'When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend:' Meaning Of The 'Liberty Valance' Line

By | January 22, 2021

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Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance. Source: IMDB

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." That iconic line comes from director John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It’s a great line and one that resonates more and more with time. Carleton Young uttered that infamous line in the film and it aged like a fine wine. Despite “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” becoming an immediate hit, the iconic line didn’t receive instant fanfare. Instead, it grew over time, like a song that hits the top 10 years after its first release. Today, it’s used by politicians or writers deifying athletes and everything in between. This is the story of “print the legend.”

'When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend,' Context

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Politics today, a coward telling people what’s right.(americanrhetoric)

In John Ford’s film, Ranse Stoddard, played by James Stewart, incorrectly receives credit for gunning down the savage criminal Liberty Valance portrayed by Lee Marvin. In reality, John Wayne’s character, Tom Doniphon, took down the marauding killer despite his insistence that it’s not his job. Stoddard then parleys the wave of praise into a wildly successful political career on the back of Doniphon’s courageous deed.