Shane was released in 1953. It was actually filmed in 1951, but extensive editing caused the substantial delay. It was directed by George Stevens, who also directed 1956s Giant. The film stars Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Brandon De Wilde and Jack Palance, credited here as Walter Jack Palance.
The movie opens with Shane (Ladd) coming upon a remote homestead. Here he meets Joe Starrett (Heflin) and his wife and son. Starrett initially confuses Shane for one of the Ryker Gang, but when the actual gang shows up Shane stands with Starrett. Shane is looking for work so Joe hires him to help around the homestead. Little by little Shane starts to ingratiate himself to the Starretts and the other homesteaders. However, the homesteaders are feuding with the Ryker Gang, who claim that they were there first and that the homesteaders are stealing their land by putting up fences and settling down. Due to the Rykers history of intimidation and property damage, the homesteaders refuse to leave their lands. Then the gang resorts to bringing guns into the equation. Shane finds that guns are very easy to pick up, but hard to put down, to almost quote Chow Yun Fat’s character in The Killer.
Shane has a very realistic look, especially for a film of this era. Their clothes don’t look very clean, the town thoroughfare is a filthy quagmire and the film features blood, which was something of a novelty at the time. It also has the loudest guns I have ever heard in a film. They sound like howitzers rather than pistols. The film also has a great saloon brawl, which involves copious amounts of broken furniture, cracked jaws and wounded pride.
The acting in Shane is exemplary. The supporting cast are all fantastic and the lead actors all deliver. Van Heflin is a little limited as an actor but certainly plays his role well. Brandon De Wilde is the most annoying child actor I have ever seen, even his screen parents find him trying in the film. But he could definitely act, no doubt. Jack Palance, despite saying little and having limited screen time, is extremely memorable as the hired-gun. The star of the film, as he should be, is Alan Ladd. He is so laid back he is almost horizontal. Despite his diminutive stature, he has a very large presence in the movie. His demeanour, his striking clothes and his gravelly voice make him a great Western hero.
Shane is rightly included in any list concerning the greatest Westerns or the greatest films of all time. Although nominated for several Oscars, it only won one, for best colour cinematography. It lost out in the major honours to From Here to Eternity. This was not much of a surprise as Westerns have never rated highly during award seasons. This should not make any difference to your enjoyment of this film. Shane should have you coming back again and again.