AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Shane
Director: George Stevens (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1953
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Apr 1953; Los Angeles opening: 4 Jun 1953
Production Date:   late Jul--mid-Oct 1951
Duration (in mins):   118
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Alan Ladd (Shane)  
    Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett)  
    Van Heflin (Joe Starrett)  
  Introducing Brandon de Wilde (Joey Starrett)  
    Walter Jack Palance (Jack Wilson)  
    Ben Johnson (Chris Calloway)  
    Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis)  
    Emile Meyer (Rufe Ryker)  
    Elisha Cook Jr. (Stonewall Torrey)  
    Douglas Spencer (Shipstead)  
    John Dierkes (Morgan)  
    Ellen Corby (Mrs. Torrey)  
    Paul McVey (Sam Grafton)  
    John Miller (Atkey)  
    Edith Evanson (Mrs. Shipstead)  
    Leonard Strong (Ernie Wright)  
    Ray Spiker (Axel Johnson)  
    Janice Carroll (Susan Lewis)  
    Martin Mason (Ed Howells)  
    Helen Brown (Martha Lewis)  
    Nancy Kulp (Mrs. Howells)  
    Will Simonds (Homesteader)  
    Bill Dyer (Homesteader)  
    Howard J. Negley (Pete)  
    Steve Raines (Homesteader/Ryker man)  
    Beverly Washburn (Ruth Lewis)  
    George Lewis (Ryker man)  
    Chester W. Hannan (Ryker man)  
    Bill Cartledge (Ryker man)  
    Jack Sterling (Ryker man)  
    Henry Wills (Ryker man)  
    Rex Moore (Ryker man)  
    Ewing Brown (Ryker man)  
    Kathy Stainbrook (Lewis child)  
    Jo Ann Thompson (Lewis child)  
    Charles Quirk (Clerk)  
    David Wyatt (Homesteader boy)  

