theatrical poster
Directed byGeorge Stevens
Screenplay byA.B. Guthrie Jr.
Jack Sher
Produced byGeorge Stevens
StarringAlan Ladd
Jean Arthur
Van Heflin
Brandon deWilde
Jack Palance
CinematographyLoyal Griggs
Edited byWilliam Hornbeck
Tom McAdoo
Music byVictor Young
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 23, 1953 (1953-04-23)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.1 million
Box office$20,000,000[1]

Shane is a 1953 American Technicolor Western film from Paramount,[2][3] noted for its landscape cinematography and contributions to the genre.[4]

It was produced and directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.,[5] based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer. Its Oscar-winning cinematography was by Loyal Griggs. The film stars Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur (in the last feature, and only color, film of her career)[6] and Van Heflin, and features Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance, Emile Meyer, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Ben Johnson.[4][5]

Shane was listed No. 45 in the 2007 edition of AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list, and No. 3 on AFI's 10 Top 10 in the 'Western' category.


Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur

Shane (Alan Ladd), a skilled, laconic gunfighter with a mysterious past,[4] rides into an isolated valley in the sparsely settled state of Wyoming, some time after the Civil War. At dinner with local rancher Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) and his wife Marian (Jean Arthur), he learns that a war of intimidation is being waged on the valley's settlers. Though they have claimed their land legally under the Homestead Acts, a ruthless cattle baron, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer), has hired rogues and henchmen to harass them and drive them out of the valley. Starrett offers Shane a job, and he accepts.

At the town's general store, Shane and other homesteaders are loading up supplies. Shane enters the saloon adjacent to the store, where Ryker's men are drinking, and orders a soda pop for the Starretts' son, Joey (Brandon deWilde). Chris Calloway (Ben Johnson), one of Ryker's men, throws a shot of whiskey on Shane's shirt. "Smell like a man!" he taunts. Shane doesn't rise to the bait; but Calloway continues provoking him. Finally, Shane orders two shots of whiskey, pours one on Calloway's shirt and throws the other in his face, then knocks him to the ground. A brawl ensues; Shane prevails, with Starrett's help. Ryker declares that the next time they meet, "the air will be filled with gun smoke."

Joey is drawn to Shane, and to his gun. Shane shows him how to wear a holster and demonstrates his shooting skills; but Marian interrupts the lesson. Guns, she says, are not going to be a part of her son's life. Shane counters that a gun is a tool, no better nor worse than a hoe or axe, and is as good or as bad as the man using it. Marian retorts that the valley would be better off if there weren't any guns, including Shane's, in it.

Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), an unscrupulous gunfighter working for Ryker, deliberately provokes Frank "Stonewall" Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.), a hot-tempered ex-Confederate homesteader. "Them rebs are all Southern trash," Wilson says. "You're a low-down, lyin' Yankee," responds Torrey. "Prove it," Wilson replies—and when the inexperienced farmer goes for his gun, shoots him dead. Fear spreads through the valley. At Torrey's funeral, there is talk of giving in to Ryker and moving on; but after they unite to fight a fire set by Ryker's men, they find new determination and resolve to continue the fight against Ryker's evil ambitions.

Ryker invites Starrett to a meeting at the saloon to negotiate a settlement—and then orders Wilson to kill him when he arrives. Calloway, unable to tolerate Ryker's treachery any longer, warns Shane of the double-cross. Starrett says no matter, he will shoot it out with Wilson, and asks Shane to look after Marian and Joey if he dies. Shane says he must go instead, because Starrett is no match for Wilson in a gunfight. Starrett is adamant, and Shane is forced to knock him unconscious. A distraught Marian asks Shane why he is doing this. For her, he replies, and her husband and son, and all the other decent people who want a chance to live in peace in the valley.

At the saloon, Shane tells Ryker he cannot prevail, because times have changed; cattle barons and gunfighters are both relics of the Old West. Then he turns to Wilson: "I hear you're a low-down Yankee liar," he says. "Prove it," replies Wilson, and draws. Shane beats him to the draw, then shoots Ryker too, as he draws a hidden gun. Before Ryker's brother Morgan, concealed in a dark balcony overhead, can shoot Shane in the back, Joey shouts a warning, and Shane kills Morgan as well.

Shane tells Joey to go home and tell his mother that the settlers have won, that there are no more guns in the valley. As Joey reaches out, blood drips onto his hands; Shane's left arm hangs limply at his side as he mounts his horse. In an iconic closing scene, Shane rides out of town, slumped forward in his saddle, ignoring Joey's desperate cries of "Shane! Come back!"


Jack Palance was the last living top billed cast member when he died in 2006. Beverly Washburn, who played one of the homesteader children though uncredited, may be the last living cast member.[citation needed]

Production notes

Behind the scenes of the filming of Shane.

