One of the greatest movies of all time, Shane, was on Turner Classic Movies recently. The great George Stevens directing (he also directed Giant), Alan Ladd in the starring role, with Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Jack Palance, as the evil Jack Wilson, Edgar Buchanan and of course Brandon De Wilde as Little Joey.
“Shane! Come back!” and the movie ends, Shane riding off into the sunset, the film becoming the quintessential Western.
Released in 1953, it’s about a gunslinger hoping to give up his former life and become a farmer, but instead, rides into a turf war between the farmers and one particular rancher. I was always intrigued by the rancher, Ryker, played by Emile Meyer, a character actor with roles in film and TV spanning more than three decades. I never knew the name until seeing it on imdb.com.
Rufus Ryker creates his ranch from the wilds of the Wyoming Territory and sees the farmers moving in, changing his way of life. “You’ve lived too long,” Shane tells him.
As did Shane, but the weary gunslinger knew his time was over. And then Shane takes out the entire Ryker crew, starting with the hired gunslinger from Cheyenne, Jack Wilson.
That was an entirely different era, 62 years ago. Films could be strict morality tales, with right and wrong clearly defined, but with Shane, Ryker gets to explain his side of the story and, quite frankly, he isn’t such a bad guy. Clearly not evil, but clearly not one of the good guys.
Who wouldn’t defend his territory? The farmers use up most or all of the water, plow up what was once grazing land, put up fences so the cattle can’t roam free; I put myself in Ryker’s shoes. On the other hand, there could always be a compromise.
Take it back 20 years before the time this film takes place and we have the Sioux and Cheyenne being forced off their land by the White folks, a bloody conflict itself. Manifest Destiny at its worst.
Preceding Shane was an MGM short, Wild People. There’s a fun movie! Not a bit like Wild Things with Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell and Denise Richards. That’s a fun movie for entirely different reasons.
Nonsensical, Wild People was just a reason to showcase some great choreography and the great dancers who made it look so easy and carefree.
The two “stars” of this short film: Eleanor Thatcher and Joyzelle Joyner. The stars by my estimation anyway! After watching this short I gotta wonder why Eleanor only made three shorts and then disappeared from the film world.
Sometimes life just takes unexpected turns. And sometimes we take refuge from today in the memorable pleasures of the past — like old movies. I’d like to think Shane finds a place where he can really sleep at night, with his boots off and his six-gun packed away where no one can see it.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.