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Shane is a western film produced and directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., based on the novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer. The film stars Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Van Heflin, and features Brandon De Wilde, Elisha Cook Jr., Jack Palance and Ben Johnson. The cinematography was by Loyal Griggs, with a music score by Victor Young.


Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur
A mysterious stranger who calls himself Shane (Alan Ladd) drifts into an isolated western valley. It soon becomes apparent that he is a gunslinger, and he finds himself drawn into a conflict between simple homesteader Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) and powerful cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer), who wants to force Starrett and every other homesteader in the valley off the land. Shane accepts a job as a farmhand, but finds Starrett's young son Joey (Brandon DeWilde) drawn to him for his strength and skill with a gun. Shane himself is uncomfortably drawn to Starrett's wholesomely charming wife, Marian (Jean Arthur).

As tensions mount between the factions, Ryker hires Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), a skilled gunslinger. After Wilson kills another homesteader (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who had stood up to him, Joe Starrett decides to take it upon himself to go kill Wilson and Ryker and save the town; however, he is stopped by Shane who insists on going himself. Starrett and Shane fight over who should go on to face Wilson; Shane regretfully uses his gun to hit Joe over the head and knock him out, knowing this was the only way to prevent Joe from facing Ryker and getting killed. Shane then goes to take on Wilson in a climactic showdown, killing him and Ryker, but being wounded in the shootout. After urging young Joey to grow up strong and take care of both of his parents, Shane rides away to parts unknown.

As Shane rides away, Joey calls after him, "Pa's got things for you to do! And Mother wants you. I know she does." The movie closes with Joey shouting "Shane! Come back!" as he watches Shane riding into the mountains.


Thirty two years later Clint Eastwood directed and acted in a remake of Shane entitled Pale Rider in which a stranger drifts into a mining settlement and helps miners in their fight against the local magnate while at the same time consummating a romantic relationship with the female head of household where he is staying. The magnate hires professional guns and Eastwood kills every one of them. As he rides off into the mountains the daughter of the woman he has made love to shouts her love for him.


Production notes

Although the film is fiction, elements of the setting are derived from Wyomingmarker's Johnson County War. The physical setting is the high plains near Jackson Hole, Wyomingmarker, and many shots feature the Grand Tetonmarker massif looming in the near distance. Other filming took place at Big Bear Lakemarker, San Bernardino National Forestmarker, the Iverson Ranch, Chatsworthmarker and at Paramount Studios in Hollywoodmarker, California.

Director George Stevens originally cast Montgomery Clift as Shane, and William Holden as Joe Starrett. When they both proved unavailable, the film was nearly abandoned. 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.

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. The studio felt the film would never recoup its costs. In fact, the film ended up making a significant profit. Another story 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.

Jean Arthur was not the first choice to play Marian; Katharine Hepburn was originally considered for the role. Even though she had not made a picture in five years, Arthur accepted the part at the request of George 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, significantly older than her 2 male costars), although she later appeared in theater and a short-lived television series.

Jack Palance had problems with horses and Alan Ladd with guns. The scene where Shane practices shooting in front of Joey required 116 takes. A scene where Jack Palance mounts his horse was actually a shot of him dismounting, but played in reverse. As well, the original planned introduction of Wilson galloping into town was replaced with him simply walking in on his horse, which was noted as improving the entrance by making him seem more threatening.

The film opened in New York City at Radio City Music Hallmarker on April 23, 1953. According to Motion Picture Daily:

Opening day business at the Music Hall was close to capacity. The audience at the first performance applauded at the end of a fight sequence and again at the end of the picture.

Shane ended its run at Radio City Music Hall on May 20, 1953, racking up $114,000 in four weeks at Radio City.

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. Paramount, in conjunction with the management of Radio City Music Hall, installed a screen measuring 50 feet wide by 30 feet high, replacing the Hall's previous screen, which was 25 feet high by 34 feet wide. 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. 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 March 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. 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 recreate the overwhelming sound of gunfire. Warren Beatty cited this aspect of Shane as inspiration during the filming of Bonnie and Clyde (from the documentary "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey").

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.

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

Awards and honors


  • Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Brandon De Wilde; Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Jack Palance; Best Director, George Stevens; Best Picture, George Stevens; Best Writing, Screenplay, A.B. Guthrie Jr.; 1954.


  • In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Shane was acknowledged as the third best film in the western genre.

American Film Institute recognition

Copyright status in Japan

In 2006, Shane was the subject of a major legal case in Japanmarker involving the expiration of its copyright in Japan. First Trading Corporation had been selling budget-priced copies of public domain movies, including Shane, as Japanese law only protected cinematographic works for 50 years from the year it was published—which meant that Shane fell into the public domain in 2003. In a lawsuit filed by Paramount, it was contested that Shane was not in the public domain in Japan due to an amendment which extended the copyright term for these works from 50 to 70 years, and came into effect on January 1, 2004. It was later ruled that the new law was not retroactive, and any film produced during or before 1953 was not eligible for the extension.


  2. "Para. Wide-Screen At Music Hall for Premiere of 'Shane'". Motion Picture Daily, April 8, 1953.
  3. "Para. Wide-Screen At Music Hall for Premiere of 'Shane'". Motion Picture Daily, April 8, 1953.
  4. "'Wax,' 'Shane' End Sturdy B'Way Runs". Motion Picture Daily, May 20, 1953.
  5. Weaver, William R., "All Para. Films Set for 3 to 5 Aspect Ratio". Motion Picture Daily, March 25, 1953.
  6. "Hall Alters Projection Equipment for 'Shane'". Motion Picture Daily, April 8, 1953.
  7. "Para. Wide-Screen At Music Hall for Premiere of 'Shane'". Motion Picture Daily, April 8, 1953.
  8. Weaver, William R., "All Para. Films Set for 3 to 5 Aspect Ratio". Motion Picture Daily, March 25, 1953.
  9. "Midwest 'Shane' Premiere at Lake". Motion Picture Daily, May 13, 1953.

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