The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Willis Goldbeck, John Ford
  • Writers: James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck, Dorothy M Johnson
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef

The film opens on preparations for a funeral. A U.S. Senator and his wife have come back to the small town of Shinbone, in an unnamed Western state. The senator is prevailed upon by a newspaper editor to explain why he has come to bury an apparent nobody. The senator explains and the film unfolds in flashback, to a time before the railroad came to Shinbone, to when the region was a western territory and statehood was the pressing issue.

Ransom “Rance” Stoddard (James Stewart) is an attorney who believes in law and order, but refuses to carry a gun. Robbed and violently attacked on his way to town by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), an outlaw with a silver-handled whip, Stoddard is brought to town by a man named Tom Doniphon, who brings the injured stranger to the care of friends in town.

Doniphon (John Wayne) is a rancher, who believes there is no law and one “needs a gun in these parts.” Doniphon feels that Stoddard is a hopeless tenderfoot who is unable to handle himself in the kind of fights that are common in the West. Stoddard in return cannot understand Doniphon’s thinking, which is exactly like Liberty Valance’s — might makes right. Caught in between is Hallie (Vera Miles), a woman widely regarded to be the love of Doniphon’s life.

The movie ends with Senator Stoddard and Hallie returning to Washington by train, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. Stoddard asks a conductor how long it will take to get to Washington. The conductor tells them that the train is traveling at high speed and that at an upcoming junction they are holding the express train for him. “Nothing’s too good,” he says, “for the man who shot Liberty Valance.”

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo.

  • Directors: Sergio Leone
  • Producers: Alberto Grimaldi
  • Writers: Story, Sergio Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni, Screenplay, Age amp Scarpelli, Sergio Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Western
  • Actors: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

In a desolate ghost town, bandit Tuco (“The Ugly,” Eli Wallach) narrowly shoots his way past three bounty hunters to freedom. Miles away, Angel Eyes (“The Bad,” Lee Van Cleef) interrogates a former soldier Stevens (Antonio Casas) about a missing man named Bill Carson (Antonio Casale) and a cache of Confederate gold, shooting the soldier and his son (Antonio Ruiz) after the interrogation; Angel Eyes also collects a bounty given to him by the soldier Stevens to kill Angel Eyes’ employer; Angel Eyes then collects his bounty for the killing from his employer and then shoots him. Meanwhile, Tuco’s journey across the desert leads him into a group of bounty hunters, who prepare to capture him when they are approached by Blondie (“The Good,” Clint Eastwood), a mysterious lone gunman who challenges the hunters to a draw, which he wins with lightning speed. Initially elated, Tuco is enraged when Blondie delivers him to the local authorities for the reward money. Hours later, as Tuco awaits his execution, Blondie surprises the authorities and frees Tuco, the two later meeting to split the reward money, revealing their lucrative money-making scheme. The two repeat the process at another town before Blondie, weary of Tuco’s incessant complaints, abandons him in the desert. A livid Tuco rearms himself in a nearby town and surprises Blondie in his hotel room in the middle of a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops. As Tuco prepares to kill Blondie by fashioning a noose and forcing Blondie to put it around his neck, a cannonball demolishes the room, allowing Blondie to escape.

The three stare each other down, calculating alliances and dangers in a famous five-minute Mexican standoff before suddenly drawing. Blondie shoots Angel Eyes, rolling him into an open grave, while Tuco discovers that Blondie unloaded his gun the night before. Blondie directs Tuco to the grave marked “Unknown” next to Arch Stanton’s. Tuco digs and is overjoyed to find bags of gold inside, but is shocked when he turns to Blondie and finds himself staring at a noose. Seeking a measure of revenge for what Tuco has done to him, Blondie forces Tuco atop a grave marker and wraps the noose around his neck, binding Tuco’s hands before disappearing with his share of the gold. As Tuco screams for mercy, Blondie’s silhouette returns on the horizon, aiming a rifle at Tuco. As Tuco screams in rage, Blondie fires and severs the noose rope, dropping Tuco face-first onto his share of the gold. Blondie smiles as Tuco screams at him. Blondie turns and rides into the frontier.