“Print the Legend”
  • Justin Watson


In director John Ford’s 1962 Western film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, U.S. Senator ansom Stoddard, played by James Stewart, reveals to a newspaper editor that his long and illustrious career has been built upon a lie—that he was not the man who shot a vicious outlaw, Liberty Valance. Instead, it was Tom Doniphon, played by John Wayne, who actually killed, or rather assassinated, Valance with a rifle-shot fired from the concealment of a dark alleyway. “Cold-blooded murder,” Doniphon tells Stoddard, “but I can live with it.” At the conclusion of Stoddard’s tale, the editor explains that he won’t use the story. “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”1


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Copyright information

© Justin Watson 2002

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  • Justin Watson

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