The classic western of the late John Ford era will be shown on February 18 at the Museum of Motion Picture as part of the series “The Legend of Woody Stroud”.
For the next month, a curator will be working at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens a series of sessions – free for New York University students with ID – in honor of actor Woody Strod, who violates boundaries. In addition to being one of the first black American athletes in the National Football League, Strod broke down barriers in Hollywood and international cinema at a time when black actors had few opportunities. One of the first great films in this series is John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valens.”
In his previous films, such as The Seekers and Stagecoach, among others, Ford built the western genre, but with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valens, he deconstructed it. The film tells the story of Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), a famous politician who reflects on the moment that made him who he is today – the moment when he killed the famous robber Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). The film then goes back to the time when Ransom was a newcomer to the city, which with the help of local resident Tom Danifon (John Wayne) is gradually becoming part of the community.
Strod takes on a smaller role here than in the other films in the series, making it less appealing to those who come to the screen to see it. However, the film still shows what it represents and challenges the norms of cinema at the time.
The film destroys the image of the upper political class in America when Ransom becomes famous. This man is not as fragile as we think: he does not know how to pay tribute to those who help him along the way. Ordinary citizens help him in ways that contradict the idealistic image of a self-made man, which, according to Ransom, may be at the beginning of the film. Unlike other Ford Westerns, our heroes are not who we think they are.
The film is not the only collaboration between Strod and Ford. This retrospective has already shown the film “Sergeant Rutledge”, the first Hollywood western with a black hero. In the film, which came out two years before the film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valens”, Stroud starred as a soldier who was tried for crimes he could not have committed. By creating Stroud as an actor as well as the media in general, he laid the groundwork for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valens,” as Ford challenged the conventions of the genre he helped create.
Strod’s work in these and other Ford films will give him a leap to the star status he deserves. He went on to have further success in the Western genre, including Richard Brooks ’“ Professionals ”and Sergio Leone’s“ Once Upon a Time in the West, ”which are also featured in retrospect.
In an era with little opportunity for color actors, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valens helped Stroud start his own career and paved the way for representation in the Western genre and beyond. The Legend of Woody Stroud is both an exciting work and a legacy of an important figure in American history, worthy of your time and attention.
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