June 15, 2004

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

I mentioned the other day that TiVo snagged this movie for me and that judging from the beginning, it seemed to be a good movie for lawyers. (I remembered watching it long before I went to law school and liking it.) Anyway, I watched it last night and do recommend it for law students and lawyers. There are many points where Jimmy Stewart proclaims things like "I am an attorney at law!" in a way that is quite charmingly pro-lawyer. John Wayne plays his foil, the kind of guy who says things like "The point of a gun is the only law that Liberty understood." No, he doesn't actually say that line. That's a line from the song "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," by Gene Pitney, which is not used in the movie. (Listen to a clip of it here.) But John Wayne says things like that through the movie, so it's a big movie about law versus raw power. And it includes a lot of nice Jimmy Stewart-style idealism, nicely on the subject of law and lawyers. Listen to him, all you lawyers and law students, and think about whether you could shout out with pride and defiance "I'm a lawyer!" without a hint of sarcasm or humor or irony of any kind. Most of the lawyer types I know could easily say the kind of scoffing, cynical things that John Wayne says throughout the movie. The Jimmy Stewart character even makes a big show of hanging out a shingle, which, as you might predict, gets shot down by Liberty Valance at one point.

There's also some quality material about journalism in the film, including the famous line, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." And there's some good material about politics too: the Jimmy Stewart character is nominated as a candidate and his rival tries to win votes by having a cowboy ride into the convention hall and up onto the stage where he stands on the horse and does rope tricks.

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