There are westerns and then there are John Ford westerns. The master of the genre, Ford’s films may have been set in the past, but they created a fictional Americana which stills echoes through the country’s culture today.
Ford’s 1962 release, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance stars John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin. It’s a film about the myth-making and about how the past is fluid. Told in flashback, the film sees Wayne and Stewart taking on the town of Shinbone’s vile thug, Liberty Valance (Marvin).
Not only did Ford have an indelible impact on the western genre, but he also helped to craft John Wayne’s onscreen persona. The pair made 14 film starting with Stagecoach in 1939 and ending with Donovan’s Reef in 1963. As is said in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That’s what Wayne and Ford both did with their lives and careers – they printed the legend.
In 2007, Ford’s film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Budgeted at $3.2 million, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance grossed $8 million in 1962.