Sunday, June 15, 2014

Family Movie Night: Stagecoach

Title: Stagecoach
Director: John Ford
Original Release: 1939
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
Yet another seminal film released in Hollywood's Golden Year of 1939, Stagecoach set a template for Westerns to follow for decades afterward: the morally ambiguous hero, the shamed woman he saves, the drunk doctor, the corrupt banker, the warring natives, the cavalry with their bugles and well-laundered uniforms, the blood vengeance and the gun fight at the end to solve everyone's problems.   None other than Orson Welles claimed it as one of his all-time favorites - perfect, textbook film making, he called it.  It was also the movie that turned John Wayne into a superstar.



Set in 1880, a band of unlikely traveling companions journey through dangerous Apache country.  Wayne plays Ringo Kid, a fugitive from justice even though everyone knows he's really a swell guy.  Also of note in the company are Dallas (Claire Trevor), a disgraced prostitute; Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), a pregnant cavalry officer's wife in search of her husband and the alcoholic Doc Boone, played by Thomas Mitchell who won an Oscar for the role. 

There's no denying the quality of this movie but Westerns have never really been my thing.  I am well aware, nonetheless, that Westerns have had a major influence on a genre that is very dear to me, indeed: science fiction.  Without a doubt, my treasured Star Wars owes an enormous debt to the idiom in general and probably this film in particular - especially the character of Han Solo.  A ragtag group of adventures just trying to survive in a hostile universe?  A lovable outlaw saves the day?  Yup, sounds familiar.

In the most competitive year imaginable, Stagecoach won two Academy Awards in 1939.  In addition to Mitchell's acting award, the movie won for Best Music (Scoring).  The honored composers were Richard Hageman, W. Frank Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken.

19 comments:

  1. I haven't seen it 20 years or so, but I really liked it at the time. I should watch it again.

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    1. I'm sure we'll watch it again at some point.

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  2. Wow. Stagecoach. I haven't seen that movie in a long, long time.

    Mostly, I don't mind westerns, but it's not generally a genre I'm drawn to.

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    1. That's a fair summation for how I feel about them, too. My own next choice for movie night is a Western, though, so I guess I don't mind them too much.

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  3. Westerns aren't really my thing, either, but my husband loves those old westerns. Especially the ones starring John Wayne!

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    1. The only other John Wayne film I know I've seen is Who Shot Liberty Valance? My friends and I had this GREAT idea of taking a drink every time JW said "pilgrim" - very bad plan! I was young and foolish then...

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  4. It really was a fun story. I grew up loving westerns and my dad saw every John Wayne movie. You're so right about movies like Star Wars being the same theme as westerns. And of course, Firefly made no effort to disguise its wild west theme.

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    1. Mal is definitely a Han Solo descendant and they both owe a debt to John Wayne. Asimov's Foundation series clearly had some influence on those two as well.

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  5. I love westerns, but have never seen this one. It would probably be a perfect matinee with Unforgiven since it gives a realistic look at many common Western tropes.

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    1. I need to watch Unforgiven again. I've seen a lot of old Westerns since the first time I saw it a million years ago in the theater, including the Spaghetti Westerns that launched Eastwood's career.

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  6. I'm sure I'll watch this (possibly again) at some point. My dad's a huge John Wayne fan.

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    1. I hope you'll share your thoughts when you do.

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  7. I've always been fond of this movie. John Wayne is just so damn likeable.

    mood

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    1. Such a stilted delivery... but yes, it's impossible not to like him!

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  8. I have never seen this film in one sitting and I don't know why. I love the westerns. And have seen most of them from the movie, serials, Gene Autry to Roy Rogers.
    I grew up in Tucson and lots of films were made here. And If I could have road a horse, (later I did) the directors were scouting extras at our local restaurant/bar hangout family went to It was out in the boonies.
    hahahah there went my chance at Hollywood.
    Can't remember what film but I had on jeans, boots and blond hair in braids. They followed me around for some time.
    To me the Westerns are like the Knights of Old in England.
    John Wayne was just so likeable.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Western gunslingers = Medieval knights. I can see that. There's a certain code of chivalry among the good guys.

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  9. I think I saw this once upon a time. Since "I think," that means it didn't make a big impression on me--rare for the big movies of '39.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Isn't "disgraced prostitute" a redundancy? I noticed that and had to ask.

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    2. In this case, Dallas is actually kicked out of town by the Law and Order League. One could argue that prostitution is always a disgraceful profession but my intention was to convey the fact that direct action was taken to shame her.

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