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83 Stagecoach 1939 
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
I'm stealing Unke's format because, well, it worked.

Stagecoach (1939)

Plot

A group of strangers boards a stagecoach headed to Lordsburg, New Mexico and rides through Apache territory during an uprising. The strangers are from all walks of life, some noble, some lowborn. Along they way they encounter quite a few hardships, including said Apaches. The interaction between the main players causes many of their initial reactions to the others to be rethought. Upon reaching Lordsburg, the group is much changed and they go their separate ways.

Origin

The screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols, which was adapted from The Stage to Lordsburg, a short story by Ernest Haycox. John Ford bought the rights to the story, but claimed his larger inspiration came from the short story Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant. Ford's claim has been heavily disputed, but I don't see how the director's claim of inspiration can be inaccurate.

Persons involved

Director - John Ford - This was Ford's first "talkie" Western, first pairing with John Wayne, and the first of many Westerns to shoot on location at Monument Valley. Ford would go on to become the definitive Western filmmaker directing such classics as The Searchers, My Darling Clementine and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The Searchers, in particular, would use some of the same cinematic tactics used in Stagecoach to tell it's story.

John Wayne - This was the first of many movies Wayne made with Ford. The part of The Ringo Kid is widely considered his breakthrough role. Interestlingly, Ford had a tough time getting funding for the project because he insisted Wayne be the star. Wayne had a track record of appearing in low rate Westerns that typically flopped. He finally got funding from producer Walter Wanger by agreeing to give actress Claire Trevor (Dallas, the prostitute) top billing.

Cinematic Influence

1939 was the year that single-handedly revitalized the Western genre. Prior to 1939, Westerns had largely fallen out of favor in Hollywood. The few that were being made at the time, were typically cheap, B-movie type films. The success of Stagecoach (nominated for 7 Academy Awards, winning 2) spurred the return of the Western as a popular, mainstream genre. Along with Union Pacific, The Oklahoma Kid, and another Ford film, Drums Along the Mohawk, the big budget Western was back.

The screenplay was also responsible for elevating the genre to more serious fare. Complex themes and characters were introduced and used as archetypes for future Westerns. The common Western theme of civilization vs. wilderness is used heavily. The archetypal characters and themes found in Stagecoach would often be copied and expounded upon within the Western during the genre's subsequent 20-30 year spike in popularity.

Orson Wells is also on record as calling Stagecoach a technically perfect film. He allegedly watched the film 40 times while making Citizen Kane.

Interpretations

The film is seen as a morality play about social classes. All of the passengers in the stagecoach fall into one of two categories: respectable or disrespectable. The theme of civilization vs. wilderness is used to contrast these types of living. The members of the respectable class are all associated with civilization and the disrespectable class with the wilderness. The film turns stereotypes into misconceptions as the disrepectable class act in the more humanistic ways. The movie is seen as a criticism of accepted social classes, norms, and practices. Those who come from civilization, or better conditions, aren't necessarily the most civilized.

Is It Worth Watching Today?

Absolutely. The film works as a work of art, but also as an exciting adventure film. Influence and technical brilliance aside, it's a fun, enjoyable film experience. Fans of the Western will thoroughly enjoy it, and film fans in general should appreciate it.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:51 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
I don't know guys, but this film completely underwhelmed me.

Maybe in the 30's it was somehow groundbreaking but today it seems to me no better than a run of the mill Western. Even John Wayne's presence doesn't make much of a difference since he isn't yet at the top of his game.

If we are talking about Westerns then I'd take "Rio Bravo", "High Noon", and the "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" any day of the week over this lukewarm and oversimplified movie.


Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:38 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
panos75 wrote:
I don't know guys, but this film completely underwhelmed me.

Maybe in the 30's it was somehow groundbreaking but today it seems to me no better than a run of the mill Western. Even John Wayne's presence doesn't make much of a difference since he isn't yet at the top of his game.

If we are talking about Westerns then I'd take "Rio Bravo", "High Noon", and the "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" any day of the week over this lukewarm and oversimplified movie.


