Everything in Shane is iconic; The hero in the white buckskin who happens to ride into town (Alan Ladd); the conniving rancher, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) with his mangy, ill-mannered cowboys; the humble homesteader, Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) with his doting, dutiful, domesticating wife, Marian (Jean Arthur) and twinkle-eyed son, Joey (Brandon DeWilde); the taciturn, cautious, ageing bar-keep and owner of the general store, Sam Grafton (Paul McVey); the timid Swedish settler, Axel Shipstead (Douglas Spencer); and the dark, sinuous, slimy personification of Evil Incarnate, Jack Wilson the hired gun (Jack Palance, dressed in black from head to toe).
Indeed, the characters alone are the story.
Ryker wants the Starrett’s land. Shane settles it with Joe Starrett to help him protect it, in the process charming the tidy wife – perhaps a little too much – and the goggle-eyed boy completely out of his childhood.
Wilson is imported to clean out the settlers, and but for the intervention of Shane – gun to gun, eye to eye, nobility vs. evil – he would surely succeed. But Good triumphs, so very deeply, indeed, that Shane comes to see his own effect on this charming little family, mounts his obedient steed, and rides away at film’s end into a sunset that outshines all other sunsets.
After him runs little Joey, crying out “Shane! I love you, Shane!”
Shot at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and before the days of widescreen and Dolby Stereo, Shane is studded with iconic visions.
The purple Grand Tetons in the background, a deer grazing in a mirroring pool while the boy takes potshots at it with his toy rifle, the filthy sneer on the rancher’s face when Starrett (Heflin) refuses to give up his land, and the look in Palance’s eyes when he guns the unarmed Frank “Stonewall” Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr) down in the mud.
This film is worth seeing again and again for two images alone: When Wilson struts onto the wooden sidewalk with his spurred boots ringing, the town dog is shown up close, creeping away with its tail between its legs.
And after Shane has met the Starretts and accepted their invitation to dinner, he feasts on an apple pie. This is the apple pie to end all apple pies – steaming, golden, latticed, voluminous, lifted out of the oven by a pretty girl in blue gingham and served up with good black coffee.
It is apple pie like this that made the American West.
Brandon De Wilde
Elisha Cook Jr
Axel ‘Swede’ Shipstead
Mrs Liz Torrey