April 22, 1962
Director John Ford‘s elegiac and penultimate western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, opens on this date in 1962. It’s the first pairing of two Hollywood superstars, John Wayne and James Stewart (note Stewart’s top billing on the poster although Wayne was the bigger box office star). Both had worked with Ford previously, and Wayne especially in some of the most acclaimed westerns in film history (Stagecoach and The Searchers among them). Fourth-billed Lee Marvin, a rising star who would win the Best Actor Oscar three years later for the comic oater Cat Ballou, plays the snarling outlaw Liberty Valance.
Although now recognized as one of the greatest sagebrush movies of all time, and added to the National Film Registry in 2007, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance received only mixed reviews at the time of its release. Nevertheless it was a box-office hit, with the title song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (recorded by Gene Pitney and oddly not heard in the movie), reaching #4 on the pop charts.