Daily Archives: March 8, 2014

Liberty Valance and Walter White

liberty valance

My favorite Western is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”  You know, the one that had Lee Marvin portraying a very evil man by the name of Liberty Valance? Jimmy Stewart played a very nice book-smart innocent young attorney.  And of course, John Wayne played the cantankerous, wise cowboy named Tom. Jimmy Stewart (Ransom in the movie) was married to Vera Miles (of course). Ms. Miles is Hallie in the movie.  There’s some of that male jealousy thing going on between Stewart and Wayne regarding Hallie.  But in the end, well, you know Tom/John.  He just couldn’t settle down with the little lady.  Even Vera Miles.

Everyone (let alone me) hated Liberty Valance.  He was evil through and through.  He shot people just for the fun of it.  And his idea of a good time Saturday night was coming into a nice western town and tormenting the drunks, women, and children.

Okay, so everybody wanted Liberty Valance dead. Capoot. But no one was crazy enough to try to kill him. Finally, mean Liberty along with his gang of no-goods destroy Jimmy Stewart’s newspaper office (yeah, he was the local newspaper editor too).  Jimmy/Ransom comes back from the saloon (he was a little drunk because he thought Vera/Hallie was in love with John/Tom). He finds his office completely ransacked and destroyed.  In a blind rage he confronts Liberty and challenges him to a duel in the middle of the town’s street.  The question of his sobriety had to enter into this fateful decision.

Needless to say, Liberty is shot dead.  Jimmy/Ransom is know throughout the country as the man who shot Liberty Valance.  Consequently he won a U.S. Senate seat and paved the way for the wild west to be considered as more than its name implied. John/Tom became forgotten as Jimmy/Ransom became famous and a very well respected man earning this respect through fair and great governance.

However, there was one very prominent misconception.  Jimmy/Ransom was not the man who shot Liberty Valance. John/Tom was. During the duel while Jimmy/Ransom cocked his gun and fired John/Tom also fired from across the darkened night street, hitting Liberty in the chest and killing him.

I loved this movie because of its ambiguity, its moral code, and its poignant portrayal of a misunderstood curmudgeon of a cowboy.  The kind that John Wayne portrayed better than anyone else.  I loved that Jimmy/Ransom struggled with his conscience for many, many years. Only to confront himself during a newspaper interview after Tom’s funeral. Resolution.

My other favorite Western has all the nuances of any John Ford/Sergio Leone Western.  Breaking Bad has been considered a modern day great Western.  After all it has the misbegotten and misunderstood characters, lonely people, even bar fights.  Particularly the ambiguity and impervious nature this genre requires.  And it is about the west.  Well, southwest maybe, but just the same.

I can’t say that I’m glad that the series is over.  I will miss it, a lot. However, I do think it went down exactly the way that it should.  Many think that Jesse should have died also.  Breaking Bad became a very dismal view of human nature.  It needed this redeeming quality. With Jesse alive and ‘riding’ into the sunset we were able to own his redemption. Resolution.

The film Liberty Valance portrayed a man that lived with a very important lie all his life. Walter White lived a lie for only a brief time.  Walter’s lie was monumental and because of it destruction and death marked every turn.  Jimmy/Ransom became a great man based on a lie.  

I hear that a spin-off is in the works (of course again) with Saul the lawyer as the main character.  Bryan Cranston is on Broadway portraying President Lyndon Johnson.  Jimmy Stewart went on to play Linus Rawlings in How the West Was Won.  I want to believe the west did win.  Ransom/Jimmy did.  I want to believe that Heisenberg won too.