Cast & Crew
Brandon De Wilde
Walter Jack Palance
While playing on his Wyoming homestead, young Joey Starrett spies a lone rider approaching his house, then listens with great curiosity as Shane, the buckskin clad stranger, reveals to his father Joe that he is heading north, toward home. When Joey cocks the rifle he has been toting, Shane, startled by the noise, draws his gun with the speed of a gunslinger. Joe is disturbed by Shane's behavior and, as a group of men ride up, sends him on his way. The men's leader, grizzled cattle baron Rufe Ryker, accuses Joe of squatting on his grazing land and demands that he give up his homestead. When Joe refuses, Ryker's men start to intimidate him until Shane suddenly reappears at Joe's side. The men depart, and Joe's wife Marian, who has observed everything from inside the house, urges Joe to invite Shane to dinner. Joey is thrilled to have Shane spend the evening with them, and at the end of the meal, Shane, reticent to talk about his past, goes outside to chop wood for the family. Joe joins in and the next day, the two men team up to pull a stubborn tree stump out of the ground. Later, Joey tells Shane that his parents want him to stay and innocently lets on that his father is concerned about Ryker's threats. Shane, who has put away his gun, agrees to remain and heads to town to buy work clothes. Soon after, homesteader Ernie Wright arrives at the Starretts' to announce that Ryker's men have destroyed his wheat field and, consequently, he and his family are moving away. Joe begs Ernie to stay and calls for a meeting of the homestead men that night. Meanwhile, in town, Shane purchases clothes at Sam Grafton's general store, then orders a soda pop in the adjoining saloon. There, Chris Calloway, one of Grafton's men, calls Shane a "sodbuster" and tosses a glass of whiskey on his new shirt. Shane does not react to Calloway's provocations, however, and walks out. That night, during the meeting, Joey overhears homesteader Fred Lewis, who witnessed the saloon exchange, declare that Shane did not stand up to Calloway. Marian reassures Joey that Shane is not a coward, but counsels him not to become too attached to him. Later, having decided to stick together as a group, the homesteaders and their families go to town to shop for the next day's Fourth of July celebration. At Grafton's, Calloway again confronts Shane in the saloon, but this time, Shane throws two drinks on Calloway and slugs him. After a grueling fistfight, Shane finally knocks out Calloway and is offered a job by Ryker. When Shane declines, Ryker accuses him of lusting after Marian, and despite pleas from Joey, Shane single-handedly takes on all of Ryker's men. Joe aids Shane in the fracas, until Grafton, fed up with the destruction, demands a halt. As the homesteaders depart, Ryker vows to fight on and sends for notorious Cheyenne gunslinger Jack Wilson. Back at home, Joey gushes to Marian about his love for Shane, while Marian wrestles with her growing romantic feelings for the loner. The next day, after Joey admits to Shane that he sneaked a peek at his gun, Shane gives the boy some pointers on how to shoot and demonstrates his skill as a marksman. Though impressed, Marian expresses her disapproval of guns and asks Shane not to encourage Joey's interest. Ernie, meanwhile, complains to neighbor Stonewall Torrey that because Ryker's men killed his sow and ruined his fields, he is giving up. Angry, Stonewall, whose courage has been questioned by some of the homesteaders, goes to town and, in the saloon, criticizes Ryker for running Ernie off his land. Later, at the Fourth of July party, Joe and Marian also celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, and Marian shares a dance with Shane. When Stonewall arrives and announces that Ryker has hired a gunfighter, Shane guesses he is Wilson. Back at their house, the Starretts and Shane are met by Wilson, Ryker's brother Morgan and Ryker, who in an attempt to appear reasonable, offers to sell Joe his land. Joe angrily rejects the idea, pointing out that the government already recognizes the homesteaders' claims. In turn, Ryker complains that because he fought the Indians and slaved to make the land livable, he is entitled to own it, without fences. Ryker and Wilson depart peacefully, but in town, Ryker instructs Wilson to do whatever is necessary to defeat Joe. To that end, Wilson provokes a confrontation with Stonewall, then shoots him down when he makes a half-hearted move for his gun. With the nearest lawman a three-day ride away, Wilson's claim of self-defense goes unchallenged. At Stonewall's funeral, the Lewis family announce that they, too, are leaving their homestead, but Joe and Shane beseech their other neighbors to keep fighting. Just then, a fire is spotted at the Lewis place, and Ryker's blatant sabotage strengthens Joe's resolve to stop Ryker at any cost. That night, Ryker sends for Joe, while Joe prepares to challenge Ryker at gunpoint, ignoring Marian's tearful pleas not to risk his life. Shane, who has been warned about Ryker's plans by a reformed Calloway, dons his buckskins and straps on his gun, then fights Joe to keep him from leaving. When Shane hits Joe in the head with his gun butt, a terrified Joey screams hatefully at him, but Marian is relieved. Joe is knocked out, and aware that she will not see Shane again, Marian says a grateful goodbye. Joey trails Shane to the saloon and sees him goad Wilson into drawing his gun. Shane shoots Wilson dead, then shoots Ryker when he draws, and with Joey's help, outdraws Morgan. Later, Joey apologizes for his angry words and begs Shane to return to the homestead. Gently declining, Shane tries to explain to the boy that he cannot change the man he is at heart and does not belong there. As Shane mounts his horse and rides off, Joey, devastated and confused, cries after him to "come back."
