Thursday, August 20, 2020

Shane(1953): Film Review

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Film Review of Shane (15)

The Homestead Act of 186, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 0,

186, has been called one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of

the United States. The act turned over vast amounts of public lands to private citizens. In

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all, some 70 million acres of the United States were claimed, or about 10% of the entire area of the country. The act remained in effect until 176, when it was finally repealed but with provisions for homesteading in Alaska until 186 (, 1).

The only requirement for the homesteader to claim a 160 acre parcel of land was that he be 1 years of age. Settlers came west from all walks of life including newly

arrived immigrants, farmers without any land of their own in the East, single women, and

former slaves. They came to meet the challenge of "proving up" and keeping this "free

land." The homesteader had to live on the land, build a home, make improvements and

farm for five years. A total filing fee of $18 was the only monetary requirement.

However, the tremendous personal sacrifices and labor intensive efforts would require a

much higher price (nps). But people who live off the soil typically exhibit a strong need for autonomy they like to be their own bosses.

The government's motive behind the Homestead Act was to spur Western growth.

It was enacted into law after a twenty-year battle to distribute public lands to citizens

willing to pursue an agricultural livelihood. But it also engendered strong opposition

from Northern businessmen who feared it would lower property values and reduce the


cheap labor supply. Unlikely allies, Southerners feared homesteaders would add their

opposition to slavery. With the South out of the picture in 186, the legislation finally

passed ( 1).

Paramount Pictures made the movie Shane in the historical context of the

Homestead Act. The time is shortly after the Civil War and feelings remain less than

friendly between Southerners and Northerners. The location features spectacular scenery

of the Teton Range in northwestern Wyoming. Victor Young wrote the beautiful musical score. What would a Western movie be without great music? The principal drama revolves around the conflict between ranchers who have been entrenched in the area and homesteaders who are derided by them as "sodbusters," or worse, "squatters."

From the perspective of management lessons, Shane offers two outstanding

insights first, it explores the demands and skills of leadership and, second, it offers a study in the tremendous value of mentoring one's conduct before a young admirer. Joe Strack (Van Heflin) plays the role of the leader among the homesteaders who must constantly do battle against the evil land baron, Ryker (Brandon de Wilde). Ryker is out to crush all "squatters," as he calls them, who get in his way. Joe Strack and his friends are in his way. Along comes Shane (Alan Ladd) who rides into Strack's property and initiates an immediate friendship with him.

Shane becomes a crucial subordinate to Strack. They bond as blood brothers united in a great cause against a cruel, domineering cattle baron. One of the wonderful early examples as their togetherness occurs when the two men chop the roots out from a huge tree stump and, exerting great strength, push it over. It is one of the early symbols in


the film of what it will take to chop out the roots of discrimination and foul play which the homesteaders endure.

Leadership involves stepping up to the plate and swinging at whatever life pitches your way. Joe Strack and Shane represent two styles of leadership that complement each other. Strack is the task leader whose concern it is to see the valley become a place where families can live, work, and pursue their dreams without fear of being bullied or driven off their homestead. Shane illustrates the social-emotional leader who wants to reduce tensions, patch up hostilities, settle arguments, and restore peace (Johns and Saks 75). Shane's melancholy temperament flows beautifully into his crucial subordinate role with Strack.

The problem comes as Shane realizes he will eventually have to resort to the skills he knows so well from years of experience, namely drawing and shooting a side-arm faster than his foes. His background as a drifter and gun fighter haunts his psyche so that he only wants to return to this strategy as a last resort. He is in agreement with Strack's wife, Marion (Jean Arthur) that fighting constitutes a terribly dangerous way to win the peace. Shane is essentially a peaceful man and would promote peaceful solutions; however, he finally realizes that the only way to deal with the tyrants, Ryker and his hired gun Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), is with the weapon he knows so well, his trusty six shooter.

In the 1th century, men dealt with problems with their fists or with their guns. They, like the shepherd boy David in the Bible, realized that a great cause required a heroic effort. David's courage motivated him to do battle with Goliath and in so doing he


won a great victory (I Samuel 17). Ryker and Wilson are the Goliaths in the film. They're mean and they're tough. Today we would depend on the court system to adjudicate those who trespass against us through insider trading or cooking the books. In Shane, law

and order had not yet come to this corner of the West. To deal with the bad guys and to establish justice, you're only option was to take the law into your own hands. Leadership was a literal hands-on arrangement. Shane realizes this but you must watch almost two hours of the film before he commits himself to taking on the villains single-handedly. Bottom line leaders must lead even if that means taking the lives of your enemies.

What makes Shane such a classic study is wrapped up in the life of the ten year old son of Joe Strack, Joey. He captures your heart from his first appearance in the film. His eyes are irresistible. The director, George Stevens, tells the story from the perspective of young Joey. He watches Shane's every move and begins to worship the very ground on which Shane walks. He wants to be like Shane in every way possible, especially in the way he handles a side-arm with complete expertise.

A mentor is an older, experienced person who gives his junior person special attention through helpful advice and counsel when needed (Johns and Saks 5). Shane spends time with Joey fully aware that Joey has placed him on a very high pedestal. Shane is a man of few words, but when he does speak he makes every word count. One of the more poignant moments in the film occurs when Shane teaches Joey had to handle a firearm. Joey seems to have natural talent and is a quick learner. Along with the skill of drawing a pistol, Shane counsels Joey regarding the awesome burden of responsibility


that goes with learning how to shoot a gun. With great privilege comes great accountability Shane has learned this lesson well and he wants Joey to learn it too.

Therein hangs the moral of the story people in places of leadership must understand stakeholders are observing their words and actions. They need to grasp the truth that their influence is far-reaching; therefore, they should take heed about the

sixth competency of management, namely self-management. The competency means that leaders have clear personal standards of conduct, are willing to admit mistakes, and accept responsibility for their actions (Hellriegel, Jackson, and Slocum 5). Shane embraces these attributes genuinely and whole heartedly. His closing words of counsel to Joey express those sentiments beautifully as he encourages Joey to return to his parents and to take good care of them. "Go back to your mother and tell her everything will be all right. You belong to your mother and father. You'll grow up to be strong and straight. You take care of them, both of them." As the movie draws to a close with Shane riding off into the sunset, we're left with the impression Joey will follow Shane's counsel.

The lessons for today's business world from the film focus in on leadership that is strong and effective and mentors who understand the value and purpose of modeling their behavior in plain sight of everyone. Hopefully, UTA students will learn to embrace these principles with open arms.


American Memory Today in History. http//

Hellriegel, Don, Susan Jackson, and John Slocum. Management. th ed. Cincinnati South-Western, 00.

Holy Bible The New King James Version. Nashville Thomas Nelson Publishers, 18.

Homestead National Monument of America The Homestead Act. http//

Johns, Gary and Alan M. Saks. Organizational Behaviour. 5th ed. Toronto Pearson Education Canada Inc., 001

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