Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Shane (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Shane (1953)

In George Stevens' mythic, highly-praised and classic adult western, based on the 1949 novel by Jack Schaefer - it told about a range war conflict between frontier homesteaders and cattle ranchers:

  • the film's opening exhibited beautiful, Oscar-winning Technicolor cinematography as it showed the approach of a lone, handsome ex-gunfighter - simply named Shane (Alan Ladd), who descended into a beautiful late 1880s Wyoming valley

Joe Starrett (Van Heflin)

Shane (Alan Ladd)

The Starrett Family
  • the mysterious and legendary stranger wore buck-skin and was portrayed as an outsider and loner; he rode up to the farm of the Starrett family, headed by determined, hard-working homesteader Joe (Van Heflin), his wife Marion (Jean Arthur), and their young son Joey (Brandon de Wilde), who instantly idolized and hero-worshipped Shane; it was implied that Shane was a gunfighter for hire with a violent past, but he wanted to reform, put down roots, avoid his past and put the violence behind him; however, Joe realized Shane's propensity for attracting violence and sent him on his way
  • before leaving, Shane found himself drawn back into his violent past life when a conflict arose between the homesteaders and hired cowhands attempting to move the sod-busting "squatters" off the land to keep them from their claims; aging land and cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) rode up with his cowhand ranchers, including his brother/foreman Morgan Ryker (John Dierkes) and cowboy Chris Calloway (Ben Johnson), intent on intimidating and provoking a range war; the presence of Shane (and his reputation) helped to fend off the open-range land cow ranchers, at least for the time being
  • Shane agreed to temporarily become Joe's hired hand, and was invited to stay for dinner; in the next memorable and exhilarating scene later that evening, Shane joined forces with Joe when they uprooted, pulled and chopped up a large and stubborn tree stump that Joe was struggling with earlier in the yard
  • the next day, Shane ventured to town alone, to buy supplies (barbed wire and working farmclothes for himself) at Grafton's Mercantile, a general store with an adjacent saloon; after conducting his business, Shane entered the saloon in his new store-bought outfit to buy "soda pop" for Joey, where Ryker's men, including Chris Calloway, were intent on taunting the new 'sodbuster' in town and provoking him into engaging in a showdown - they insulted him as a weakling; Shane resisted the urge to fight back and left peacefully to avoid trouble
  • that same evening during a meeting of homesteaders at the Starrett farm, the group expressed their contempt for Shane who appeared cowardly to Ryker's men in town and to them; scorned by them, Shane left the meeting and stood outside in the torrential rain
  • the next Saturday, all the homesteaders met at the Starrett's place to band together for protection on a shopping trip to Grafton's Mercantile Store for supplies, for the next day’s Fourth of July celebration; while in town, Shane entered the saloon to return Joey's soda pop bottle; he also ordered two whiskey drinks and tossed one at Calloway's shirt and one in his face; he then punched Calloway in the face, sending him sailing through the saloon door into the supply store; this provoked one of the most rousing and bloodiest, bar-room fist fights ever recorded on film; Shane eventually got the upper hand by himself, and subdued his bloody-faced, dazed opponent

