I recall going to the show when I was a kid to see the western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. The film dates back to 1910 when Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard, is a lawyer who arrives in a western territory that is still run by corrupt influences who hire gunman Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) to enforce their will.
Stoddard’s idealism eventually brings him into a gun duel with Valance even though he is a novice shooting. Everyone is stunned when the greenhorn lawyer shoots Valance to death. Or did he?
This is where I guess I should write, spoiler alert. Stoddard is dismayed that he is known more for killing Valance than for his call for law and order. Tom Doniphon (Wayne) talks to Stoddard alone. Doniphon is in love with Hallie, but she has fallen for Stoddard. It was Hallie that contacted Doniphon when Stoddard went to duel Valance. The rough but decent Doniphon explains to Stoddard that he shot and killed Valance.
Doniphon represents the Old West and Stoddard represents progress. Doniphon realized that despite the fact the girl he loves adores Stoddard. Twenty-five years have passed and Stoddard has become an accomplished legislator while Doniphon has faded into obscurity. Stoddard and his wife, Hallie, come back to the town where he began his career because Doniphon has died.
Local leaders and the town newspaper wonder why Stoddard has come back to pay respects to someone who lived most of his life in anonymity. Stoddard relents to the newspaper and tells them about Doniphon and that he was the one that killed Valance.
The newspaper editor, Maxwell Scott, would have nothing of that and told Stoddard he was not going to print the story. Stoddard asked why. “This is the West,” said Scott. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Well, I doubt that editor would do that today. A story of that magnitude would be hard to pass up. I was thinking about that great 1962 western after reading about the twisted life of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz. The 52-year-old veteran officer was believed to be shot and killed on Sept. 1 along a deserted area of Fox Lake. He mentioned three men – two white and one black – that he was going to check on. He called for assistance. Police found his dead body along a deserted path. An expansive manhunt for the suspects followed.
The initial reports we heard on Gliniewicz was that he was a good cop who was revered in the community. He was noted for creating the Explorers program that taught young men and women about preparing for work as a police officer.