Last week I saw a thought-provoking movie that I wanted to get your input on.
The movie featured a brooding hero who really just wants to marry his girl and leave the vigilante justice of his town to someone else. His black sidekick is a quiet man who is always there with the right weapon to help in a pinch.
The villain is a maniacal sadist in a suit who has a couple of equally nutty sidekicks.
Into town rides the idealistic “kid” who thinks that the town deserves better than fist-packing, guns-blazing justice and wants to bring law and order to the town.
The kid ends up realizing that his kind of law and order still needs some good-old-fashioned head-knocking and maybe a gun or two to bring order to the town. In the meantime, he falls for the hero’s girl, she falls for him and the hero saves the town while making it look like the kid is responsible.
The kid becomes the town’s new hero and the real hero rides off into the sunset without the girl. Oh, his house burns down along the way.
In the end, those who are in the know about the real story decide not to let the secret out because ” When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
This movie was nominated for the Best Costume Design Oscar but didn’t win back in 1962.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has always been one of my favorite movies. How can you go wrong in a movie with both Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne playing leading roles?
What struck me about the movie is how closely it mirrors The Dark Night, a movie that I wrote about earlier this summer. Both movies feature a hero who saves the day and gives someone else credit but there is a difference.
Ransom (Stewart) ends up building his legacy as “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” even though Donovan (Wayne) tells him at the end of the movie that he’s the one who really killed Liberty. Ransom is elected as the territorial representative and eventually becomes a US senator. At the end of the movie it is clear that he has never been comfortable with the way he achieved his fame but apart from the newsmen who interview him, he never tells anyone. It isn’t even clear that he tells his wife. He ends up doing good and bringing his territory into the US as a state and order does come to Shinbone but it is because of a lie of omission that it happens. He had already been nominated by his town to the territorial convention before the gunfight and even though those who oppose him label him as a “cold-blooded killer” for killing Liberty, he doesn’t reveal the truth and gets elected as the representative in spite of that.
Should he have told what really happened? Donovan obviously didn’t want anyone to know so was there anything really done wrong by not revealing the truth?
In the Dark Knight, Batman takes the blame for what Two-Face did in order to preserve the image of Harvey Dent as the city’s white knight. Should he have? There does seem to be a problem with his ending line that “sometimes people deserve more than the truth,” as if covering up a person’s problems is okay if it leads to a greater good. Again, a sin of omission to preserve a greater good.
Do either of these movies provide a satisfactory answer? I’m still trying to figure that out.