Summary: While playing on his Wyoming homestead, young Joey Starrett spies a lone rider approaching his house, then listens with great curiosity as Shane, the buckskin clad stranger, reveals to his father Joe that he is heading north, toward home. When Joey cocks the rifle he has been toting, Shane, startled by the noise, draws his gun with the speed of a gunslinger. Joe is disturbed by Shane’s behavior and, as a group of men ride up, sends him on his way. The men’s leader, grizzled cattle baron Rufe Ryker, accuses Joe of squatting on his grazing land and demands that he give up his homestead. When Joe refuses, Ryker’s men start to intimidate him until Shane suddenly reappears at Joe’s side. The men depart, and Joe’s wife Marian, who has observed everything from inside the house, urges Joe to invite Shane to dinner. Joey is thrilled to have Shane spend the evening with them, and at the end of the meal, Shane, reticent to talk about his past, goes outside to chop wood for the family. Joe joins in and the next day, the two men team up to pull a stubborn tree stump out of the ground. Later, Joey tells Shane that his parents want him to stay and innocently lets on that his father is concerned about Ryker’s threats. Shane, who has put away his gun, agrees to remain and heads to town to buy work clothes. Soon after, homesteader Ernie Wright arrives at the Starretts’ to announce that Ryker’s men have destroyed his wheat field and, consequently, he and his family are moving away. Joe begs Ernie to stay and calls for a meeting of the homestead men that night. Meanwhile, in town, Shane purchases clothes at Sam Grafton’s general store, then orders a soda pop in the adjoining saloon. There, Chris Calloway, one of Grafton’s men, calls Shane a “sodbuster” and tosses a glass of whiskey on his new shirt. Shane does not react to Calloway’s provocations, however, and walks out. That night, during the meeting, Joey overhears homesteader Fred Lewis, who witnessed the saloon exchange, declare that Shane did not stand up to Calloway. Marian reassures Joey that Shane is not a coward, but counsels him not to become too attached to him. Later, having decided to stick together as a group, the homesteaders and their families go to town to shop for the next day’s Fourth of July celebration. At Grafton’s, Calloway again confronts Shane in the saloon, but this time, Shane throws two drinks on Calloway and slugs him. After a grueling fistfight, Shane finally knocks out Calloway and is offered a job by Ryker. When Shane declines, Ryker accuses him of lusting after Marian, and despite pleas from Joey, Shane single-handedly takes on all of Ryker’s men. Joe aids Shane in the fracas, until Grafton, fed up with the destruction, demands a halt. As the homesteaders depart, Ryker vows to fight on and sends for notorious Cheyenne gunslinger Jack Wilson. Back at home, Joey gushes to Marian about his love for Shane, while Marian wrestles with her growing romantic feelings for the loner. The next day, after Joey admits to Shane that he sneaked a peek at his gun, Shane gives the boy some pointers on how to shoot and demonstrates his skill as a marksman. Though impressed, Marian expresses her disapproval of guns and asks Shane not to encourage Joey’s interest. Ernie, meanwhile, complains to neighbor Stonewall Torrey that because Ryker’s men killed his sow and ruined his fields, he is giving up. Angry, Stonewall, whose courage has been questioned by some of the homesteaders, goes to town and, in the saloon, criticizes Ryker for running Ernie off his land. Later, at the Fourth of July party, Joe and Marian also celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, and Marian shares a dance with Shane. When Stonewall arrives and announces that Ryker has hired a gunfighter, Shane guesses he is Wilson. Back at their house, the Starretts and Shane are met by Wilson, Ryker’s brother Morgan and Ryker, who in an attempt to appear reasonable, offers to sell Joe his land. Joe angrily rejects the idea, pointing out that the government already recognizes the homesteaders’ claims. In turn, Ryker complains that because he fought the Indians and slaved to make the land livable, he is entitled to own it, without fences. Ryker and Wilson depart peacefully, but in town, Ryker instructs Wilson to do whatever is necessary to defeat Joe. To that end, Wilson provokes a confrontation with Stonewall, then shoots him down when he makes a half-hearted move for his gun. With the nearest lawman a three-day ride away, Wilson’s claim of self-defense goes unchallenged. At Stonewall’s funeral, the Lewis family announce that they, too, are leaving their homestead, but Joe and Shane beseech their other neighbors to keep fighting. Just then, a fire is spotted at the Lewis place, and Ryker’s blatant sabotage strengthens Joe’s resolve to stop Ryker at any cost. That night, Ryker sends for Joe, while Joe prepares to challenge Ryker at gunpoint, ignoring Marian’s tearful pleas not to risk his life. Shane, who has been warned about Ryker’s plans by a reformed Calloway, dons his buckskins and straps on his gun, then fights Joe to keep him from leaving. When Shane hits Joe in the head with his gun butt, a terrified Joey screams hatefully at him, but Marian is relieved. Joe is knocked out, and aware that she will not see Shane again, Marian says a grateful goodbye. Joey trails Shane to the saloon and sees him goad Wilson into drawing his gun. Shane shoots Wilson dead, then shoots Ryker when he draws, and with Joey’s help, outdraws Morgan. Later, Joey apologizes for his angry words and begs Shane to return to the homestead. Gently declining, Shane tries to explain to the boy that he cannot change the man he is at heart and does not belong there. As Shane mounts his horse and rides off, Joey, devastated and confused, cries after him to "come back."



