Since today is the 113th anniversary of the birth of John Wayne, I decided to watch the 1962 classic, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance! And then I decided to share a scene that I love from the film.
The famous steak scene features three of the greatest screen icons of Hollywood’s golden age: James Stewart, John Wayne, and Lee Marvin. Lee Marvin is the bully who is terrorizing the entire town. James Stewart is the idealist who thinks that the law, and not violence, is the answer. And John Wayne is …. well, he’s John Wayne. He’s the only man in town who can stand up to Lee Marvin but, at the same time, he’s also aware that his time is coming to a close. In the scene below, all three of the characters display their different approaches to life and a disagreement with steak nearly leads to violence.
This scene — and really, the entire film — features these three actors at their best. John Wayne is an actor who is often described as having “just played himself” but that’s really not quite fair. While Wayne’s outsized persona definitely does influence how the audience reacts to any character that he plays, he was a better actor than he’s often given credit for being. That’s especially evident in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in which Wayne plays a confident man’s man who knows that fate is closing in on him. The coming of civilization (represented by James Stewart) will be great for the town of Shinbone but it will also leave men like Wayne’s Ton Doniphon with nowhere to go. The coming of civilization means that the heroes of the past are destined to become obsolete.
Enjoy this scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: