By KELLY DOLEJSI
Next up in the Mesa Public Library Free Film Series is a classic Western that stretches the limits of the genre.
In Director George Stevens’ “Shane” (1953), screening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the upstairs meeting room at Mesa Public Library, a well-seasoned gunfighter named Shane (Alan Ladd) aims to settle down in the Grand Tetons, maybe even farm. He meets Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) and his family, and seems to yearn for a similar domesticity.
But when the ruthless Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) decides to tear down the fences and allow his cattle to roam free, someone has to defend the good guys — and in this world, that means bloodshed.
It also means that afterward, the defender will have to move on. As Shane says, “There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks.”
On the surface, the film follows the the standard Hollywood formula for a story about the American West. But “Shane” stands out for its complexity. The never-consummated tension between Shane and Marian Starrett (Jean Arthur), as well as Joe’s tacit and unruffled acknowledgement of both his wife’s attraction and his young son’s (Brandon De Wilde) obvious devotion to the gunslinger all add dimensionality, as does the character of Shane himself, strikingly underplayed by the compact, underbearing Ladd.
“Shane” won an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1954. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Stevens), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Palance and Brandon De Wilde), and Best Writing, Screenplay (A.B. Guthrie Jr.).
While “Shane” is not officially rated, imdb.com suggests a rating of PG for violence.
The film series is sponsored by Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries.