The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

122 mins | Western | 1962

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HISTORY

In early spring 1961, writer Dorothy M. Johnson sold the screen rights to her short story “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” to director John Ford. The story originally appeared in the June 1949 issue of Cosmopolitan and was later published in Johnson’s 1953 collection Indian Country, as announced in the 7 Apr 1961 [Great Falls, MT] Great Falls Tribune. At the time, Johnson was known for providing the literary source to The Hanging Tree (1959, see entry) starring Gary Cooper, and several reviews remarked on her status as a woman writer in the male-dominated western genre. On 10 Apr 1961, LAT reported the casting of James Stewart and John Wayne, and noted that James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck had started the screen adaptation of Johnson’s story. Filming was scheduled to begin 5 Sep 1961, as first listed in DV production charts on 4 Aug 1961. Early casting reports in the 29 Apr 1961 LAT announced Carolyn Jones as the leading lady, and an 18 Aug 1961 DV news item stated that a deal was underway to add Tige Andrews, but neither actor remained with the project.
       By 14 Sep 1961, filming on the $3.5 million production was underway at the Paramount Studio lot on Marathon Street in Los Angeles, CA, with no plans for location shooting, according to that day’s DV which stated that a large portion of the budget went to covering the salaries of its stars. Ford reportedly described the film as a “close-up type picture.” Although Ford had previously filmed westerns in color, The Man ...

