Shane (1953)
September 12, 2022 1:00 PM - Subscribe

In a small Wyoming town, the ranchers, led by the Ryker brothers, try to intimidate homesteaders to force them out of the valley, but the homesteaders are held together by the determination of Joe Starrett (Van Heflin), who wants to build a life on the land for his family. Into this tension rides Shane (Alan Ladd), an enigmatic stranger who is befriended by the Starretts. The laconic Shane hopes for a quiet life, joining the community of homesteaders. As the tension increases, Shane begins to fear that the only hope for his new friends is for him to return to violent ways he meant to leave behind.

Also starring Jean Arthur (in her last on-screen appearance and her only film in color), Jack Palance, Ben Johnson, Brandon De Wilde, and Emile Meyer. Screenplay by A. B. Guthrie Jr. and Jack Sher, based on the novel by Jack Schaefer. Directed by George Stevens.

97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US free with ads on Pluto TV. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The conversation my roommate and I had immediately after we watched:

Me: Quick, tell me ten things you learned about the main character.
Roommate: (long pause) Can I just say "He's an enigma" ten times?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on September 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

This has so much more nuance and depth than people sometimes remember. For one, Shane is plainly in love with Joe's wife Marian and very attached to the couple's son Joey. They're enamored with him, too. And Joe absolutely intends to face off against the Rykers and is definitely going to get killed. All Shane would need do to get the exact life he wants is... nothing.

Does Shane save Joe because he respects him? Or because he's too vain to resist one more opportunity to be the best man? Does he feel like he's already too far gone for the straight life and self-sacrifice is all he has left? Is killing just in his nature? All of these, probably, but that doesn't explain it all, either.

Certainly, Shane shows a masochistic tendency to place himself into situations where people will assume he is a weakling and then he can prove them wrong in violent fashion. He says he wants to live a quiet life, but then dresses to draw attention and seems to savor approaching threats. How many times in how many towns did he live through this pattern before coming here? Many times, you have to think.

I don't think the film wants you to know exactly what Shane's deal is. Really, the POV character in the movie is the town itself. And the Starretts. And the message they are given from this story is that blood and violence may have built the West, but once that's done, there is, ironically, no longer a place for it there. The Starretts will now live a peaceful life... knowing that murder is what made that happen for them. It's the quintessential story of the West.

Also: Shane is most definitely dead on his horse at the end of this movie.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:16 PM on September 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

OK. This is driving me nuts. I can remember *another* much more recent movie where two characters are arguing about Shane, with one emphatically points out to the other that Shane dies at the end...

It's on the tip of my brain but I cannot remember it.

Argggggggghhh. What is it. Someone help!
posted by kbanas at 1:23 PM on September 12, 2022

Well, I never would have gotten it in a million, billion years, but Wikipedia says it was The Negotiator:

In the 1998 film The Negotiator, the two leading characters have a discussion about Western genre films, Shane in particular. Arguing about the ending, Chris Sabian says Shane died, and Danny Roman says "he's slumped 'cause he's shot. Slumped don't mean dead."
posted by kbanas at 1:24 PM on September 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

It's totally a matter of personal belief whether you take him as dead at the end.

For me, he's dead dead dead.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:31 PM on September 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

The unfortunate result of having seen several classic westerns as double features long ago means sometimes I get the details mixed up.
In my head, Shane shoots Old Yeller before riding off to die on horseback.

There's another black and white one about a showdown that takes place between the tolling of high noon and the departure of the 3:10 to Yuma.
(I'm not even going to get into what went on during the bad day picnic at hanging black rock, it's a fever dream)
posted by bartleby at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

This movie is also referred to, with good effect, in Logan.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:09 PM on September 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

I watched this ages ago with an ex. I remember it being a very good movie, although the one thing I remember is the time when Joey (?) goes "Shaaane!" because we would imitate it endlessly...
posted by gemmy at 6:26 PM on September 12, 2022

The outdoor shots in Shane are beautiful. Reason enough for me to sit down and watch for awhile.
posted by Stuka at 7:12 PM on September 12, 2022

This is probably my favourite movie ever.
Joey, there's no living with... with a killing. There's no going back from one. Right or wrong, it's a brand. A brand sticks. There's no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her... tell her everything's all right. And there aren't any more guns in the valley.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:59 PM on September 12, 2022

"Shane! Shane, come back!"

So much to like about this movie. I feel it's very much a piece with Unforgiven in an "ugh, can we just not with the tough guy stuff now?" way.
posted by rhizome at 11:40 AM on September 13, 2022

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