 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Production Text: George Stevens' Production
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Director: George Stevens (Dir)
  John Coonan (Asst dir)
  Fred Guiol (Assoc dir)
Producer: George Stevens (Prod)
  Ivan Moffat (Assoc prod)
Writer: A. B. Guthrie Jr. (Scr)
  Jack Sher (Addl dial)
Photography: Loyal Griggs (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Hal Pereira (Art dir)
  Walter Tyler (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Hornbeck (Ed)
  Tom McAdoo (Ed)
Set Decoration: Emile Kuri (Set dec)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
Music: Victor Young (Mus score)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Sd rec)
  Gene Garvin (Sd rec)
Special Effects: Irmin Roberts (Spec unit photog)
  Gordon Jennings (Spec photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Joe DeYong (Tech adv)
  Howie Horwitz (Asst to the prod)
  Charles Morton (Scr supv)
Color Personnel: Richard Mueller (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Put Your Little Foot," traditional; "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster.
Songs: "Goodbye Ol' Paint (I'm Leaving Cheyenne)," traditional.
Composer: Stephen Foster
Source Text: Based on the novel Shane by Jack Schaefer (Boston, 1949).
Authors: Jack Schaefer

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures Corp. 27/5/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP2892

PCA NO: 15895
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor

 
Genre: Western
 
Subjects (Major): Gunfighters
  Hero worship
  Homesteaders
  Land rights
  Marriage
  Ranchers
 
Subjects (Minor): Children
  Clothes
  Courage
  Dances
  Fights
  Fires
  Fourth of July
  Funerals
  General stores
  Gunfights
  Hired killers
  Saloons
  Transformation
  Wyoming

