Top 100 Movie Review: No. 089 – Stagecoach (1939)

Ranked 89 on the IMDB Top 100 Movies.
Watched April 2018.

Cast: Claire Trevor (Dallas), John Wayne (Henry the “Ringo Kid”), Thomas Mitchell (Doc Boone), Andy Devine (Buck), John Carradine (Hatfield), George Bancroft (Marshal Curley Wilcox), Louise Platt (Lucy Mallory), Donald Meek (Samuel Peacock), Berton Churchill (Henry Gatewood)
Director: John Ford

My rating: 7 / 10
Danelle’s rating: ??

Synopsis
In 1855, the Overland stage leaves from Tonto heading to Lordsburg that eventually has eight people on board. The driver, Buck (Andy Devine), Marshal Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft), and the passengers consisting of Doc Josiah Boone (Thomas Mitchell), the town drunk; Dallas (Claire Trevor), implied to be a prostitute who has been banished from town; the pregnant Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), who is taking the stage to meet her husband, a cavalry officer; Hatfield (John Carradine), a gambler; Gatewood (Berton Churchill), the town’s banker; and Peacock (Donald Meek), a whiskey trader.

Because of an Apache uprising by Geronimo, the cavalry escorts the coach to the first station at Dry Fork. Along the way, Buck stops to pick up the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), who has escaped from prison to seek revenge on the Plummers, who killed his family and sent him to jail on false testimony. After Curley arrests Ringo, the stage continues on to Dry Fork, where they discover that there are no troops to escort them farther.

Voting to continue on alone, they reach the next stop, where their journey is delayed when Mrs. Mallory, learning that her husband has been wounded, goes into premature labor. Doc sobers up Lon enough to deliver the baby, and as they await Mrs. Mallory’s recovery, Dallas and Ringo fall in love and Dallas urges Ringo to escape. Ringo is on the verge of leaving when he sees Apache war signals so returns, and the passengers hastily board the stage to make a desperate dash to Lordsburg.

Just as they think the danger has passed, the Apaches attack at a dry lake bed, wounding Peacock and Buck and killing Hatfield. At the last minute, the cavalry rides to the rescue and escorts the stage to Lordsburg, where Gatewood is arrested for embezzlement. There, Curley grants Ringo his freedom so that he can avenge the murder of his family, and after gunning down the Plummers, and Ringo is recaptured he is again allowed to escape this time with Dallas who he rides off with into the night to begin life anew at his ranch across the border.

What’s to Like
The Monument Valley scenery.

What’s not to Like
The casual racism about the ‘savage’ Indians which while a reflection of the 1930s is hard to ignore given what actually happened in reality to Native American during the Western frontier push in the USA.

Thoughts
This was John Wayne’s first starring role in a major film and his breakout role. Director John Ford and John Wayne would go on to make iconic films and establish themselves as one of the legendary partnerships in cinema.

Many films, and particularly ‘western’, cliches started with this movie, you see saloons, corrals, vast landscape, camp fires, and the U. S. Cavalry–which sounds the charge before riding to the rescue along with the greedy banker and the prostitute with a heart of gold. That highlights the setting of a new standard for films commencing with Stagecoach.

One matter the USA was supposed to do was break down class behaviours, you se this a little when the Ringo Kid invites Dallas to the main eating table for the travellers during a stop. The southern gentleman in the group objects to subjecting a fine lady like Lucy Mallory to a lower woman of disrepute.

The quest for revenge, of justice depending on your point of view, is satisfied for Ringo and the loyalty of a group who survived a desperate situation is proven when Ringo is let go to escape to Mexico.

This is a satisfying movie that sets the standards for some much of what in Hollywood over the next five to six decades.

Academy Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Mitchell) – winner
  • Best Music <Scoring> (Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken) – winner
  • Best Picture – nominee
  • Best Director (John Ford) – nominee
  • Best Art Direction (Alexander Toluboff) – nominee
  • Best Cinematography <Black-and-White> (Bert Glennon) – nominee
  • Best Film Editing (Otho Lovering, Dorothy Spencer) – nominee

About Nathan

An Australian World traveler who has been fortunate enough to experience 56 countries so far. https://nathanburgessinsights.com/travel/
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