Brandon De Wilde
Walter Jack Palance
Elisha Cook Jr.
Howard J. Negley
Chester W. Hannan
Jo Ann Thompson
A. B. Guthrie Jr.
Best Supporting Actor
Best Writing, Screenplay
Shane is painted in broad strokes, but the picture is vivid. Alan Ladd stars as the title character, a mysterious drifter who signs on as ranch hand for Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) a put-upon homesteader who's being harassed by Mr. Ryker (Emile Meyer), an evil, land-grubbing cattle baron. When Shane's quietly intimidating presence drives Ryker's men away from the homestead, the drifter becomes a hero to Starrett's young son, Joey (Brandon De Wilde). It's soon evident that Shane is a former gunslinger who's trying to reform, but the battle for possession of Ryker's land leads to a series of showdowns with Starrett's men, including a menacing, steely-eyed killer famously played by Jack Palance with a minimum of dialogue.
Stevens explores the key myths of the West while keeping the film emotionally grounded via the youngster who adores Shane's quiet masculinity. Whether you buy all of it or not, Shane is the real McCoy- a powerful cinematic myth with a stoic hero at its center who simply wants to do the right thing. Stevens himself noted that Ladd was the perfect actor for this role. "You know," he once said, "it's against the formula, but Ladd seemed to have a decency on the screen even in violent roles like this one. He always seemed to have a large measure of reserve and dignity."
Incredibly, given the film's across-the-board appeal, Paramount didn't know what it had on its hands with Shane. The studio's disinterest arose from the fact that this would be Ladd's last picture with them before jumping ship to a more lucrative deal elsewhere. It also didn't help matters that Stevens, who was known to take his time while filming, allowed the picture to go considerably over budget. Everyone involved - especially Stevens, whose career seemed to be hanging in the balance was ecstatic when the film became a solid gold hit.
It's a little known fact that, even though Shane is still remembered for its breathtaking vistas, it wasn't actually shot in widescreen. Cinemascope was beginning to take over the film industry while the movie was in production, so Paramount made the decision to blow up the negative and present Shane in the new format, even though the color faded considerably as a result. Stevens' cinematographer, Loyal Griggs, was aghast at what had happened to his images. It seems likely, however, that he got over it when he won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography! Go figure.
Critics were very kind to Shane. Even Bosley Crowther, the esteemed New York Times writer who usually made no secret of his distaste for Alan Ladd's performances, was won over: "Shane contains something more than the beauty and grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains. It contains a tremendous comprehension of the bitterness and passion of the feuds that existed between the new homesteaders and the cattlemen on the open range. It contains a disturbing revelation of the savagery that prevailed in the hearts of the old gun-fighters, who were simply legal killers under the frontier code. And it also contains a very wonderful understanding of the spirit of a little boy amid all the tensions and excitements of a frontier home."
When a critic of Crowther's stature writes a review that sounds like a studio-generated press release, you know you've hit your mark. When all is said and done, it would seem that George Stevens was the real gunslinger connected to Shane, even if he took his sweet time pulling the trigger.
