The film was the first flat wide-screen color western to be produced and was a box-office and a critical hit. It received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, and won one - Loyal Griggs for Best Cinematography, Color.
In 1993, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
'Shane' is an iconic, timeless Western, a classic Western that no one who sees it will ever forget. Everything in the film, in fact is a pure image: the hero in white buckskin who happens to ride into town (Alan Ladd); the powerful, conniving rancher (Emile Meyer) with his ill-mannered cowboys; the simple homesteader (Van Heflin) with his dutiful, wholesome wife (Jean Arthur) and twinkle-eyed son (Brandon De Wilde); the taciturn cautious, aging bartender and owner of the general store (Paul McVey); the timid Swedish settler (Douglas Spencer); the dark, sinuous, slimy, personification of Evil incarnate, Wilson the hired gun (Jack Palance, dressed in black from head to toe). Indeed, the characters alone make the story.
Shot at Jackson Hole, and before the days of wide screen and Dolby Stereo, Shane is studded with iconic visions. The purple Grand Tetons in the background, a deer grazing in a mirroring pool while the boy takes pot shots at it with his toy rifle, the filthy sneer on the rancher's face when Starrett (Heflin) refuses to give up his land, the look in Palance's eyes when he guns the gunless Frank 'Stonewall' Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.) down in the mud. Director George Stevens makes the mud tactile, like melted chocolate.
The film is dotted with classic sequences which are worth seeing again and again, such as the stump being uprooted in the yard, or when Wilson struts onto the wooden sidewalk with his spurred boots ringing, the town dog is shown up close, creeping away with its tail between its legs. And after Shane has met the Starretts and accepted their invitation to dinner, he feasts on an apple pie. This is the apple pie to end apple pies, steaming, golden, latticed, voluminous, lifted out of the oven by a pretty gal in blue gingham and served up with good black coffee. It is apple pie like this that made the American West, we may well think; not guns not cattle not the dreamy far-sighted gaze toward the next horizon, but honest American apple pie.
The story line is a simple morality tale. The evil rancher wants the honest homesteader's land. Shane settles in with the homesteader to help him protect it, in the process charming the tidy wife - perhaps a little too much - and the goggle-eyed boy completely out of his chidhood. Wilson is imported to clean out the settlers, and but for the intervention of Shane - gun to gun, eye to eye, Good against Evil - he would surely succeed.
But Good triumphs, so very deeply, indeed, that Shane comes to see his own effect on this charming little family, mounts his obedient steed, and rides away at film's end. He first gently explains to Joey why he must leave and then, in an unforgettable movie ending, he rides off into a sunset that outshines all sunsets. After him runs an anguished and confused Little Joey, crying out "Come back, Shane!"
Main CastAlan Ladd ... Shane
Jean Arthur ... Marian Starrett
Van Heflin ... Joe Starrett
Brandon De Wilde ... Joey Starrett
Jack Palance ... Jack Wilson
Ben Johnson ... Chris Calloway
Edgar Buchanan ... Fred Lewis
Emile Meyer ... Rufus Ryker
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Frank 'Stonewall' Torrey
John Dierkes ... Morgan Ryker
Ellen Corby ... Mrs. Liz Torrey
Douglas Spencer ... Axel 'Swede' Shipstead
Edith Evanson ... Mrs. Shipstead
Paul McVey ... Sam Grafton
John Miller ... Will Atkey, bartender
CreditsDirector ... George Stevens
Producer ... George Stevens
Production Company ... Paramount Pictures
Story by ... Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer
Screenplay ... A.B. Guthrie Jr.
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Music ... Victor Young
Cinematography ... Loyal Griggs
Release date ... April 23, 1953
Running time ... 118 minutes
Academy Awards1 Win:
Cinematography ... Loyal Griggs
5 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... George Stevens
Best Director ... George Stevens
Best Supporting Actor ... Brandon De Wilde
Best Supporting Actor ... Jack Palance
Writing (Screenplay) ... A.B. Guthrie Jr.