Stagecoach (1939)

Cast

  • Claire Trevor Dallas
  • John Wayne Ringo Kid
  • Andy Devine Buck
  • John Carradine Hatfield
  • Thomas Mitchell Doc Boone
  • Louise Platt Lucy Mallory
  • George Bancroft Curly Wilcox
  • Donald Meek Mr. Pea
  • Berton Churchill Mr. Gatewood
  • Chief John Big Tree Indian Scout
  • Yakima Canutt Cavalry Scout

    Production Credits

  • Directed by John Ford
  • Produced John Ford & Walter Wanger
  • Written by Ernest Haycox, Ben Hecht and Dudley Nichols
  • Cinematography Bert Glennon
  • Music Gerard Carbonara, Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken
  • Stunt Co-Ordinator Yakima Canutt

    Academy Awards

    Won

  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Supporting Actor Thomas Mitchell

    Nominated

  • Best Art Direction Alexander Toluboff
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Director John Ford
  • Best Film Editing Otho Lovering, Dorothy Spencer
  • Best Picture Walter Wanger

    Inducted into the (USA ) National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board, in 1995

    In many respects "Stagecoach" is arguably the most significant sound Western ever made. It was the first in a long line of films that Director John Ford was to make in Monument Valley (an area he was to turn into his own preserve), and the film that marks John Wayne's emergence from B movie actor status to the rank of screen icon. Subsequently, Ford and Wayne were to have one of the closest creative partnerships in the history of film. At the very least this was the film that rejuvenated the genre to such an effect that it can reasonably be classified as the first modern Western.

    The film's hero is the Ringo Kid (Wayne), who is introduced to the audience in a dazzling tracking shot that opens with him standing statuesquely, grasping his rifle, and ends with a close-up of an anguished Kid who is being thwarted in his attempt to revenge the murders of his father and brother. He is picked up by the stagecoach and its diverse passengers when his horse goes lame. The passengers are an interesting lot. During the course of the film they will all reveal their true natures in a series of classic Western rituals and conventions. Most notable are Dallas (Claire Trevor), a hooker with a heart of gold, and Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell in an Academy Award winning performance) as the philosophizing drunken town doctor. Indeed, what is most fascinating about this film is its depiction's of these assorted characters.

    Based on an Ernest Haycox story the film effectively utilizes a "Grand Hotel" / "Ship of Fools" device ( a method wherein characters representing various types are closely confined for a period of time and act out in their relationships with one another the social structure of their era and place). As in the films "Grand Hotel" and "Ship of Fools" for which this device was named, the films principle focus is on the interactions between these diverse and colorful characters who have been thrown together by fate and closely confined for a period of time. Their relationships provide the audience with an opportunity to learn about the major social issues and themes (most notably; social prejudice, alcoholism, greed, redemption and revenge) of the times as they act out in their relationships their representative social types.

    In director Ford's capable hands we are mesmerized as this diverse group of social misfits reveals an intrinsic nobility in virtually all of their actions. From Dallas' self sacrificing desire to care for Mrs. Mallory and her baby to Wayne as the simultaneously innocent hero who is also an escaped convict bent on revenge, as they all reveal their true natures the viewer quickly realizes that none of the passengers is what they initially appeared to be..

    The film also features the dazzling stunt work of one of Hollywood's premiere stuntmen, Yakima Canutt (the Jackie Chan of his day). In one of the most spectacular, stunts ever recorded on film an Apache (Canutt) leaps from his horse onto the lead horses of the stagecoach's team. He is shot by Ringo as he tries to grab the reins of the lead horse to control the stagecoach. He is wounded and falls down among many sets of thundering hooves, hanging on to the rig's shaft while dragging along the ground. Then after being shot a second time, the Apache warrior lets go - the six horses and the stage's carriage roll right over his prone body. The sequence concludes as the camera pulls back to reveal the wounded Indian climbing slowly to his knees.

    Ford's reputation was revitalized by this film which won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Score (which featured a total of 17 American folk tunes of the 1880s).