Senator Ransom Stoddard and his wife have come back to their home town to pay respects to his late friend Tom Doniphon. Some wonder why a famous senator is attending the funeral of a man who seems not to really be of any note.
A persistent reporter convinces the reluctant senator to give him an interview. Stoddard made his name by killing the notorious Liberty Valance years earlier. But there is a dark secret hidden away and Stoddard is ready to put it on the record.
Buoyed by strong performances from Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, the Man Who shot Liberty Valance explores living a life on the foundation of a lie. Stewart’s Stoddard carries guilt over the circumstances involving Tom and Valance.
Valance is a pretty straight forward thug who wants to amass power, the film makes no real effort to get the audience on his side. You see Stoddard’s actions as fairly heroic, but information he learns later eats away at him as the years go by.
This is a terrific film and a classic of the genre. I say this as one who has never been a huge fan of John Wayne. Admittedly, some of that is annoyance with narratives about “where have the real men gone”. But I appreciate Wayne in this film. Tom is a sympathetic character, who finds Stoddard, in some ways, really interfered with his life.