Producer: George Stevens
Director: George Stevens
Screenplay: A.B. Guthrie, Jr. (based on the novel by Jack Schaefer)
Cinematography: Loyal Griggs
Editing: William Hornbeck, Tom McAdoo
Music: Victor Young
Art Designer: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Set Designer: Emile Kuri
Special Effects: Gordon Jennings
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Technical Advisor: Joe De Young Cast: Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marion Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Brandon De Wilde (Joey), Jack Palance (Wilson), Ben Johnson (Chris), Edgar Buchanan (Lewis), Emile Meyer (Ryker), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Torrey), Douglas Spencer (Shipstead), John Dierkes (Morgan), Ellen Corby (Mrs. Torrey), Paul McVey (Grafton), John Miller (Atkey), Edith Evanson (Mrs. Shipstead).
by Paul Tatara
A gun is a tool, Marion, no better or no worse than any other tool, an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.- Shane
You speaking to me?- Shane
I don't see nobody else standing there.- Chris Calloway
So you're Jack Wilson.- Shane
What's that mean to you, Shane?- Jack Wilson
I've heard about you.- Shane
What have you heard, Shane?- Jack Wilson
I've heard that you're a low-down Yankee liar.- Shane
Prove it.- Jack Wilson
Was that him, Shane? Was that Wilson?- Joe Starrett
That was Wilson, alright, and he was fast, fast on the draw.- Shane
I'll kill him if I have to.- Rufus Ryker
You mean I'll kill him if you have to.- Jack Wilson
At the time of filming, Jack Palance was not comfortable with horses. The one good mount he achieved during the numerous takes was used in the film. The scene where he walks his horse into town was not originally planned that way, but due to his noticeably unsteady riding manner, director George Stevens filmed it as such, and the shot has since become a memorable part of movie history.
The music cues for the climactic ride that Shane takes to the showdown are from an earlier Paramount film, Rope of Sand (1949).
In the funeral scene, the dog consistently refused to look into the grave. Finally, director George Stevens had the dog's trainer lie down in the bottom of the grave, and the dog played his part ably. The coffin (loaded with rocks for appropriate effect) was then lowered into the grave; but when the harmonica player began to play "Taps" spontaneously, the crew was so moved by the scene that they began shoveling dirt into the grave before remembering the dog's trainer was still there.
George Stevens originally cast Montgomery Clift as Shane, and William Holden as Joe Starrett. When both decided to do other films instead, the film nearly was abandoned before Stevens asked studio head Y. Frank Freeman who was available. Upon seeing a list of actors with current contracts, Stevens cast Alan Ladd, Van Heflin and 'Jean Arthur' within 3 minutes.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, when Paramount acquired Jack Schaefer's novel Shane in November 1949, both Alan Ladd and Ray Milland were under consideration for the title role. William Holden was originally cast in the role of "Joe Starrett" and was not replaced by Van Heflin until just before the start of production. Modern sources claim that director George Stevens wanted Holden to co-star with Montgomery Clift, who had starred in Stevens' 1951 film, A Place in the Sun , but that Clift was not interested. Modern sources also state that Stevens' son George, Jr. read the Schaefer novel one summer in college and suggested his father adapt it. According to a May 1966 Films and Filming article, director Howard Hawks then recommended that Stevens hire Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. B. Guthrie, on whose book Hawks's film The Big Sky was based, to write the script for Shane, even though Guthrie had never before written a screenplay.
Shane was Stevens' first Western since his 1935 RKO release Annie Oakley (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); it was also his last. Artist Joe DeYoung (DeYong in the onscreen credits) worked with Stevens to create authentic costumes and décor, according to news items. Modern sources note that Stevens and DeYoung, who could not speak, traveled the West together and did months of research to achieve the most realistic look possible. Stevens also studied the photographs and drawings of William Henry Jackson and the paintings of Charles Russell, according to modern sources. As noted by news items, location shooting took place near Jackson Hole, WY, against a backdrop of the Grand Teton Mountains. An entire Western street was built, and according to modern sources, Stevens constructed the cemetery and town sets next to each other, so that they could be viewed in the same frame, if required. Specific location sites included Menor's Ferry on the Snake River, according to a September 1951 New York Times item.
