November 18, 2014


“Shane” was made in 1953, sixty years ago.  I was 15; my sister, Elizabeth, was 13.  She always said it was her favorite movie.  I think she was a bit in love, or maybe a lot in love, with Alan Ladd; and, no wonder.  Talk about a hero.  Sixty years old this movie, but as telling, or more telling for me today, than ever before.  I’ve probably seen it five times over the years.  It operates and is effective on so many levels.  In a way, it’s a story about Freedom.  Homesteaders, trying to raise a family on rich, open land in Wyoming, surrounded by ranchers who commanded the small town and had most of the guns.  They wanted the homesteaders off the Plains so their cattle could roam free; and they were ready to drive them off.

The homesteaders wanted to stay, to band together; but, one by one, as they were killed or had their homes burned, they decided they had to leave.  But there was one homesteader, Joe Stark, and a lone man, Shane, who came upon the family by happenstance, who wanted to stay.  They rallied altogether to face the challenge.

Shane came from an unknown background but it was apparent he had been a gunslinger; now quiet and restrained, seeking a new life, but still with latent power.

The relationship he forms with young Joey, probably around 10, makes the movie.  It’s clear that Joe’s wife, Marian is attracted to Shane and he to her.  Her husband senses this.  But there is never a hint of Shane crossing the line.  Too must respect for her and her husband and for himself for that to happen. 

The family life is real; the landscape beautiful; the fight scenes filled with tension.  The music, even if somewhat overdone, adds an enormous amount to the story. 

In the end, Joe was about to go into town to settle things with the gunmen.  Knowing Joe would be outgunned, Shane knocks him out in a fierce fight and then goes in his place and, in an incredibly dramatic finale, kills the gunmen.

This is a deeply moving movie way beyond what my words can convey.  It shows the loyalty of a family; the exuberance of a child; the honor of people; the courage of the homesteaders against the challenges they faced as they, yes, fought for Freedom. 

It is another example of how the fight for Freedom has gone on in every era, just as it goes on today, and how the values which we advance at the Freedom Center--courage, cooperation and perseverance--are what mark every Freedom movement that succeeds. 


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