Shane's Fist-Fight Against Calloway in Saloon

Shane During a Major Saloon Brawl with All of Ryker's Men
  • afterwards, when Shane rejected Ryker's offer to work for him, and then was insulted, a second round - a larger fight - developed after Ryker threatened to run Shane out of town; Joe determinedly allied himself with Shane and the two took on the entire pack, until Grafton pled for peace and declared the sod-busters the winners
  • realizing that he had been defeated and that he must raise the stakes, an outraged Ryker sent for a gunslinger - a cold-blooded hired gun from Cheyenne to bait and kill the helpless homesteaders; on Independence Day, Wilson (Jack Palance) arrived in town as a black-clothed evil gunman
  • during the holiday festivities in town, one of the homesteaders named Frank "Stonewall" Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.) toasted to himself in the saloon: ("And here's to me cause I ain't a coward and you ain't gettin' my claim"); he felt compelled to demonstrate that he wasn't cowardly toward Ryker and his men, who had already intimidated some of the homesteaders, including his neighbor Fred Lewis (Edgar Buchanan) who had been run off his land
  • later on the moonlit evening of the 4th, Wilson, Rufus and his brother Morgan Ryker arrived at the Starrett ranch with one final conciliatory effort - an offer to buy out the Starrett homestead and hire Joe at top wages, but Joe rejected the idea; afterwards in town the next day, Ryker vowed that he might have to kill Starrett, although he was reminded that the deed would be accomplished by Wilson
  • opportunistically, Torrey arrived in town and approached on the muddy street toward Wilson, who was standing above him on the wooden boardwalk of Grafton's porch; before a one-sided gunfight, Wilson challenged, provoked, and taunted the proud, hot-headed Torrey who was determined not to be pushed around; tricked and taunted into drawing his gun, Torrey was brutally shot dead in a showdown against Wilson and was hurtled backwards onto a muddy street

Torrey's Brutal Death
Torrey vs. Wilson
  • one of the most moving scenes in the film was Torrey's hill-top funeral, in which his mongrel dog mourned at his master's coffin; while the ceremonial burial was being conducted, homesteader Lewis' abandoned farm was burned down by Ryker's men; after the community vowed to help Lewis rebuild his homestead, he decided to remain in town
  • the normally-pacifistic Joe was persuaded to put on his guns and go to town to kill Ryker, and Marion was unable to dissuade him; Ryker's men invited Joe to Grafton's to "talk" reasonably; meanwhile, Shane had learned from Calloway, who had a change of heart and had quit Ryker's bunch ("I reckon something's come over me"); in the barn, he warned Shane - without Joe's knowledge - of a double-cross that would pit Starrett up against a "stacked deck"; knowing that Starrett didn't stand a chance against the seasoned killer Wilson, Shane changed back into his buck-skinned clothing - with his gun strapped on his waist
  • Shane and Joe fought together in a monumental and violent fist-fight to determine who would go to town; their battle ended when Starrett was knocked unconscious by Shane's gun-butt; the victorious Shane departed for town after a simple, but long farewell handshake with Marion

Farewell Handshake with Marion Before Departing For Town

Shane's Final Shootout with Wilson and Others at Grafton's

Joey Watching the Deadly Gun Battle in Saloon
  • during a final shootout in the saloon (with Joey's aid when he yelled out to prevent an ambush: "Look out!"), Shane outdrew and killed the evil and dark Wilson, as well as the Rykers, but was wounded himself; Shane spoke briefly with Joey on the saloon porch, telling him that he had to move on - he indicated to Joey that he would never return
Classic Goodbye Scene Between Shane and Joey
  • the film ended with a classic, poignant goodbye and farewell sequence; as the nomadic loner Shane rode off slumped in his saddle, the young, anguished, distraught, and heartbroken Joey gave a poignant cry after his mythic hero ("...Come back...Bye, Shane!") with echoing words, as Shane steered toward the mountains

Anticipatory Young Joey Watching Shane's Approach

Ryker (with His Men) Provoking the Starrett Family

Gunslinger Shane with Quick-Draw Instincts
Challenge: Shane (Alan Ladd) and Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) Chopped Up a Tree Stump Together

Shane (Wearing New Workclothes) in Grafton's Saloon, and Confronted by Calloway (Ben Johnson)

Outsider Shane Standing Out in Torrential Rain

Hired Gun Wilson's (Jack Palance) Arrival in Town

Shane's Weapon Lesson for Young Joey

Frank "Stonewall" Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.)

Shane Dancing with Marion During 4th of July Festivities in Town

Torrey Confronting Gunslinger Wilson in Town

Torrey's Funeral Sequence - With Torrey's Dog at Coffin


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z