ranchers I used to mock in college, but you're never going to convince them, ever, that the cowboy mythos doesn't quite jibe with historical reality. To them the cowboy is and always will be the crowning pinnacle of American manhood and rugged individualism.
Eh, you just learn to live with it...

tom

Yeah, every time that I revisit a western that a much younger version of myself loved when I first saw it, I regret that I did so. Never-the-less, a couple of the lines and scenes in Shane
yet have some power. One that still comes back to me was the old rancher speaking about first coming into the country and his anger at the incoming homesteaders. At about that point I recall hoping that Palance would win for him, not being a youthful fan of homesteaders. I probably won't see the film again, which is probably just as well. Some experiences should remain unsullied by repeating them. Tom

Matt

Nothing funnier than watching an old cowboy movie where two cowpolks (do they still use that word, by the way?) meet out in Main Street to have a fair and honorable gun fight... as oppossed to sneaking up on one another and shooting the other person in the back of the head before they know what hit 'em like in the real world. Ranks right up there with the old Clint Eastwood flicks where all the "Mexicans" are really Italians. "No, no, no! Its Jose damnit! Not Luigi!" :)

Kristine Shreve

I remember seeing Shane in school for some reason. Don't remember why or for what class, but I do remember watching it.

All that sticks with me is the kid at the end running after the horse shrieking "Shane, come back Shane!" I wish Shane had turned and shot him. We made fun of that scene for weeks at school.

PbHead

Great screen re-write Dave. Throw in a homosexual love triangle and a ranch hand who discovers a new use for sheep besides wool and today's Hollywood would buy it in a flash. Art reflects the human condtion. I no longer attend the cinema because of the nasty reflections.

Craig Wayne

My father was the last living person to have worked on the movie Shane. I believe Don Farmer put out a CD about the making of Shane back in the 90's. It's to bad that more if these movies aren't around instead of the trash that passes for entertainment these days. Maybe Shanes' clothes were clean but the story line was what mattered.Good over evil instead of the other way around. We could at least let our children watch the movie without giving them any ideas about going out and killing everyone just to get their jollies

Ralph the Rifleman

I thought it was cool, folksy kind of movie..since I saw most of these types of movies when I grew up! His random leather outfit reminded me of new wave pajamas, but what the heck I agree it was the good against evil theme I liked. By the way, I heard Ladd had broken his arm during one the first bar room brawls, and wore a cast on his arm during most of the filming. Now that is a tough gun fighter to me!

tom

Its funny you are reminiscing movies from 1953. When the kids of today are "looking back" they get to be reminded of Brokeback Mountain!

Could you imagine if that movie "came out" in 1953???

Ralph the Rifleman

Hey Tom-
No way..it would have been hollywood-political suicide back in 1953. Back then, Gay was the issue left in the closet-Right or wrong-I am not casting judgement here it just didn't need to be cast in a movie to remind us of that life style.
You do make a good point about what the "old westerns" will mean to the younger generation of today verses what I remember...my how things have changed!

Steve M

Anyone remember the scene where he is telling somebody (either the boy or his mother) that a gun is a tool, neither good nor bad (or something like that)? Can anyone quote it? Do I have the right movie?

Jerry Sinkovec

Shane was really the story of the Johnson County War that took place in and around the TA Ranch and Buffalo,Wyo. back in 1892. It was represented by a man against man struggle instead of the people of the area of Buffalo against the cattle barons who thought they owned all of Wyoming and dicated to the townspeople and small ranches of the time. Two other films were made on the same topic. Michael Cimino's Heavens Gate was a great film of the time,1980. A more recent film on the topic was done around 2000 for the Halmark channel that was more of a love story and never really covered the real topic with any clear knowledge. It was a terriable film. The real and true story of the Johnson County War has never been told on film. If it were, many residents of eastern Wyoming would be upset. But it would probably become the best western of the 21st century. The true story has more murder, drama and action than any script writer could ever come up with on his own. How about a three day gun fight where no one gets killed except some drunk Texas gun fighter hired by the cattle barons who accidently shoots himself. I'm still hoping to see the real movie made.

Jerry Sinkovec

Shane was really the story of the Johnson County War that took place in and around the TA Ranch and Buffalo,Wyo. back in 1892. It was represented by a man against man struggle instead of the people of the area of Buffalo against the cattle barons who thought they owned all of Wyoming and dicated to the townspeople and small ranches of the time. Two other films were made on the same topic. Michael Cimino's Heavens Gate was a great film of the time,1980. A more recent film on the topic was done around 2000 for the Halmark channel that was more of a love story and never really covered the real topic with any clear knowledge. It was a terriable film. The real and true story of the Johnson County War has never been told on film. If it were, many residents of eastern Wyoming would be upset. But it would probably become the best western of the 21st century. The true story has more murder, drama and action than any script writer could ever come up with on his own. How about a three day gun fight where no one gets killed except some drunk Texas gun fighter hired by the cattle barons who accidently shoots himself. I'm still hoping to see the real movie made.

skunk

I think " a low down yankee liar" is about as low as you can go.....

Jere A. Houser

A gun is no better or worse than the man using it. I think that was the way it went.

Mark

Historical accuracy of Shane was limited to the dialog between Ryker and Van Helfin’s character on “who’s got rights” while Shane and Wilson size each other up.

You guys are missing the basics of a good Hollywood yarn put on film by a very good crew with an excellent cast…especially the supporting cast in that movie. The bad guys are really despicable. Jack Palance plays Wilson to the hilt. He make Wilson appears to be such an evil genesis you have to wonder if Shane has what it takes to beat him.

The white buckskins are won by Shane only when he’s trolling to battle Evil.

All in all…great film making and great acting on a timeless tale. Pity all that crew and cast are gone now.

One brawl, a couple of murders, a major shoot out, but no naked breasts…..

Still…..Five Stars….check it out!!!!!!

--Billy Bob Joe Mark’s Drive-in and DVD Video Review with apologies to Billy Bob Joe Briggs

Ricardo Rodríguez

Just a question about that film.
Did Shane die at the end or not?

Dumb*ss

Good question. He was shot by the Ryker brother who was upstairs with a rifle. That mind numbing DeWilde kid does scream "Shane - you're hurt!" when they're outside. (That kid's voice just grates on your ears like nails on a blackboard.) And as Shane is riding away into the sunset his left arm is dangling like he's been shot in the shoulder. But die? Never. I did, however, keep hoping the kid's dog would bite him and give him rabies, but no such luck. THAT would have been a great ending.

Mark

Another great western film making, IMO, on the lines of Shane is the The Outlaw Josey Wales. The supporting cast made that movie. I don’t know how Eastwood did it, but he was able to get a bunch major Hollywood heavy, villainous character actors in that flick.

“Easy man to track. Leave dead men wherever he goes.”

Whadda line!

Brian

If we're going to get into cowboy movie recommendations, how about "Lonely Are the Brave" with Kirk Douglas?
Great, great flick.

Chad Love

"Lonely are the Brave" is a great movie, Brian. It was based on an Edward Abbey novel entitled "The Brave Cowboy." I don't know if Abbey worked on the screenplay adaptation, but he did have a cameo as a sheriff's deputy.

craig curtis

ahh what great memories these old westerns have given me !! thank you dave and my son shane thanks you hes almost old enough to blog with us but not yet . man i sure miss jack palance in my eyes a mans man and the epitomy of hollywood cowboys !!




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