Directed by George Stevens (A Place in the Sun (1951) & later Giant (1956)) this classic Western stars Alan Ladd in the title role that of a gunfighter attempting to escape his past by becoming a laborer for struggling farmer family. Van Heflin (Johnny Eager (1942)) plays the head of that family his wife is played by Jean Arthur (The More the Merrier (1943)) in her last movie role (and five years after she was in Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair (1948)) and their young son is played by Brandon De Wilde. Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show (1971)) and Jack Palance (City Slickers (1991)) play enforcers of cattleman Rufus Ryker’s "law". Loyal Griggs won an Oscar for his stunning Color Cinematography; Producer-Director Stevens received nominations in both categories (e.g. Best Picture & Director); De Wilde & Palance both received Supporting Actor nominations as did the film’s Screenplay. Added to the National Film Registry in 1993. #69 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list; Shane is AFI’s #16 hero. "Shane. Shane. Come back!" is #47 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list. #53 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
Riding in on horseback a weary gunfighter Shane (Ladd) arrives on the plains fronting the Grand Teton (Rocky) Mountains in Wyoming. He finds himself at one family’s humble farm where Joe Starrett (Heflin) is trying to scratch out a life for his family by farming the oft-frozen tundra. Trying to escape his past he befriends Starrett his wife Marian (Arthur) and especially their young son Joey (De Wilde) who later develops a hero worship towards the "former" warrior. However Shane is too soon involved in the classic struggle between "the farmer and the cowman" who can’t be friends because the farmer wants to fence the land to grow crops whereas the rancher wants free rein for his cattle. Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) is the cattle baron who wants the farming families (which include Edgar Buchanan Elisha Cook Jr. and Douglas Spencer) to vacate the area and will use force if necessary. Starrett is the glue that holds the few farmers together in opposition to Ryker while Shane tries to stay out of it though Shane & Starrett do hold their own in a scuffle with Calloway (Johnson) and some of Ryker’s other men. The conflict begins in full when Ryker brings in outside muscle (Palance) and Cook Jr.’s short Southerner (from the Civil War) with a chip on his shoulder tangles with him. Ellen Corby (I Remember Mama (1948)) plays Cook Jr.’s wife.