Maybe I'm a bit biased because I'm a huge Western fan, but I love Stagecoach. However, I would agree that the 3 films you mentioned are all better. I personally wouldn't put Stagecoach in my Top 10 Westerns, but it's still a very good movie. I think it's on this list more because of how influential it was within the Western genre. Citizen Kane is at the top of almost every list because it is important and fantastic to watch. Stagecoach is on this list because it is important and still very good. The fact that it underwhelmed you because it seemed run of the mill speaks to how influential it was. However, I love Wayne in it. His entrance into the film is probably second only to Harry Lime's - what a fantastic shot.


Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:25 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
To me, the biggest flaw of Stagecoach was the ending. To me, the movie's over when the ride is and then we spend 20 minutes to finish out The Ringo Kid's lingering plot thread avenging his family...it should've been 10 minutes and then credits.


Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:30 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Patrick wrote:
To me, the biggest flaw of Stagecoach was the ending. To me, the movie's over when the ride is and then we spend 20 minutes to finish out The Ringo Kid's lingering plot thread avenging his family...it should've been 10 minutes and then credits.


Fair point. It does wear out it's welcome a bit. However, I maintain that that sequence is necessary - it just needs to be a bit shorter. We need The Ringo Kid to be allowed to be free and choose where he wants to go. Since he is the protagonist, and he chooses to live in the wilderness away from civilization, the criticism is complete. Without allowing him to make that choice, the point about civilization isn't as poignant. Of course, I guess you saying it should only be 10 minutes instead of 20 is kinda of saying the same thing. You're concise, I'm long-winded.


Thu Jul 30, 2009 3:22 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
For anyone who is interested in not only this movie, but John Ford in general, I stronly urge splurging for the Criterion collection edition of the film. All the special features are great. In particular, there's a 15-20 video essay by Tag Gallagher (research shows he's also written a book on Ford) that analyzes Ford's visual style. It's pretty great. It shows how Ford keeps his camera objective throughout Stagecoach when presenting his characters. It's very informative. Really good stuff.


Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:17 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
PeachyPete wrote:
For anyone who is interested in not only this movie, but John Ford in general, I stronly urge splurging for the Criterion collection edition of the film. All the special features are great. In particular, there's a 15-20 video essay by Tag Gallagher (research shows he's also written a book on Ford) that analyzes Ford's visual style. It's pretty great. It shows how Ford keeps his camera objective throughout Stagecoach when presenting his characters. It's very informative. Really good stuff.


I would have purchased the disc if it weren't for Unke. Really. The price was reasonable (what with the 50% off treatment) but only slightly-positive review (viewtopic.php?p=59438#p59438) sent up too many red flags for me to risk the blind buy.

Is the movie really great or is it really great because it "elevated Westerns in the sound era from cheap B-movies to respectable A-list movies"? That's the question... no blind buy but I'm looking forward to it when Netfllix finally sends it.


Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:36 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
majoraphasia wrote:
I would have purchased the disc if it weren't for Unke. Really. The price was reasonable (what with the 50% off treatment) but only slightly-positive review (viewtopic.php?p=59438#p59438) sent up too many red flags for me to risk the blind buy.

Is the movie really great or is it really great because it "elevated Westerns in the sound era from cheap B-movies to respectable A-list movies"? That's the question... no blind buy but I'm looking forward to it when Netfllix finally sends it.


I would advise against a blind buy for this one. It isn't a great movie, and it certainly isn't the 83rd best movie ever made. It's an important one that's also pretty good. I like it a lot, but it's not near the top of Ford's filmography to me. I think I remember you saying somewhere you weren't a huge Ford fan, so I'd say stick with Netflix.


Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:46 am
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
PeachyPete wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
I would have purchased the disc if it weren't for Unke. Really. The price was reasonable (what with the 50% off treatment) but only slightly-positive review (viewtopic.php?p=59438#p59438) sent up too many red flags for me to risk the blind buy.

Is the movie really great or is it really great because it "elevated Westerns in the sound era from cheap B-movies to respectable A-list movies"? That's the question... no blind buy but I'm looking forward to it when Netfllix finally sends it.


I would advise against a blind buy for this one. It isn't a great movie, and it certainly isn't the 83rd best movie ever made. It's an important one that's also pretty good. I like it a lot, but it's not near the top of Ford's filmography to me. I think I remember you saying somewhere you weren't a huge Ford fan, so I'd say stick with Netflix.


