With 'Blackthorn' in theaters, an excuse to assess the genre
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5. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (John Ford, 1961)
The western is at its best when it not only manifests a mythology, but disassembles it. In reflecting and contextualizing what -- and who -- America is, the genre truly becomes a thing of greatness. And that is what was afoot with John Ford's 1962 classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a mainstay of the genre's latter day ubiquity, when heroism and idolatry had given way to reflection and requiem. Those themes come to a head in the film, and indeed, in its most remembered and meaningful line: "When the legend becomes fact…print the legend." America, after all, was a land founded on disgrace with the best of intentions.