Sorry for the dinky graphic. James Warner Bellah wrote the novelization of his screenplay (with Willis Goldbeck, based on a story by Dorothy M. Johnson) for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962. There were a couple of paperback editions and then…nothing. Talk about being forgotten! James Warner Bellah wrote for The Saturday Evening Post and published over a dozen novels. He was also a successful Hollywood screenwriter. Bellah wrote the screenplays for The Sea Chase (1955), Thunder of Drums (1961), and X-15 (1961).

James Warner Bellah’s novels Dancing Lady (1932) and The Command (1954) were made into a movies. The movie Fort Apache (1948) was based on Bellah’s short story “Massacre” (later issued as a book), and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) was based on “War Party.” He both wrote the novel and later, the screenplay based on it, Sergeant Rutledge (1960) . Bellah also appeared in bit parts and as an extra in movies including The Man Behind the Gun (1952).

I loved the movie version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance when I saw it as a kid. I immediately bought the Gene Pitney song (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and read James Warner Bellah’s book at the Library. Those memories have stayed with me all these years.

21 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #78: THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE By James Warner Bellah

  1. Deb

    I assume he was responsible for the movie’s most famous line: “When fact becomes legend, print the legend.”

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    I’m pretty sure the song was not used in the movie due to some problem over rights.

    Deb, you got that backwards. It’s “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  3. August West

    My favorite line in the movie (and one of my favorite John Wayne lines ever) was when Marvin trips Stewart who is delivering the steak dinner to Wayne’s table.

    “That’s my steak, Valance.”
    “I said you, Valance. You pick it up.”

    You could cut the tension in the room with a knife.

    1. george Post author

      I’m still looking for a copy of James Warner Bellah’s novelization of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Scott. I only have memories of reading the Library’s copy.

  4. Richard Robinson

    Great choice, George. I remember liking the movie, which I may have seen at the drive in.

    My recollection is that the film had the song in the lead-in, during the credit roll, but not as part of the music within the film.

    1. george Post author

      Your memory is better than mine, Rick. I just remember the radio stations playing Gene Pitney’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE constantly.

  5. Todd Mason

    Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
    Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

    …as quoted by IMDb. Odd that a film tie-in would get no pb.

    1. george Post author

      There were a couple paperback editions, Todd. But I don’t own them. And, back in the Sixties, I was only collecting science fiction, not movie tie-ins.

  6. Patti Abbott

    Loved the movie. never read the book. I think I should be doing forgotten movies. Most of them I’ve seen.

  7. Deb

    I stand corrected re the quote. My only excuse is that I was up early and didn’t check the exact words before I made the comment.


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