Join the Boston Sunday Night Film Club this Sunday, May 15th at 3:30pm for “Shane” at the Brattle Theatre. Look for Sean wearing a nametag and sitting with his crutches outside the box office about 15 minutes before the film. As always, after the film we will descend on a local establishment for dinner/drinks/discussion. This showtime is earlier than we usually meet, and it hardly qualifies as “Night”, but it was the last showing of this classic film.
George Stevens’ classic Western, adaptated from the Jack Schaefer novel, stars Alan Ladd in the title role. Riding the ranges of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, Shane stops at the farm of homesteader Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) just before Ryker (Emile Meyer), a powerful and predatory cattleman, arrives with his hired muscle to make the farmer a threatening offer for land that he intends to get by any means necessary. When Shane lets the cattle baron know that his gun will back Starrett if there’s any trouble, the grateful homesteader offers the stranger a job as a hired hand, which he accepts. Joe’s young son Joey (Brandon de Wilde) is drawn to the quiet stranger, whose difference from the men he knows is confirmed by the accidental revelation of a gunfighter’s lightning reflexes. Shane becomes a valuable asset to the farm, but is slowly drawn into the continuing hostilities between the two opposing groups. To complicate matters, Shane feels an unspoken, and unwanted, attraction to Starrett’s wife Marian (Jean Arthur). This creates a sense of ambivalence in Joe, whose son already idolizes the gunslinger. Stevens’ meticulous artistry imbues the simple Western with the mythic aura of an Arthurian legend, as Loyal Griggs’ beautifully composed images provide the canvas for career performances by Ladd, Heflin, Arthur, and de Wilde, in what many regard as the finest western ever made.