By Arthur Flynn
For almost 80 years westerns have been the most popular form of cinema with world-wide audiences. The leading stars have included Tom Mix, John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin.
The main films in this range have included The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, High Noon, Rio Bravo, True Grit, The Ox-Bow Incident, A Fistful of Dollars, Shane and Unforgiven.
One of the most enthusiastic directors in the western format was John Ford. He directed a substantial number of films with western themes over his long-distinguished career.
One important film that would fit into this category was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance directed by Ford in 1962. The screenplay by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck was adapted from a 1953 short story written by Dorothy M. Johnson.
The black and white film with a $3.2 million budget for John Ford Productions had a strong production team headed by cinematographer William H. Clothier, musical director Cyril J. Mockridge and editor Otho Lovering.
A long strong cast was assembled headed by John Wayne as Tom Doniphon, and James Stewart as Ranse. This was the first time the two biggest stars in Hollywood worked together.
The rest of the distinguished cast was headed by Vera Miles as Hallie Stoddard, Lee Marvin as Liberty Valence, Edmond O’Brien as Dutton Peabody, Andy Devine as Marshal Appleyard, Ken Murray as Doc and John Carradine as Major Starbuckle.
O. Z Whitehead, who spent most of his later life in Ireland, played a teenager, but he was actually 50 years old at the time. In the film Denver Pyle played O. Z. Whitehead’s father, despite being 9 years younger than him.
John Wayne was greatly impressed by the performance of Lee Marvin in The Comancheros having worked with him and suggested him for the title role.
Throughout filming Ford constantly taunted Wayne and was more evenly disposed to James Steward and Lee Marvin and the lesser players. Wayne greatly resented this attitude towards him.
During filming, John Wayne was already ill suffering from lung cancer, although it was not diagnosed until 1964.