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In early spring 1961, writer Dorothy M. Johnson sold the screen rights to her short story “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” to director John Ford. The story originally appeared in the June 1949 issue of Cosmopolitan and was later published in Johnson’s 1953 collection Indian Country, as announced in the 7 Apr 1961 [Great Falls, MT] Great Falls Tribune. At the time, Johnson was known for providing the literary source to The Hanging Tree (1959, see entry) starring Gary Cooper, and several reviews remarked on her status as a woman writer in the male-dominated western genre. On 10 Apr 1961, LAT reported the casting of James Stewart and John Wayne, and noted that James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck had started the screen adaptation of Johnson’s story. Filming was scheduled to begin 5 Sep 1961, as first listed in DV production charts on 4 Aug 1961. Early casting reports in the 29 Apr 1961 LAT announced Carolyn Jones as the leading lady, and an 18 Aug 1961 DV news item stated that a deal was underway to add Tige Andrews, but neither actor remained with the project.
       By 14 Sep 1961, filming on the $3.5 million production was underway at the Paramount Studio lot on Marathon Street in Los Angeles, CA, with no plans for location shooting, according to that day’s DV which stated that a large portion of the budget went to covering the salaries of its stars. Ford reportedly described the film as a “close-up type picture.” Although Ford had previously filmed westerns in color, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was black-and-white. The use of soundstages and black-and-white photography led to speculation that Paramount was working on a tight budget. For the soundtrack, Ford also reused Alfred Newman’s musical theme from a previous film, the 1938 drama Young Mr. Lincoln (see entry).
       As mentioned in the 20 Sep 1961 Var, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance marked Ken Murray’s first feature film in many years. Ford had reportedly been impressed by the comedic actor’s dramatic role on the television series “Death Valley Days” (Syndicated, 1952-1970) and had the part of “Doc Willoughby” written specifically for Murray’s movie comeback. The 22 Sep 1961 DV added Charles Morton to the cast, but he was not credited onscreen and may not have remained in the film. Similarly, the 26 Sep 1961 DV announced the casting of Ed Jauregui, who was also not credited in the final picture. Tom Hennessy’s casting was mentioned in DV on 20 Oct 1961, and Bob Morgan was added on 10 Nov 1961, but their involvement may not have continued.
       Filming was still underway as of 23 Oct 1961, when DV announced that assistant director William Poole had been recalled to active duty at Fort Bragg, where he served in the psychological warfare unit. Poole had reportedly been at Paramount since 1938, though much of his work in the casting department was uncredited. He was replaced by Wingate Smith.
       The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance made its last appearance on DV production charts on 8 Nov 1961, though final casting announcements were made in the trades through mid-Nov 1961. A titular theme song, composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, did not appear in the film. However, it was vastly successful on the radio, remaining on Billboard charts for thirteen weeks and ranking #36 in the list of the best Western songs of all time by the Western Writers of America.
       An early preview of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was screened at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles on 23 Mar 1962, and on the weekend of 24-25 Mar 1962 at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, CA. The 28 Mar 1962 DV announced that the film was set for wide release in Apr 1962, with actor Lee Marvin supporting events with a promotional tour. The film began playing the at nine theaters nationwide the weekend of 13 Apr 1962, as the 17 Apr 1962 DV reported that the limited engagement grossed $76,180 in three days. Paramount was optimistic by the early returns, noting that a newspaper strike in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, and heavy snowfall in Buffalo, NY, prevented audiences from attending. The film opened in Los Angeles on 18 Apr 1962, as stated in the 20 Apr 1962 LAT review, and several weeks later in New York City on 23 May 1962. A NYT review published the next day generally reflected the mixed critical response and cited what was to become the film’s most iconic quote: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
       The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. It marked Edith Head’s 21st Oscar nomination.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
CREDIT
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1961
p. 23
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1961
p. 8
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1961
p. 3
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1961
p. 2
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1961
p. 6
Daily Variety
20 Oct 1961
p. 3
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1961
p. 6
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1961
p. 21
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1961
p. 3
Daily Variety
28 Mar 1962
p. 11
Great Falls Tribune [Great Falls, MT]
7 Apr 1961
p. 5
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1961
p. 10
Los Angeles Times
29 Apr 1961
p. 14
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1962
p. 10
New York Times
24 May 1962
p. 29
Variety
20 Sep 1961
p. 3
Variety
11 Apr 1962
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Ford Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Cyril Mockridge
Mus
"Young mr. lincoln" theme
SOUND
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" by Dorothy M. Johnson in her Indian Country (New York, 1953).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1962
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 May: Apr 1962
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures
13 April 1962
LP21681
Duration(in mins):
122
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1910, Sen. Ranse Stoddard and his wife, Hallie, arrive in the small town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon. A reporter questions him about his unannounced appearance, and Ranse tells about his early days as a young lawyer in Shinbone, when he opposed the ruthless rule of Liberty Valance, a notorious gunfighter. The only other two men in the town who were unafraid of the outlaw were Dutton Peabody, a drunken but courageous newspaper editor, and Tom Doniphon, a respected rancher in love with Hallie, who was then a young waitress. Valance became outraged when Ranse was elected delegate to a territorial convention and taunted him into a duel. Hallie knew that Ranse could not handle a gun and pleaded with Tom to save Ranse; but Tom, sick of Ranse's foolhardy bravery, refused. Late one night, Ranse and Valance faced each other on the darkened main street of the town. Several shots were fired, and although Ranse was wounded, Valance was the one who lay dead. Ranse became known as "the man who shot Liberty Valance" and was nominated to run for Congress. Unable to face a career built on a killing, he decided to refuse the nomination. Tom then appeared and confessed that it was he who, out of love for Hallie, fired from the shadows that night. Tom, in effect, became Ranse's conscience, the force that carried him to the U. S. Senate and a brilliant career in Washington, while Tom died a pauper. Ranse's story finished, the reporter decides not to print it because in the old West the legend had become ...

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In 1910, Sen. Ranse Stoddard and his wife, Hallie, arrive in the small town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon. A reporter questions him about his unannounced appearance, and Ranse tells about his early days as a young lawyer in Shinbone, when he opposed the ruthless rule of Liberty Valance, a notorious gunfighter. The only other two men in the town who were unafraid of the outlaw were Dutton Peabody, a drunken but courageous newspaper editor, and Tom Doniphon, a respected rancher in love with Hallie, who was then a young waitress. Valance became outraged when Ranse was elected delegate to a territorial convention and taunted him into a duel. Hallie knew that Ranse could not handle a gun and pleaded with Tom to save Ranse; but Tom, sick of Ranse's foolhardy bravery, refused. Late one night, Ranse and Valance faced each other on the darkened main street of the town. Several shots were fired, and although Ranse was wounded, Valance was the one who lay dead. Ranse became known as "the man who shot Liberty Valance" and was nominated to run for Congress. Unable to face a career built on a killing, he decided to refuse the nomination. Tom then appeared and confessed that it was he who, out of love for Hallie, fired from the shadows that night. Tom, in effect, became Ranse's conscience, the force that carried him to the U. S. Senate and a brilliant career in Washington, while Tom died a pauper. Ranse's story finished, the reporter decides not to print it because in the old West the legend had become fact.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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