Release Year: 1939
Director: John Ford
Writers: Dudley Nichols (screenplay), Ernest Haycox (original story)
Starring: Claire Travor, John Wayne, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, Louise Platt, George Bancroft, Donald Meek, Beton Churchill, Tim Holt, Tom Tyler
Rating: Won 2 Oscar: Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Mitchell), Best Score. Nominated for 5 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography – Black & White, Best Art Direction, Best Editing.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #309, week 21 2020
A group of passengers aree hurdled together in a stagecoach and learn a thing or two about each other as Geronimo and his Apache companions complicate their journey and force them to work together.
On the surface level, this seminal John Ford Western is a simple story; 9 people take a stagecoach across dangerous territory for different reasons and have to fight of Apache natives along the way. But below the surface, there is much more happening. The film assembles a great cast of characters who all board the stagecoach for different reasons and (almost) all seek and find redemption; Wayne is a the young and wrongfully convicted Ringo Kid on his way back to seek vengeance, the drunken doctor Josiah Boone (Thomas Mitchell) and Dallas (Claire Trevor) are driven out of town for their “unworthy character” but show their worth along the way, the gambler Hatfield (John Carradine) eyes the opportunity to escot a “proper lady” from his home state safey to her destination, and so on. The coach contains al sorts of mindsets and and different classes, it is not so much an indivudal as a collective journey of growth and redemption that culminates in a classic, yet unconventional, gunfight off screen. Ford (The Quiet Man, 1952) was obviousy a master director and he exceled particularly at the Western genre. The film is at turns funny, gripping, exciting and never dull. The actors are all wonderful, from Andy Devine as the hilarious coach driver Buck, over Mitchell in an Oscar winning performance as Doc Boone, to Wayne who knew how to captivate an audience even from a young age. Highy recommended.
The hat John Wayne wears in the movie was his own. He would wear it in subsequent Western until retiring it after Rio Bravo (1959), because it was falling apart. He then displayed it under glass in his home.
Despite the close friendship between John Ford and John Wayne, Ford refused to use him in films up until Stagecoach because he wanted him to be ready as an actor. His character’s memorable introduction was that launching of Wayne a a star that Ford had wanted to achieve.
Thomas Mitchell had quit drinking to years before playing th drunken Doc Boone.