Note: According to a HR news item, when Paramount acquired Jack Schaefer’s novel Shane in Nov 1949, both Alan Ladd and Ray Milland were under consideration for the title role. William Holden was originally cast in the role of “Joe Starrett” and was not replaced by Van Heflin until just before the start of production. Modern sources claim that director George Stevens wanted Holden to co-star with Montgomery Clift, who had starred in Stevens’ 1951 film, A Place in the Sun (see above entry), but that Clift was not interested. Modern sources also state that Stevens’ son George, Jr. read the Schaefer novel one summer in college and suggested his father adapt it. According to a May 1966 Films and Filming article, director Howard Hawks then recommended that Stevens hire Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. B. Guthrie, on whose book Hawks’s film The Big Sky (see above entry) was based, to write the script for Shane , even though Guthrie had never before written a screenplay.
       Shane was Stevens’ first Western since his 1935 RKO release Annie Oakley (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ); it was also his last. Artist Joe DeYoung (DeYong in the onscreen credits) worked with Stevens to create authentic costumes and décor, according to news items. Modern sources note that Stevens and DeYoung, who could not speak, traveled the West together and did months of research to achieve the most realistic look possible. Stevens also studied the photographs and drawings of William Henry Jackson and the paintings of Charles Russell, according to modern sources. As noted by news items, location shooting took place near Jackson Hole, WY, against a backdrop of the Grand Teton Mountains. An entire Western street was built, and according to modern sources, Stevens constructed the cemetery and town sets next to each other, so that they could be viewed in the same frame, if required. Specific location sites included Menor’s Ferry on the Snake River, according to a Sep 1951 NYT item.
       Shane marked Jean Arthur’s first screen appearance since the 1948 Paramount release A Foreign Affair (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ) and was the final film of her career. In 1956, she starred in a short-lived television series, then appeared occasionally in stage roles. Although onscreen credits “introduce” child actor Brandon de Wilde, and Shane was de Wilde’s first screen assignment, his first released film was A Member of the Wedding (see above entry). According to an Aug 1951 HR news item, Alan Ladd’s three children, David, Alana and Alan, Jr., made their screen debuts in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources note that Stevens, Jr. worked as a company clerk on the production.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: To enhance the realism of the picture, Stevens opted to shoot in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions. Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman, as well as the Supervisor of Grand Teton National Park and members of the Rockefeller family, toured the film’s set. Afterward, the Rockefeller group requested that the sets be moved to the Rockefellers’ Ferry Museum on the Snake River. Stevens carefully choreographed the fistfight scene, again striving for realism. For the final gunfight scene, Stevens attached leather belts to the actors who were to be “shot.” Every time the prop gun was fired, a crew member yanked the appropriate victim’s belt, causing him to jerk backward, as though hit by a bullet. According to the NYT obituary for stuntman Russell M. Saunders, Saunders acted as Ladd's stunt double in the film.
       According to a 29 Apr 1953 Var item, the film, which was shot in 1951, prior to the advent of 3-D, widescreen and stereo processes, was roadshown for several months so that it could be given the new “widened screen treatment.” The film, which according to the Films and Filming article cost $3 million to make, was projected in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio for its Radio City Music Hall screenings in New York and its Grauman’s Chinese run in Los Angeles. According to the Var review, the audience for the Los Angeles trade preview was “perched on makeshift seating” to accommodate the “experimental widescreen” projection, and that “the widescreen projection did contribute…to a sense of the bigness.” The NYT reviewer commented that the widescreen projection “slightly favors the width,” but that “the difference is barely apparent, except that some scenes appear trimmed at the bottom and the top.” The Los Angeles run also featured stereo sound, according to a 30 May 1953 LAT item. In modern interviews, filmmaker Warren Beatty claimed that he consulted with Stevens about Shane and attempted to imitate the film's gunfight sound effects for a climactic gun sequence in his 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde (see AFI Catalog of Feature of Films, 1961-70 ).
       Shane was uniformally lauded upon its release and is considered by many critics to be one of the best Western films ever made. The LAEx reviewer ranked it “among the all-time great films,” while the MPHPD reviewer labelled it “an achievement in the cinematic art…the like of which showmen have rarely seen.” Shane received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing (Screenplay); and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Palance and de Wilde). The film won an Academy Award in the Best Cinematography (Color) category, and Stevens received the 1953 Irving J. Thalberg Memorial Award, for “high quality of production for the current award year and preceding years.” Shane was also voted one of the ten best films of 1953 by the National Board of Review and FD . Although Ladd was not nominated for an Oscar, his performance in Shane is considered one of his best and garnered him a Photoplay Gold Medallion award.
       Ladd and Van Heflin starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, broadcast on 22 Feb 1955. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower requested, and received, the only 16mm print of the film to show to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David, MD, according to a HR news item. The film was reissued in 1966, and in 1981, was one of five pictures selected to tour China after a thirty-year drought of American films, according to a news item. In 2007, Shane was ranked 69th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 69th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. The film has also been included on the Library of Congress' National Film Preservation list.
       In 1968, in anticipation of Shane ’s first broadcast on television, Stevens cautioned the ABC network about showing the film with commercial interruptions, noting that he was still appealing a lower court loss against the NBC network for its broadcast of his 1951 film A Place in the Sun . Although it is not known whether ABC heeded Stevens’ warnings, the director eventually lost the appeal. For more information about Stevens’ lawsuit, see above entry for A Place in the Sun . Shane , a television series based on Schaefer’s story, starring David Carradine and Jill Ireland, was broadcast on the ABC network between 10 Sep and 31 Dec 1966.

 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   11 Apr 53   p. 20.
Box Office   18 Apr 1953.   
Daily Variety   13 Apr 53   p. 3.
Daily Variety   14 Feb 1968   p. 1.
Film Daily   13 Apr 53   p. 6.
Film Daily   10 Jun 1966.   
Hollywood Reporter   21 Nov 1949.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Mar 1951   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jul 1951   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Aug 1951   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 1951   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 1951   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 1951   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 53   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 1959.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 Sep 1966.   
Life   27 Apr 1953   pp. 85-87.
Look   19 May 1953.   
Los Angeles Examiner   5 Jun 1953.   
Los Angeles Herald Express   30 Apr 1981.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Apr 53   p. 1797.
Newsweek   1 May 1953.   
New York Times   9 Sep 1951.   
New York Times   23 Apr 53   p. 37.
New York Times   24 Apr 53   p. 30.
Time   13 Apr 1953.   
Variety   15 Apr 53   p. 6.
Variety   29 Apr 1953.   

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