THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (film, 1962)
Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard (James Stewart) and wife Hallie (Vera Miles) return to the
town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of old friend Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).
Through a flashback we learn of what ties them altogether—specifically the
sadistic villain Liberty Valance played by Lee Marvin. What more can be said
about this John Ford directed classic except with each passing year a central
theme of guns vs. law continues to be debated in parts of this county which is
sad to my way of thinking. Film shot in stark black and white only ages in some
of its hackneyed comic subplots, usually involving the coward sheriff (Andy
Devine) or drunken town editor (Edmond O’Brien). Interesting to note Ford’s
subtle presentation of African American Pompey (Woody Strode) who is shown on
the community’s fringes like an observant, silent, all-knowing arbitrator: not
saying the film was the gold standard of progressive thinking but it was a necessary step in the right direction.
Classic quote: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
JUNIOR BONNER (film, 1972)
Steve McQueen plays a modern Western cowboy as
a rodeo champion Junior ”JR“ Bonner who returns to Prescott, Arizona, to
reunite with his parents and brother and ride the unruly bull, Sunshine. Junior turns down a job from his arrogant
salesman brother Curly by saying, “I gotta go down my own road.” “What road?”
Curly replies, “I mean, I'm workin' on my first million, and you're still
workin' on eight seconds.” The film bombed at the box office—director Sam
Peckinpah remarked, ”I made a film where nobody got shot and nobody went to see
it.”—but it’s now considered a film classic. A rousing crowded bar-room scene
where the entire Bonner family and friends end up brawling but nobody is
seriously injured is a hoot.
Note: I review Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns at Macmillan’s Criminal Element blog.
WAITING FOR A COMET (Jo Harper Book 1, 2014) by Richard Prosch
Jo Harper is a twelve-year-old girl. She and her father, the publisher of
the Willowby Monitor in Wyoming circa 1910, live alone after Jo's mother died years earlier. Things change when new constable Abigail Drake arrives with her pet calf. Jo finds a friend/mentor in Abigail and an unlikely adventure is in the works. A real joy to read this Y/A slice of
Americana in the Mark Twain tradition who's referenced in the book (fellow Western author Wayne D. Dundee links similarities to Rooster Cogburn). Richard
Prosch's (Holt Country Law, Devil’s Ledger) natural storytelling abilities
hits all the emotional notes in this entertaining tale that adults as well as
teens will find engaging.