Shane by Jack Shaefer, adapted by Frances Byrnes

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 30 March 2013
Beloved of fans of the western ever since the famous 1953 film starring Alan Ladd, Shane tells the story of the eponymous hero (Joshua Stamberg), all dressed in black and carrying a six-shooter, who starts to work at an isolated farm in Wyoming.  Initially the farmer Joe Starrett (Jeff Mash) is suspicious of Shane's motives - especially when Joe's wife Marian (Jennifer Westfeldt) takes a shine to the mysterious stranger - but as the drama unfolds, Shane turns out to be a thoroughly decent person. Through a combination of cunning, strength and skill Shane repels the threat posed by acquisitive cattle baron Fletcher, who wants to buy the Starretts' farm and throw them off their land.
Kate McAll's production conceived the story as one in which virtue is rewarded and vice expelled.  Shane might appear somewhat mysterious (no one ever finds out much about him), but will never let anyone down. Fernando Macias-Jimenez's music recalled the classic westerns of the past, while emphasizing the novel's elemental aspects.  In a lonely Wyoming setting, the characters would have to entertain themselves with an harmonica.
The production also emphasized the importance of masculinity: Shane's primary duty consisted of protecting the weak while vanquishing those who would try to destroy the farmer's traditional way of life. At the same time Shane forged a close personal relationship with Marian's son Bobby (Finley Jacobsen).  While Bobby certainly respected his father (in this kind of environment, family values mattered), Shane provided the kind of role-model that the little boy could readily identify with.
When the film version of Shaefer's novel appeared in the early Fifties, it was readily identified by critics as a Cold War allegory, with Fletcher's men posing a Soviet-style threat to the American way of life.  Six decades the political aspect of the tale might not seem so significant; but we can still admire the way in which the protagonist deals with potentially life-changing situations.