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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

j

Old movies are the best, however I have a shooting question. My buddy wants to build a 7mmstw. I told him that you could probably have an existing 7mm rechambered. This would be a more economical venture than a custom built rifle I felt. Does anyone still offer this chamber from the factory? Thanks.

O Garcia

On the subject of screaming, more annoying to me is Danny Glover's "Hey Riggs!" And he did it in all four movies of the "Lethal Weapon" series.

"Pat" - northern NE Hunter Education Instructor

I think Craig Wayne really summed it all up !!

Dave Petzal

To Chad Love: Durn' tootin' about Lonely are the Brave. Walter Matthau deserved an Oscar for that one.

To J: According to Cartridges of the World, a 7mm Remington Magnum can be rechambered to 7mm STW.

Paul Washa

Allan Ladd was very short, some say he had to stand on a pop bottle case to look about average height in the scenes. You never see him standing near someone to compare his height to theirs without something in front of what ever he was standing on. I did not catch that his buckskin outfit was clean when he got to town. I will check that out next time the movie is on cable. I liked the way the farmers wife kept checking Shane from the window, she would have run off with him if he asked her. har har

James Ventress

I don't think Shane's duds were too fancy at all. Sure Billy the Kid was a vagrant thug, but look at the old photos of some of the other outlaws and lawmen. Wild Bill had a sense of style in his dress and manner, so did some of the others. Also consider that buckskins may be considered fancy now because they cost so much, but back then they were functional clothes for the poor or common man, although they might be worn by anyone at all. That idiot Custer even liked to dress up in them.

James Ventress

I don't think Shane's duds were too fancy at all. Sure Billy the Kid was a vagrant thug, but look at the old photos of some of the other outlaws and lawmen. Wild Bill had a sense of style in his dress and manner, so did some of the others. Also consider that buckskins may be considered fancy now because they cost so much, but back then they were functional clothes for the poor or common man, although they might be worn by anyone at all. That idiot Custer even liked to dress up in them.

James Ventress

I don't think Shane's duds were too fancy at all. Sure Billy the Kid was a vagrant thug, but look at the old photos of some of the other outlaws and lawmen. Wild Bill had a sense of style in his dress and manner, so did some of the others. Also consider that buckskins may be considered fancy now because they cost so much, but back then they were functional clothes for the poor or common man, although they might be worn by anyone at all. That idiot Custer even liked to dress up in them.

Tom Fowler

Some of us Southerners have a definite impression about the film that goes over other's heads, but the writer knew what he was saying and doing..namely, the little harmless Confederate veteran who turned to face Palance, who insulted Robert E. Lee...anyone recall that? And Ladd's statement of truth about the Yankee Liar had to sting enough to cause a fight, even with a man who liked to shoot down the easy targets. Shane was THE successful Reconstruction movie...a painful period in America's history. It was more than a good western; it was a moral epic, and made the viewer understand the beauty of peace, purchased by strong men with firearms. Petzel was right though...today, that is an unpopular theme.

We miss you, Shane.

Tom O'Fallon

I never noticed that Shane was "cleaned up" in the final scene, but did notice this: When Shane has holstered his gun, and Little Joe yells,"Look out Shane!", he draws the pistol and shoots into the floor (not upstairs) where the Ryker brother is, but still kills him. If you watch the DVD and slow it down you can see this. I still think the movie is one of the greatest.

Dale M

The movie "Shane" varied somewhat from the story in the book, but the basic theme was still having the courage to do the right thing.

I miss the old westerns where the good guys were mostly good and the bad guys were mostly bad. One of the worst westerns (from my point of view) that I can ever remember seeing was "The Desperate Trail". I thought I was going to enjoy it because Sam Elliot was in it, but all of the main characters in the movie were crooks, even the Marshall. I had nobody to root for and in the end I didn't really care who won the conflict.

On a slightly different bent, I enjoy reading about the real history of the old west. I've read about some of the feats that "Wild Bill" Hickock was supposed to have performed using cap & ball revolvers.

A book titled, "Guns Of The American West" by Joseph G. Rosa shows a couple of photos of a fairly young Jeff Cooper, a member of the "Eaton Canyon Muzzle-loaders" trying to recreate some of Wild Bill's reported feats with cap & ball revolvers. According to the photo caption "The tests resulted in the conviction that some of the feats were possible, others possible but highly improbable, and some downright incredible!"

I'm guessing that Jeff Cooper must have written about these tests and published them somewhere. I've been unable to locate such an article. Dave, perhaps with your connections you might be able to find them and perhaps republish (or at least report on) the results?

Steve S

The writer and most of the commentee's....sound a little too ignorant to me. I'd like to say that I have done in depth research and guess what? Sure enough, buckskin garb was pretty widely worn! Especially in area's such as where "Shane" was filmed as it get's cold! So...enough of the "Yeah...I know how it was" b.s....

David

All hail Stevens, Ford, Houston, Hill , Kurosawa and Topperwein!!!Shane holds tightly to the threads of nobility of purpose that we'd all like to aspire to, I myself more likely with a sword. But no matter, Anyone hear anything re John Ross' book "Unintended Consequences" reaching film production?

Robert McCalip

Dave,Dave,Dave it's a fifties movie. You can catch mistakes in almost any movie made today. It's a good movie for the time it was made.Let it be!

chuck norris

petzal you are a Needle-d****d rabbit f****r

Mr. D

In the novel, Shane ain't dressed in no sissy buckskin outfit. That gear may have been trendy for a 20 minutes in the 50s, but I have to agree; of the many changes from the novel to the screen, this was the worst. Shane is described in the worn attre of the previously mentioned undertaker. The film does not entirely stand the test of time, but Jack Schaefer's novella stands up.




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