This movie doesn’t really deserve to be talked about in great detail, at least not in a historical context. I agree with many peers’ references to Pocahontas. Wyatt and Pocahontas are much the same in that they are both historical characters whose stories have been completely mangled into myth from the perspective of ONE very wrong side of the story. Pocahontas was English-ized and turned into a classic tale of romance and the integrating of cultures. Wyatt was warped into some hero who was ‘just passin through’ when an unfortunate sequence of events happened to his brothers. The key to this story is that Wyatt and his brothers were the victims of the story, when in reality it doesn’t seem to be so. The real travesty for the story is the death of James – inspiring Wyatt to take the law into his own hands and avenge his lost cattle and dead brother. Sigh- not at all what happened. It does make for an interesting story (as did Pocahontas’s reworking), but it is certainly not something to dwell long on given that our purpose of viewing it was to find it’s historical-ness.

We did manage to find a few somewhat accurate portions – the thin line between female entertainer and prostitute (as demonstrated by Chihuahua (GREAT name by the way)), the landscape and garb seemed pretty accurate (they filmed in the desert and wore a lot of the same clothes as was common in that time – the one exception being Clementine), AND to me, most importantly there was a sense of taking the law into the hands of average citizens, which as demonstrated in numerous readings is pretty accurate.

Overall – not a very entertaining movie, and not at all a historically accurate one. At least it was pretty short.

One response to “Clementine”

  1. Reverend says:

    What’s amazing to me is how roundly this film has been killed by those who have blogged it. For what it’s worth this film may be one of the most perfect Westerns ever made, and I think that might have more to do with its relevance than its historical inaccuracy. A kind of landmark of film history, or the history of the form as myth manufacturer, and icon creator. John Wayne even coins his classic line “Pilgrim” in this film. “Why is it one of the most perfect Westerns?” you might ask. Well, because of lines like this:

    “This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    The idea of the myth of the West as somehow anterior to history, or external to it is extremely problematic. Westerns for me are one of the greatest indicators of the beautiful problems at the root of history as a means of making sense of our culture. The history of the West and the idea of the frontier is crucial to US History, but not necessarily because of their basis in fact, though that is part of it. Part of the power of Westerns is their misrepresentation of the past, a vision of US culture that shapes a future materially in terms of political decisions. During the 20th century, the idea of American exceptionalism and the notion that the US was immune to the treats of communism and socialism are born of the idea of a kind of geographical determinism that may be linked to one of the most influential historical essays of the last 100 years:Turner’s “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”. Given Turner’s discussion of the frontier as the driving force behind US history and its future, how can a film like Liberty Valence be so easily discounted in terms of history? I think the definiton of history may be a bit too narrow. Is history about the factual record? –or is it also about or fantasies about our past and the cultural moment that constructs these fantasies? A kind of cultural and social history that moves between and amongst the archives, but archives not limited to facts and dates, but narratives and metaphors.