#1 of the Top Ten Westerns
Directed by George Stevens
Starring: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, Jack Palance
Shane (Ladd) is a weary and mysterious man looking for a new life in the high country of Wyoming. When he meets Joe Starrett (Heflin) he takes a job helping on their homestead. When a ruthless rancher attempts to push Starrett and other homesteaders off their land, Shane is forced to revisit his past. Now Shane is in the middle of a fight that could turn deadly.
This movie is one of the great westerns. The cast seems perfectly built for this story of redemption taken from the novel of the same name written by Jack Schaefer. The film stars Jean Arthur (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Oscar winner Van Heflin (Johnny Eager), Brandon De Wilde (Hud), Jack Palance (City Slickers), and Alan Ladd (Botany Bay) in the title role. The movie was nominated for six Oscars, winning one for Best Cinematography.
The movie is beautifully made. The locations used to shoot this film are perfect for the story being told. Each shot takes full advantage of the natural beauty around the actors. The sets are also well-designed to feel authentic and let the story stand out. These aspects really set the actors up for success.The director even went to great lengths to replicate the sound of gunfire, having been in World War II himself. In addition, this was the first time that actors were attached to wires to yank them backwards when they were shown being shot from the front. The direction and innovations earned George Stevens a nomination for Best Director and the film was also nominated for Best Picture.
The cast was chosen wisely, and each part feels right for the actors. Jack Palance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his part as the hired gun. The young Brandon De Wilde was also nominated for the same award thanks to a powerful performance as the young Joey. The rest of the cast all do a great job in their parts as well. Thanks to the chemistry between the stars, this is a very impressive movie.
Reception for this movie was positive from the beginning. The film earned well at the box office and with the critics. New York Times critic Bosley Crowthers saw the film during the opening run at the historic Radio City Music Hall. He wrote:
Shane contains something more than the beauty and the grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains. It contains a tremendous comprehension of the bitterness and passion of the feuds that existed between the new homesteaders and the cattlemen on the open range. It contains a disturbing revelation of the savagery that prevailed in the hearts of the old gun-fighters, who were simply legal killers under the frontier code. And it also contains a very wonderful understanding of the spirit of a little boy amid all the tensions and excitements and adventures of a frontier home.
I don’t have anything to criticize this film about. I’m a fan of westerns, and this is one of the greats. The acting and the imagery come together in near perfection. If you haven’t seen this movie I would strongly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not a fan of westerns, this is worth watching. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
I remember watching this as a kid, and now after reading this review I want to watch it again.
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It has a great rematch value. I appreciate the deep emotional struggles of the characters more now than I did as a kid.
Stevens is a great director who is too often forgotten about today. He was twice a Best Director Oscar winner, and in addition to Shane he directed Giant, A Place in the Sun, Gunga Din, The Diary of Anne Frank, Swing Time, and Woman of the Year – all classics in their own right. He always seemed to get really great performances from his actors.
It’s amazing that we still talk about John Ford and some of the other greats, but he has been lost in the discussion.