Shane (1953) turns 64 today. Directed by George Stevens, the film shattered the romantic vision associated with westerns; the genre was never quite the same again. In post-war America, audiences were demanding more realism in films, and Stevens dutifully complied. Beautifully shot and featuring unforgettable performances from the leading players, Shane was years ahead of its time.
1. The story was loosely based on the Johnson County War in Wyoming 1892 where farmers on the Plains fought with merciless cattle barons.
2. Montgomery Clift was originally picked for the role of Shane. When he pulled out to take another part, the production was almost cancelled.
3. In the scene where Shane (played by Alan Ladd) demonstrates his shooting prowess to the young and impressionable Joey Starrett (Brandon deWilde), it took over 100 takes to get the action right. The actor purportedly hated guns.
4. Jack Palance, who played gunfighter Jack Wilson, disliked horses. When Shane and Wilson first come face-to-face, Stevens ordered Palance to dismount and then remount – but the actor struggled to remount the horse. Stevens eventually asked Palance to dismount slowly and then reversed the shot.
5. Shane was the first film to be projected on flat widescreen changing the traditional 1.37:1 ratio to 1.66:1. The format was conceived to appeal to audiences who couldn’t get the wider panorama on their TVs.
6. George Stevens wanted the gunfire in the film to be so loud that the audiences would jump out of their seats. In order to achieve the desired effect, the weapons were recorded firing into a metal rubbish bin.
7. In the scene where Palance callously shoots Elisha Cook Jr., wires were used to violently pull the actor back into the mud, prompting Wild Bunch (1969) director Sam Peckinpah to say, “When Jack Palance shot Elisha Cook Jr. in Shane, things started to change.”
8. Paramount greenlit Shane on the proviso that it would be filmed in under 50 days with a budget of just under $2 million. It actually took 75 days to film and the budget blew out to over $3 million.
9. The film received six Academy Award nominations.
10. Loyal Griggs won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1954 for Shane.