July 28, 2021

An answer to the riddle of Liberty Valance

Lee Marvin in The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance

The murder of Liberty Valance
Eduardo Torres-Dulce
Hatari Books. Madrid, 2020. 408 pages. € 39

A train, a stagecoach, a coffin, a cactus flower, a silver whip, a newspaper, a Winchester, a porch, a ranch, a train … It is impossible to conceptually encompass John Ford’s cinema, of which it would be risky to highlight one single movie for being the same narrative body, so complex, subtle and poetic that each title is a piece of the same cosmos. What unites The Quiet Man, Stagecoach, Audaces Mission, Desert Centaurs, Fort Apache O The man who killed Liberty Valance in addition to its monumental roster of actors led by John Wayne and his famous John Ford Stock Company? The answer is Eduardo Torres-Dulce (Madrid, 1950) in this passionate volume about one of Ford’s most representative films, probably the involuntary epitome of all his work.

The murder of Liberty Valance It is not a movie story, not even a rigorous moviegoer analysis. Is much more. We meet a journey —homeric, yes, why not say it— to the entrails of a director and his psyche narrated with the fervor of a follower who has scrutinized (we don’t want to think about how many times he has seen the film) down to the smallest detail of each shot, of each dialogue (it would be the reason for another book to collect the lapidary phrases of characters such as the journalist Dutton Peabody), of each place of each object … “For John Ford – he tells us – a general shot is a narrative universe of gazes, a lesson in cinema, montage, action, composition of the frames and the moral rhythm of the story.”

Contemplate this ghostly, fragmented, sentimental story? by Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and Hallie (Vera Miles) through his penetrating gaze he compensates for the enigma of this masterpiece (not even Wayne understood the importance of his character believing that the spotlights were on Stewart) in which we discover a twilight Ithaca where if the legend surpasses reality, the legend is always printed.