Cinemallennials: Shane (1953)
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cinemallennials, it is a bi-weekly podcast in which I, and another millennial, watch a classic film that we’ve never seen before, and discuss its significance and relevance in today’s world.
In today’s episode, I talked with Andreas Babiolakis, creator of FilmsFatale.com, about Shane, a western that packs both heat and heart, directed by the great George Stevens, and starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur (in her last role on the silver screen), Van Heflin, and Brandon deWilde.
Whether comedies like Swing Time and Vivacious Lady or dramas like Alice Adams and Giant, Stevens’ films were always at the forefront of filmmaking in Hollywood. From his early days as a cameraman for Laurel and Hardy shorts in the 1920s to his later directorial achievements such as A Place in the Sun, Gunga Din, The More the Merrier, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Greatest Story Ever Told, Stevens’ humanist empathy, great sense of comedic timing, fly-on-the-wall perspective, and vast scope still make an impact on filmmaking today.
Shane follows the story of a mysterious wanderer named Shane (Alan Ladd) who rides into the lives of homesteaders Joe (Van Heflin), Marion (Jean Arthur), and their son Joey Starrett (Brandon deWilde) on the wide-ranging plains of Wyoming. Joey is immediately enamored with Shane and his ornamented gun belt, dreaming that Shane must be a great hero. Shane believes he has found his little patch of paradise until he is thrust into an ongoing war between the homesteaders and the local cattle baron, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer), and his gang. Shane feels he must act in order to protect the Starretts – and to redeem himself from his shrouded past.
During this episode, Andreas and I will be discussing hero worship and its dangers, how our personal decisions can affect not only ourselves but also those around us, how classic films approached wealth inequality, and the film’s direct influence on the 2017 superhero drama, Logan.
Throughout the film, Joey is enamored by Shane’s attire and weaponry. He follows Shane around as if he were a god amongst mere mortals. Joey, like many other boys, worships at the feet of the legend of gunslingers and their form of vigilante justice, not fully realizing the extent of the consequences that violence brings upon all involved. Hollywood’s golden age inspired many young boys to romanticize violence and weaponry. I, myself, was one of those boys, and have now since learned better, but Shane, subverts that message in a time when the western was still top billing.
At the conclusion of Shane, our hero makes sure to tell his acolyte the truth about who he is, what he does, and how it negatively affects both himself and those around him. “Joey, there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong it’s a brand and a brand sticks. There’s no going back.” Shane knows that Joey could potentially turn into someone like himself and wants Joey to break that violent cycle. In Alan Ladd’s performance, you feel the deep pain of the weight of his past gunslinging and how he desperately wishes he could break from who he was, and is, because of the violence he has committed. He wants Joey to know the reality and consequences of his “hero’s” actions, but Joey doesn’t understand and doesn’t want Shane to leave. All Shane can do is to remove himself from the situation and hope, just like maybe Stevens hoped with the film, that the realities of violence would be revealed to Joey (and the audience) in an impactful way.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Cinemallennials, which you can find here on apple podcasts or on spotify. Please reach out to me as I would love to hear your thoughts on Paths of Glory, especially if you’re a first-time viewer too!
— Dave Lewis for Classic Movie Hub
Dave Lewis is the producer, writer, and host of Cinemallennials, a podcast where he and another millennial watch a classic film that they haven’t seen before ranging from the early 1900s to the late 1960s and discuss its significance and relevance in our world today. Before writing for Classic Movie Hub, Dave wrote about Irish and Irish-American history, the Gaelic Athletic Association in the United States, and Irish innovators for Irish America magazine. You can find more episodes of Cinemallennials, film reviews and historical analyses, on Dave’s website dlewmoviereview.com or his YouTube channel.