The most popular and durable Hollywood character is the lone hero. The man, or woman, who against all odds, confronts and defeats evil. In the old days, there was usually a shoot out, a duel on the dusty street of a frontier town between the forces of darkness and the forces of decency.
From the frontier marshall to the honest lawyer to the incorruptible rogue cop, Hollywood has elevated this persona to iconic status. He is a noble protagonist to celebrate and emulate.
But Hollywood, the principle author of this heroic image, is home to cowards.
We continue our survey of the twenty greatest movies of the 1950s.
For a complete listing of the greatest movies of the 20, 30s and 40s, click here.
7. Shane, 1953.
The gunshots in Shane are unlike any other gunshots in Hollywood history. They are heart-stopping thunderbolts, from either heaven or hell.
Shane, a mysterious gunslinger, rides into an isolated valley in the post-civil war Wyoming territory and finds work on a struggling farm owned by Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) and his wife, Marian, Jean Arthur, in her last Hollywood role. Their young son, Joey (Brandon deWilde) is drawn to Shane and wants Shane to teach him how to shoot.
Of course, there’s a ruthless cattle baron, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer), who wants to force Starrett and others off their land. All the basic elements of the classic western are in place. But Marian is an anti-gun fanatic, and she insists that guns will have no place in her son’s life.