Good memory -- I haven't been nutso about the Ford I've seen but you never know what will turn the tide in favor of a new idol to worship, pretend I know a lot about.

I own several movies I'm not incredibly enthusiastic about; there was a time when the merit of the filmmaker was enough or, more often, certain sequences or ideas that were exciting despite the movie being average.


Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:31 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
majoraphasia wrote:
Good memory -- I haven't been nutso about the Ford I've seen but you never know what will turn the tide in favor of a new idol to worship, pretend I know a lot about.


Pray tell, sir, what Ford movies have you seen? I've only seen his Westerns. I have some of his other stuff like Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Quiet Man all taking up space in the DVR. I really need to get to them. Seen any of those? Or has anyone else?


Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:01 am
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
PeachyPete wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
Good memory -- I haven't been nutso about the Ford I've seen but you never know what will turn the tide in favor of a new idol to worship, pretend I know a lot about.


Pray tell, sir, what Ford movies have you seen? I've only seen his Westerns. I have some of his other stuff like Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Quiet Man all taking up space in the DVR. I really need to get to them. Seen any of those? Or has anyone else?


F*CK! I've got to do another list (I'm starting to hate lists)...

Not your fault, Pete-sicle. Ha! That's what I'm gonna call you from now on. Or until I'm done listing stuff. What?

Right.

The Searchers has underwhelmed me twice. The movie just isn't impressive to me no matter the history and importance and yickity yack. It's good but not really that good. I'd watch it again if I felt I'd missed something... maybe in a few years.

The Grapes of Wrath was also underwhelming, too big a movie for such a nuanced novel.

3 Godfathers
? Yeesh. No thanks. I saw it when I was young so maybe it'd play less terribly now.

I liked Mister Roberts!

Rio Grande had a surreal, peppy feel... it was like a promotional video.

So you see, based on memory, I am batting well below 1000. That being said, he's made DOZENS of movies I haven't seen. It'd be stupid to write the man off when I haven't scratched the surface.


Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:19 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
The Quiet Man is a lot of fun and has nice scenery, including Maureen O'Hara. I don't like The Grapes of Wrath although I loved the book.

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Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:21 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Shame this brief renaissance in the Great Movies seems to have died out. Shame I didn't help it at all.

Anyway, because someone asked, Stagecoach is my favorite Ford by a long shot out of the five I've seen. Liberty Valance is the best I've seen (If I was looking to prove his importance and talent that's the first I'd point someone (read: Major) to) but Stagecoach is both a thrilling adventure (and I do mean genuinely thrilling, even in this day and age) and a nice little class commentary. Its status as a work of art almost seems inconsequential, just like many revived or successful B-pictures from the Hollywood studio system. The cinematography is gorgeous too. It was supposedly a huge influence on Orson Welles while he was filming Citizen Kane, and it shows, especially during the final duel. So: Netflix, people. Get on it.


Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:21 pm
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Zeppelin wrote:
Shame this brief renaissance in the Great Movies seems to have died out. Shame I didn't help it at all.

Anyway, because someone asked, Stagecoach is my favorite Ford by a long shot out of the five I've seen. Liberty Valance is the best I've seen (If I was looking to prove his importance and talent that's the first I'd point someone (read: Major) to) but Stagecoach is both a thrilling adventure (and I do mean genuinely thrilling, even in this day and age) and a nice little class commentary. Its status as a work of art almost seems inconsequential, just like many revived or successful B-pictures from the Hollywood studio system. The cinematography is gorgeous too. It was supposedly a huge influence on Orson Welles while he was filming Citizen Kane, and it shows, especially during the final duel. So: Netflix, people. Get on it.


I agree with all of this. The whole thing.

Liberty Valance is a masterpiece. It aims to "sum up" the West and does so incredibly well. Along with Once Upon a Time in the West it is the best Western to do just that. It's so much better than The Searchers that I don't think it's fair to even compare the two. I'd also like to recommend My Darling Clementine as another Ford film to check out. We had a really good discussion over in that thread that's worth checking out should you feel so inclined.


Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:25 am
Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Playing on TCM 6/19 @ 8pm EST


Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:03 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Stagecoach

Stagecoach is the film where John Ford became John Ford. This was his Mean Streets, his Notorious. I know I'm not always on the side of "innovation" and "influence" when it comes to rating movies decades after they were released, but it has to be considered here. Ford revolutionized the genre by himself. All of your favorite westerns would not exist without this breakthrough.

Anyways, to the film itself. At the beginning, I found it to be a little rough around the edges. It is clearly the work of a director with vision who is still developing his skills. He quickly establishes the setting of the frontier town and introduces us to our primary players. Things seem a little unfocused, but we are nevertheless entertained.

As soon as the stagecoach leaves town, Ford surprises us with his first landscape of Monument Valley. The way he captures the sky is mesmerizing. I wasn't sure about this film until I saw this shot. Soon after, we are treated to an equally endearing sequence - John Wayne's entrance. His closeup here is one of the best character entrances I think I've seen. It was a little weird to see him looking so young. I'm used to seeing him as grizzled and aging yet ageless at the same time. As things move along, you forget that John Wayne's character is supposed to be an outlaw. The tone at this point is quaint; you can't help but to feel a sense of nostalgia. I don't think this was Ford's intent, but this is the effect today. Everything is so wondrously simple. It may be a little annoying to some viewers to find that every western trope is being thrown together into one film. However, one has to realize that until this film was made, these tropes were all that Westerns were, and Stagecoach ends up giving us so much more than just cliche.

I had a little trouble with his cinematography at times. For example, during the table scene when the stagecoach has stopped for the first time, things were disjointed. It was difficult to get a sense of what was going on outside of what was on screen. It's odd that this film also has such beautifully framed scenes interspersed. The flow wasn't perfect either. There was a singing sequence about halfway through that served no purpose and went on too long.

This is the best acting I've seen from Thomas Mitchell. He holds the film together. Every film he does after this one is really just an attempt to recapture this character. I'm really surprised no one has made a mention of this. He is the perfect joker - funny when necessary, but it's his serious moments that make it worthwhile. I would also like to point out John Carradine's presence. His character holds weight. He looks like a painting at times.

The "cowboys and Indians" sequence towards the end is remarkably well done. It's exciting and has some great stunts.

Finally, the ending. It's too long. The buildup lacks the suspense needed to make it worthwhile. I think this is because we've never seen the tension between the Ringo Kid and his enemies - we've only been told about it. We don't really know why these people killed his family, and because he is an outlaw, it is hard to justify his motives as "good", which is really the basis of Westerns. I don't think these scenes were meant to be ambiguous, as Ford has spent way too much time depicting Wayne in such an upbeat and honorable light. It may have been better to have him walk away from the whole situation. One thing I did appreciate at the ending was while the outlaws were playing cards, one of them ended with "dead man's hand"... a trick Ford would reuse in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Sort of a full circle thing.

Overall, you should see this movie if you like westerns or cinematography. It is a landmark in the histories of both. It is a little rough around the edges, but entertaining nonetheless.

3/4


Thu May 17, 2012 2:30 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
Quote:
It is clearly the work of a director with vision who is still developing his skills.


I think he had close to a hundred films under his belt before Stagecoach


Thu May 17, 2012 3:13 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
calvero wrote:
Quote:
It is clearly the work of a director with vision who is still developing his skills.


I think he had close to a hundred films under his belt before Stagecoach


True, but this was his first film with sound, he hadn't done a western since 1926, and it was his first film in Monument Valley. It might not totally be his fault, it was a transitional period for the medium in general.


Thu May 17, 2012 4:04 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
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True, but this was his first film with sound


where did you hear that? This was 1939, sound had been around for quite a while. I think this was around his 20th sound film.


Thu May 17, 2012 6:37 pm
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Post Re: 83 Stagecoach 1939
calvero wrote:
Quote:
True, but this was his first film with sound


where did you hear that? This was 1939, sound had been around for quite a while. I think this was around his 20th sound film.


Oh, I'm mistaken. It was his first Western with sound.


Thu May 17, 2012 7:26 pm
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