Part of the curious power of John Ford‘s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is that it overrides its own stoppers. Average Joes look at this thing and go, “Wait…a black-and-white western partly shot on sound stages costarring a couple of guys in their 50s pretending to be in their 30s?” John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin are straight and steady, but the other actors deliver in the usual Ford cornball style. Andy Devine‘s fat pushover sheriff is ludicrous.
But it has an underlying sadness and resignation, and the story sticks to your ribs and the themes resonate above and beyond what “happens,” and thus the classic stamp.
In any event N.Y. Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written a column that analogizes Barack Obama with Stewart’s “Rance” Stoddard and Gov. Rick Perry with Wayne’s Tom Doniphon. Her point is more or less that Perry is an intellectual primitive. Abundant evidence exists to support that observation. But while Doniphon saw and responded to the world in relatively simplistic terms, he was arguably a kind of realist…at least in terms of what the rough-and-tumble culture of Shinbone was in the early days. No one would call Perry a realist. He perceives through the prism of secular wackazoid sights. Evolution “is a theory that’s out there,” etc.
If Perry resembles anyone in Ford’s 1962 film, it’s Marvin’s Liberty Valance — a guy who basically says “I do what I do because I’m tough and snarly enough…get outta my way.” And who tried, remember, to nominate himself for higher office in Act Three.