Stagecoach

A powerful story of nine strange people

Western Adventure Action
96 min     7.7     1939     USA

Overview

A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo, and learn something about each other in the process.

Reviews

John Chard wrote:
We're the victims of a foul disease called social prejudice, my child. Stagecoach is directed by John Ford and adapted by Dudley Nichols from a story by Ernest Haycox. It stars Claire Trevor, John Wayne, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, Andy Devine, Donald Meek and Louise Platt. Director of photography is Bert Glennon and director of music Boris Morros. 6 people on board a stagecoach bound for Lordsburg, each one very different in character, each one with their own issues in life, and some carrying shame as well as dark secrets. The journey is fraught with danger as the Apache are tracking them thru the desert flats, can all the polar opposites come together to form a united front? It's now written in history that the 1930s was a bad decade for the Western movie. The decade began with expensive flops The Big Trail & Cimarron and from there the big studios pretty much condemned the genre to being nothing more than a B movie production line. Then in 1937 a story called Stage to Lordsburg was published in Collier's magazine, a story written by Ernest Haycox that itself was inspired by a short story called Boule de Suif written by Guy de Maupassant. John Ford liked the story very much and purchased the rights, trusting Dudley Nichols to rework a screenplay into a classic Western narrative. Meeting resistance from some of the head men at the studios, Ford had to fight hard to not only get the film made, but to also have John Wayne playing The Ringo Kid. Gary Cooper and Joel McCrea were wanted instead of Wayne, and Marlene Dietrich was suggested for the role of Dallas, the role eventually went to Claire Trevor. But Ford stuck to his guns, and rightly so, for now Stagecoach can be seen as a wonderful film that not only launched Wayne to stardom, but also as the film that reignited the Western genre and paved the way for some essential classics that followed. John Ford's first sound Western is rich with character dynamics at play, with the great director exploring what would become a trademark theme of his, that of moral qualities born out of people deemed less pure in society's eyes. True enough Stagecoach is still very traditional in an early Western movie sense, but the study of different characters under duress is magnificently moulded by director and cast alike. It was something that Orson Welles liked about the film, calling it perfect textbook film making, even claiming it to be a film he watched numerous times whilst crafting Citizen Kane. It's easy to believe Welles, we obviously remember the stunning Apache pursuit of the rocketing stagecoach, the stunt work, the breathless energy and the majestic location of Monument Valley, but thematically the film sizzles as well. That Ford is able to marry sharp action with real human drama - intimate drama played out on a massive panoramic landscape - is why Stagecoach continually entertains and influences with each passing year. From the moment Ford zooms up close on the face of John Wayne, a mega-star was born, but more importantly, from the opening credits to the last second of Stagecoach, the Western movie was reborn. A near masterpiece of the genre. 9/10

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