Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: A scene of Jack Palance mounting a horse in Shane was a rewound shot of Palance dismounting the horse!
Jack Palance’s work in westerns was a defining aspect of his stellar career in the film industry. Heck, he even ended up winning an Academy Award in 1992 for spoofing his “tough guy cowboy” image in the Billy Crystal film, City Slickers…
But the role he is perhaps best known for is the ominous hired gun Jack Wilson in the Alan Ladd western Shane.
Palance is almost effortlessly menacing in the film. There was just one problem that popped up in the filming of the movie – Palance did not know anything about horses!
You see, Palance had just recently gotten into making films after an extended stay on the Broadway stage (he understudied Marlon Brandon in A Streetcar Named Desire) – this came after a stint as a professional boxer and serving his country in the Air Force during World War II. Palance had never been around horses in his life (well, at least not in terms of riding them), so he was completely lost when it came to working with them.
This caused George Stevens to improvise his film, including at least one bit that ended up making the film probably better than originally intended.
Wilson was originally set to make his debut in the film by galloping into town on a horse at high speeds. Naturally, Palance could not do anything close to that. So instead, Stevens re-wrote the scene to have Wilson ride slowly into town.
The resulting scene was a good deal more ominous.
Note here that the scene cuts off as Palance is getting off of the horse – this was because Palance had a great deal of trouble dismounting his horse.
Well, later in the film, there is a scene where Wilson and his boss, ruthless cattle boss Rufus Ryker (played by Emile Meyer) are waiting at the home of Joe and Marian Starrett (played by Van Heflin and Jean Arthur) in an effort to intimidate them.
Shane, a former gunslinger who was staying with the Starrett and Wilson size each other up.
To achieve this effect, Wilson had to get off of his horse, and Palance manages to dismount nicely.
He then goes over and takes a sip of water (all ominously, of course).
Then he re-mounts his horse, but hilariously enough, Stevens felt that the shot they got of Palance getting back on the horse was not good enough, so for the film, he simply edited the film to include the dismount scene..in reverse!!
It’s hard to tell without actually seeing it on video, but hopefully this screen shot of the mounting scene can help – as you can tell, it’s identical to the earlier dismounting scene.
Pretty hilarious and really clever editing work on Stevens’ part because I never noticed it in the film until I was specifically looking for it!
The legend is…
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