ming movie reviews

in about 100 words or less

Stagecoach (1939)

US 96m, B&W
Director: John Ford; Cast: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Andy Devine, George Bancroft

Stagecoach is an archetype for the classic Hollywood western film which also helped launch John Wayne’s career as a stalwart “A-list” actor and a fixture in dozens of John Ford’s productions. With Stagecoach, Ford also helped re-establish the western genre which had seemingly been exhausted by numerous low-budget productions. The relatively simple plot deals with the relationships of a strong ensemble cast who are forced to deal with one another within the limiting confines of their coach. As such, Stagecoach is essentially a 1880s version of a “road movie” which also features impressive cinematography, from sweeping  spectacular long shots, to impressively detailed low angled and shadowed interiors. Hailed as a widely influential film, Stagecoach remains an engaging movie that continues to have resonance today (Klaus Ming March 2011).

7 comments on “Stagecoach (1939)

  1. Anthony Lee Collins

    Roger Ebert pointed out, in his audio commentary for Citizen Kane, that Kane would work just fine as an audio drama. Just play the soundtrack, with the picture off, and it still makes sense. Reflecting Welles’ radio background, though I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate. (He also points out all the shots which are inspired by Stagecoach).

    Stagecoach is the opposite. It could pretty much work as a silent movie. And the most memorable dialogue is mostly memorable because of the actors and the situations (Doc Boone demanding coffee to sober himself up, the way Buck says, “Lordsburg,” when they’ve finally arrived, the Kid saying simply, “We ain’t never gonna say goodbye”).

    And so much is not said at all. Nobody says what Dallas is, but they all react to it (except the Kid). The whole history of who Hatfield is and how his life has gone is there, but never explicit.

  2. Klaus

    Interesting observations – I hadn’t thought about Stagecoach working as a silent film, but yeah, I agree, it really is visually expressive. I’m glad you pointed this film out on the Magnolia thread. It’s the first film with John Wayne that I truly enjoyed watching.

  3. Anthony Lee Collins

    It was also the first film Ford made in Monument Valley, which he also used to great effect in a lot of his later Westerns (before then, most Westerns were made on the back lot). Of course, the other reason he liked it, besides the magnificent scenery, was that shooting there got him away from the studio and the studio bosses. No phones out there in those days; he could shoot his picture his way and be left alone.

    • Klaus

      Watching movies like Stagecoach for the first time is what makes the 1001 movie list so much fun. Thanks for the insights and additional background!

  4. Anthony Lee Collins

    I discovered John Ford fairly recently (my father didn’t like Westerns, so I never saw any growing up, and I disliked John Wayne on general principles). So, when I finally decided I needed to find out about this stuff for myself, I went fairly methodically through Stagecoach, the cavalry trilogy, My Darling Clementine, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Searchers, plus Red River and Rio Bravo by Hawks. Oh, and Wagon Master. Plus quite a bit of reading.

    • Klaus

      I’ve avoided John Wayne’s films for years pretty much for the same reason, plus, what I’d seen previously, he generally seemed to be playing the same character. I actually did enjoy his performance in Stagecoach.

  5. Anthony Lee Collins

    You’re in the same position as John Ford then, who directed Wayne in a bunch of pictures, but then when he saw Wayne in Howard Hawks’ film Red River, he apparently said, “I didn’t know the big son of a bitch could act!”

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This entry was posted on 03/30/2011 by in 1001 List, 1930s, All and tagged .
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