Film rights to the novel were purchased by Paramount in 1949. The project was assigned to producer Robert Fellows. In February 1950 it was announced that Alan Ladd would star.[7] Shane would be his second Western in a row, following Branded.[8] Before Shane, however, Ladd made another Western, Red Mountain.Template:SfnNY Time Staff

Although never explicitly stated, elements of the setting for Shane were derived from Wyoming's Johnson County War (1892), the archetypal cattlemen-homesteaders conflict, which also served as the background for The Virginian and Heaven's Gate.[9] The physical setting is the high plains near Jackson, Wyoming, and many shots feature the Grand Teton massif looming in the near distance. Other filming took place at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Director George Stevens originally wanted Montgomery Clift as Shane and William Holden as Joe Starrett; when both proved unavailable, the film was nearly abandoned.[10] Stevens asked studio head Y. Frank Freeman for a list of available actors with current contracts. Within three minutes, he chose Alan Ladd, Van Heflin and Jean Arthur, though Arthur was not the first choice to play Marian; Katharine Hepburn was originally considered for the role. Even though Arthur had not made a picture in five years, she accepted the part at the request of Stevens, with whom she had worked in two earlier films, The Talk of the Town (1942) and The More the Merrier (1943) for which she received her only Oscar nomination. Shane marked her last film appearance (when the film was shot she was 50 years old), although she later appeared in theater and a short-lived television series.

Although the film was made between July and October 1951, it was not released until 1953 due to director Stevens' extensive editing. The film cost so much to make that at one point Paramount negotiated its sale to Howard Hughes, who later pulled out of the arrangement.[citation needed] The studio felt the film would never recoup its costs, though it ended up making a significant profit. Another story[specify] reported that Paramount was going to release the film as "just another western" until Hughes watched a rough cut of the film and offered to buy it on the spot from Paramount for his RKO Radio Pictures. Hughes' offer made Paramount reconsider the film for a major release.

Jack Palance had problems with horses and Alan Ladd with guns.[10] The scene where Shane practices shooting in front of Joey required 116 takes. A scene where Jack Palance (credited as Walter Jack Palance) mounts his horse was actually a shot of him dismounting (itself shown a few minutes earlier), but played in reverse, because Palance had been unable to mount the horse. Also, the original planned introduction of Palance's character galloping into town was replaced with him simply riding his horse at a walk, which was noted as improving the entrance by making him seem more threatening.[10] In the scene in which Alan Ladd shoots Jack Palance twice, Ladd noticeably blinks as his gun fires.

The final scene, in which the wounded Shane explained to the distraught Joey why he had to leave, was moving for the entire cast and crew except Brandon deWilde. "Every time Ladd spoke his lines of farewell, deWilde crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue. Finally, Ladd called to the boy's father, 'Make that kid stop or I'll beat him over the head with a brick.' DeWilde behaved."[11]

Technical details

Shane was the first film to be projected in a "flat" widescreen, a format that Paramount invented in order to offer audiences something that television could not—a panoramic screen.[12] Paramount, in conjunction with the management of Radio City Music Hall, installed a screen measuring 50 feet wide by 30 feet high,[13] replacing the Hall's previous screen, which was 34 feet wide by 25 feet high.[14] Although the film's image was shot using the standard 1.37:1 Academy ratio, Paramount picked Shane to debut their new wide-screen system because it was composed largely of long and medium shots that would not be compromised by cropping the image. Using a newly cut aperture plate in the movie projector, as well as a wider-angle lens, the film was exhibited in its first-run venues at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Just before the premiere, Paramount announced that all of their films would be shot for this ratio from then on.[12] This was changed in 1954, when the studio changed their house aspect ratio to 1.85:1.

The film was originally released with a conventional optical soundtrack in April 1953, but the success of the film convinced the producers to re-mix the soundtrack in May with a new three-track, stereophonic soundtrack, which was recorded and played on a 35mm magnetic full coat reel installed by Altec, in interlock on another dubber in the projection booth.[15] This process was new to the general public, only having been debuted in New York City with This is Cinerama and nationally with Warner Bros. picture, House of Wax.

The film was also one of the first films to attempt to re-create the overwhelming sound of gunfire. Warren Beatty cited this aspect of Shane as inspiration during the filming of Bonnie and Clyde.[16]

In addition, Shane was one of the first films in which actors were attached to hidden wires that yanked them backwards when they were shot from the front. Stevens also used a small cannon and fired it into a garbage can to create the loud report of the pistol for maximum effect. Stevens had been in World War II and had seen what a single bullet can do to a man.[17]

In the mid to late 1970s, the Welsh television station HTV Cymru/Wales broadcast a version dubbed into the Welsh language.[18]

Assistant producer was Ivan Moffat who provides commentary on the DVD release of Shane, along with George Stevens, Jr.


