Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shane: Selections from Victor Young's Score

By Nicholas Stix


Shane is the greatest Western ever made, and George Stevens' masterpiece. Not A Place in the Sun, not Giant, though he tried mightily in both pictures.

In Jack Schaefer's childish, eponymous novel, the title character is tall, strapping, dark-haired and invincible. Stevens' genius started with the casting: He chose 5'5" Alan Ladd, who wasn't considered a great actor, and had him play the role blond. And unlike other directors, who typically made Laddie look like a normal-sized man, Stevens surrounded him with cattle baron Ruf Ryker's tall, strapping thugs, so as to emphasize Ladd's diminutive stature. Stevens' Shane is also very much a mortal. At picture's end, we're not told if he is going off to die, or to nurse his wound. I suspect he is dying, but doesn't want little Joey Starrett to know, and possibly blame himself. (Kids are funny that way.)

Meanwhile, Stevens takes the dullest, most mundane aspects of farm work, clearing a tree stump and, with composer Victor Young's wizardry, turns it into an epic battle pitting man against nature, and an occasion for male bonding that will become a matter of life and death, and last a lifetime.

People always say, "The book was better," and they're almost always right. Shane is one of the rare, grand exceptions to the rule.

Amuggle15, whom I thank for preparing and uploading the selections, writes,

One of the greatest westerns - both film and score. The selections are from the 1996 re-recording performed by The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with Richard Kaufman conducting. Score arranged by Patrick Russ. The selections here are: 1) Prelude 2) The Tree Stump and 3) Cemetery Hill.


Anonymous said...

I finally obtained a big screen TV last November. Tomorrow night, I'll watch my DVD of "Shane" on it.

I've worked on removing stumps. If you don't cut loose every root, it can't be done. In the 19th Century, they didn't have a tractor with cable hooked to the stump as we did.

David In TN

hirsch said...

"Once Upon a Time in the West" is the GOAT.

Dutch Boy said...

The 6 shot pistol was a the great equalizer. A little guy like Ladd could play a man who was dangerous because he was fast with a gun.