Shane marked Jean Arthur's first screen appearance since the 1948 Paramount release A Foreign Affair (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50) and was the final film of her career. In 1956, she starred in a short-lived television series, then appeared occasionally in stage roles. Although onscreen credits "introduce" child actor Brandon de Wilde, and Shane was de Wilde's first screen assignment, his first released film was A Member of the Wedding . According to an August 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Alan Ladd's three children, David, Alana and Alan, Jr., made their screen debuts in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources note that Stevens, Jr. worked as a company clerk on the production.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: To enhance the realism of the picture, Stevens opted to shoot in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions. Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman, as well as the Supervisor of Grand Teton National Park and members of the Rockefeller family, toured the film's set. Afterward, the Rockefeller group requested that the sets be moved to the Rockefellers' Ferry Museum on the Snake River. Stevens carefully choreographed the fistfight scene, again striving for realism. For the final gunfight scene, Stevens attached leather belts to the actors who were to be "shot." Every time the prop gun was fired, a crew member yanked the appropriate victim's belt, causing him to jerk backward, as though hit by a bullet. According to the New York Times obituary for stuntman Russell M. Saunders, Saunders acted as Ladd's stunt double in the film.
According to a April 29, 1953 Variety item, the film, which was shot in 1951, prior to the advent of 3-D, widescreen and stereo processes, was roadshown for several months so that it could be given the new "widened screen treatment." The film, which according to the Films and Filming article cost $3 million to make, was projected in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio for its Radio City Music Hall screenings in New York and its Grauman's Chinese run in Los Angeles. According to the Variety review, the audience for the Los Angeles trade preview was "perched on makeshift seating" to accommodate the "experimental widescreen" projection, and that "the widescreen projection did contribute...to a sense of the bigness." The New York Times reviewer commented that the widescreen projection "slightly favors the width," but that "the difference is barely apparent, except that some scenes appear trimmed at the bottom and the top." The Los Angeles run also featured stereo sound, according to a May 30, 1953 Los Angeles Times item. In modern interviews, filmmaker Warren Beatty claimed that he consulted with Stevens about Shane and attempted to imitate the film's gunfight sound effects for a climactic gun sequence in his 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde (see AFI Catalog of Feature of Films, 1961-70).
Shane was uniformally lauded upon its release and is considered by many critics to be one of the best Western films ever made. The Los Angeles Examiner reviewer ranked it "among the all-time great films," while the Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest reviewer labelled it "an achievement in the cinematic art...the like of which showmen have rarely seen." Shane received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing (Screenplay); and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Palance and de Wilde). The film won an Academy Award in the Best Cinematography (Color) category, and Stevens received the 1953 Irving J. Thalberg Memorial Award, for "high quality of production for the current award year and preceding years." Shane was also voted one of the ten best films of 1953 by the National Board of Review and Film Daily. Although Ladd was not nominated for an Oscar, his performance in Shane is considered one of his best and garnered him a Photoplay Gold Medallion award.
Ladd and Van Heflin starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, broadcast on February 22, 1955. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower requested, and received, the only 16mm print of the film to show to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David, MD, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. The film was reissued in 1966, and in 1981, was one of five pictures selected to tour China after a thirty-year drought of American films, according to a news item. In 1998, Shane was voted number sixty-nine on AFI's "100 Greatest Films" list and was included on the Library of Congress' National Preservation list.
In 1968, in anticipation of Shane's first broadcast on television, Stevens cautioned the ABC network about showing the film with commercial interruptions, noting that he was still appealing a lower court loss against the NBC network for its broadcast of his 1951 film A Place in the Sun. Although it is not known whether ABC heeded Stevens' warnings, the director eventually lost the appeal. For more information about Stevens' lawsuit, for A Place in the Sun. Shane, a television series based on Schaefer's story, starring David Carradine and Jill Ireland, was broadcast on the ABC network between 10 September and 31 December 1966.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1953 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States Spring April 1953
Released in United States March 1976
Released in United States 1996
Released in USA on video.
National Film Registry.
Selected in 1993 for inclusion in the Library of Congress'
Widely considered one of the greatest Westerns ever made.
Released in United States Spring April 1953
Released in United States March 1976 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - The Americas: A National Portrait) March 18-31, 1976.)
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "George Stevens' American Journey" September 22 - October 6, 1996.)
Voted Best Director By the 1953 National Board of Review.