"That's just what I need — to get advice from a guy who never saw Shane."

Henry Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli, Happy Days[9]

Shane premiered in New York City at Radio City Music Hall on April 23, 1953,[14] and grossed $114,000 in its four weeks there.[19] In all, the film earned $8 million in North America over its initial run.[20]

Bosley Crowther called the film a "rich and dramatic mobile painting of the American frontier scene". He continued:

Shane contains something more than the beauty and the grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains. It contains a tremendous comprehension of the bitterness and passion of the feuds that existed between the new homesteaders and the cattlemen on the open range. It contains a disturbing revelation of the savagery that prevailed in the hearts of the old gun-fighters, who were simply legal killers under the frontier code. And it also contains a very wonderful understanding of the spirit of a little boy amid all the tensions and excitements and adventures of a frontier home.

Crowther called "the concept and the presence" of Joey, the little boy played by Brandon deWilde, "key to permit[ting] a refreshing viewpoint on material that's not exactly new. For it's this youngster's frank enthusiasms and naive reactions that are made the solvent of all the crashing drama in A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s script."[21]

Since its release, Shane has spawned numerous imitators, among them, Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider released in 1985.[4][22]

Woody Allen has called Shane "George Stevens' masterpiece", on his 2001 list of great American films, along with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, White Heat, Double Indemnity, The Informer and The Hill. Shane, he wrote, "... is a great movie and can hold its own with any film, whether it's a Western or not."[23]

Influence on later works

The pair of episodes "Come Back, Shame" and "It's How You Play the Game" of the TV series Batman featured a villain named Shame, a parody of the hero Shane.[24] The scene when Joey hides under the saloon doors was referenced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Fistful of Datas", when Alexander hid under the saloon doors as his father was about get into a gunfight.

Awards and honors




American Film Institute recognition

Copyright status in Japan

In 2006 Shane was the subject of litigation in Japan involving its copyright status in that country. Two Japanese companies began selling budget-priced copies of Shane in 2003, based on a Japanese copyright law that, at the time, protected cinematographic works for 50 years from the year of their release. After the Japanese legislature amended the law in 2004 to extend the duration of motion picture copyrights from 50 to 70 years, Paramount and its Japanese distributor filed suit against the two companies. A Japanese court ruled that the amendment was not retroactive, and therefore any film released during or prior to 1953 remained in the public domain in Japan.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Box Office Information for Shane. The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  2. ^ Variety film review; April 15, 1953, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; April 18, 1953, page 63.
  4. ^ a b c d Andrew, Geoff. "Shane", Time Out Film Guide, Time Out Guides Ltd., London, 2006.
  5. ^ a b "Shane". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  6. ^ Vermilye 2012, p. 143.
  7. ^ Brady & 1950-A, p. 42.
  8. ^ Brady & 1950-B, p. 29.
  9. ^ a b Hyams 1984, p. 115.
  10. ^ a b c Turner Classic Movies,, "'Shane' (1953) - Trivia" Retrieved 2015-08-08
  11. ^ Hyams 1984, p. 116.
  12. ^ a b Weaver, William R., "All Para. Films Set for 3 to 5 Aspect Ratio". Motion Picture Daily, March 25, 1953.
  13. ^ "Hall Alters Projection Equipment for 'Shane'". Motion Picture Daily, April 8, 1953.
  14. ^ a b Lev 2003, p. 116.
  15. ^ "Midwest 'Shane' Premiere at Lake". Motion Picture Daily, May 13, 1953.
  16. ^ George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey[page needed]
  17. ^ "Film Genre" The Western (2002)
  18. ^ "Dr. J.R.P. Evans" The role of Adult education in preserving the identity of an ethnic minority: the Welsh case (1991)
  19. ^ "'Wax,' 'Shane' End Sturdy B'Way Runs". Motion Picture Daily, May 20, 1953.
  20. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p. 34
  21. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 24, 1953). "Shane (1953)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  22. ^ TCM Movie Database - "Pale Rider" (1985) Retrieved 2015-08-09
  23. ^ Lyman, Rick (August 3, 2001). "Watching Movies With: Woody Allen; Coming Back To 'Shane'". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  24. ^ van Heerden 1998, p. 162.
  25. ^ American Film Institute (June 17, 2008). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  26. ^ "Top Western". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  27. ^ Mitani, Hidehiro (Autumn–Winter 2007). "Argument for the Extension of the Copyright Protection over Cinematographic Works". CASRIP Newsletter. UW School of Law. Retrieved May 27, 2015.


Further reading