Sunday, June 05, 2005


Panavision Parables

I usually see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart--at least once a year, but it's been awhile since I saw The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn.

So last night, I was both surprised and delighted to find these hired guns' dialogue laced with moral lessons about different types of courage, standing up for what's right, as well as candid remarks about how the good guys who do risk their necks in the pursuit of justice are usually betrayed by those they fight to protect, and--in the end--"always lose."

A similar theme of common cowardice is evoked by the script in Liberty Valance, although its focus is on foolish bravery rescued by unconventional justice, rather than on the unjust desserts of Magnificent Seven's outcast warriors. Yet, both these Western fables from the post-Civil War era when misfit former soldiers still roamed the Great Plains as cowboys and gunslingers offer us a fitting allegory for the times we live in, when bullies and bandits regularly rob and terrorize ordinary folks too scared or disorganized to fight back.

Six-guns, saddles and Stetsons aside, these lessons are as apropos today--perhaps more so--than when these classic films first hit the big screen. Funny how the sorriest scoundrels are still from Texas.


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