Sog.: based on the novel of the same name (1949) by Jack Schaefer. Scen.: A.B. Guthrie Jr. F.: Loyal Griggs. M.: William Hornbeck, Tom McAdoo. Scgf.: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler. Mus.: Victor Young. Int.: Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Starrett), Jack Palance (Jack Wilson), Ben Johnson (Chris Calloway), Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis), Emile Meyer (Rufe Ryker), Elisha Cook Jr. (Stonewall Torrey), Douglas Spencer (Shipstead). Prod.: George Stevens per Paramount Pictures. DCP.
Called “the purest western of all”, this lyrical combination of grandeur and intimacy is an epochal masterpiece that demystifies the West but preserves its romanticism. On his way back home from the war after the liberation of Dachau, Stevens saw German kids shooting wooden pistols, playing American cowboys. That image, following his recent experiences, prompted him to take the grace away from the gun and show it as it was: destructive and blind. Shane became the war movie he had wanted to make since 1945 – not a typical genre piece, dictating the usual accessories and costumes; rather Stevens put his finger on the pulse of the type of brutality that war justified. Told from the point of view of a child, the story focuses on Shane, a princely mannered gunman who descends into a valley where a ranch is in sight. The owner, Joe Starrett, whose son Joey is infatuated by Shane, offers him a job in this muddy Eden. Facing intimidation and deadly violence from local cattlemen the Ryker Brothers and their hired guns, a confrontation becomes imminent. Shane was based on a novel by journalist Jack Schaefer, the first in a series of westerns he wrote without ever seeing the ‘West’ firsthand. Stevens, extremely dissatisfied with the Paramount heads, was also drawn to the story as it would allow him to shoot away from the studio’s interference. Pulitzer Prize-winning author A.B. Guthrie wrote the script and Jean Arthur appears in her final film role. Montgomery Clift and William Holden were initially considered for the parts of Shane and Joe Starrett, but Alan Ladd’s laconic and Van Heflin’s earthen interpretations were favoured. Shooting began in the summer of 1951 with cinematographer Loyal Griggs on board (who would win an Oscar for his work) and the film reached screens in April 1953 to a wide acclaim. From then on, it became more than just a Western; it was a landmark of American culture. A print of the film was even requested by President Eisenhower to show to Nikita Khrushchev, though it is unlikely that the world powers saw the ugly truth about civilisation, that one has to kill to stop killing.