This remote suburb in Northern California has a sweet yet frustrating sameness to its everyday life. It seems to be the kind of place folks wanted to live in so they could have that sameness, that predictability that implies guaranteed peace and a trouble-free existence. A warm, clear Saturday night found me watching a 1953 classic western on DVD while family members went to a drive-in movie to see a double feature of animated characters from Medieval days and comic book action heroes banded together to save New York City. I watched Shane, a fine film directed by George Stevens. I was awed by how powerful it was in the wake of America's movie theater tragedy. You could take dialogue out of this western, say it in TV news soundbites relative to the Colorado crime, and the words would sound fresh. Alan Ladd owned that lead role. Perfectly cast.
Shane: "A gun is a tool, Marian. No better or no worse than any other tool -- an ax, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that."
Marian: "We'd all be much better off if there wasn't a single gun left in this valley. Including yours."
Later, the violent Ryker crew drives more homesteaders off the land. Think of the opening scene. The settlers are like the deer sipping water, causing no harm. The angry ranchers are the gun pointed at the deer. Ryker feels he has the right to use guns to get what he wants claiming that he's entitled to the land. Joe Starrett calls him on that claim saying "...you didn't find this country." Mr. Starrett reminds him that Indians were on it long before he was. Starrett adds, "You talk about rights. You think you got the right to say that nobody else has got any. Well, that ain't the way the government looks it at."
Doesn't that dialogue from a post-Civil War story sound like it came from today's national debate about guns and civil liberties? A. B. Guthrie, Jr. wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay.
Ryker recruits Wilson, an evil gunslinger, to help him intimidate and remove the homesteaders. This menace is played by Jack Palance when he was new to the movies and billed as Walter Jack Palance.
One day, I'd like for my nephews to see George Stevens' Shane. I'd urge many adults to see it too.
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