'Shane' Came Back

I was happy, several weeks ago, to attend a rare 35mm showing of the quintessential western, "Shane," at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta. The 1953 film is an American classic and one I've enjoyed seven or eight times over the years.

During introductory comments, we learned of a blooper, which unspooled before us, a few minutes later. When Shane rides his horse into the movie from a distant 19th century Wyoming vista, a minuscule white dot can be seen behind him, moving briskly, left to right across the screen. It's a truck rolling on from the future.

Jack Palance as the villain gunslinger, according to the remarks, was incompetent handling horses. Numerous attempts to capture him mounting his steed in a fluid movement were made without success. What is projected in the movie is footage of him dismounting -- reversed.

Montgomery Clift is said to have been the director's first choice to play the mysterious Shane. When he became unavailable, Paramount's action star Alan Ladd was cast. While Ladd is strong in the role, he was only 5'6" in stature. Camera tricks abound in making him appear much taller and physically imposing. Hollywood legend has it Ladd would often stand on boxes in his movies or his larger co-stars would walk alongside, below him in a trench.

ShaneTex Avery's Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection
I like Alan Ladd a lot. He is Shane, but the guy can appear awkward riding a horse. Western champs best be mammoth in the saddle -- think John Wayne. This man does not look his part. I suspect Ladd may be riding a tiny horse, too, to visually compensate. Nevertheless, whenever I watch his horseback scenes, I cannot help but compare him to the hero of "Drag-A-Long Droopy."

"Shane" Reissue Trailer via YouTube

"Drag-A-Long Droopy" (1954) via YouTube
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