Surprisingly, this 1939 film, Stagecoach, is the first time I’ve watched any John Wayne film as well as any John Ford film. I don’t know how I have managed to miss their library of films throughout the years. I’ve definitely heard of the Duke (I mean who hasn’t) along with some film titles, and maybe could have seen a Ford film or two growing up and just didn’t know it, but the knowledge of this astounded me as I started digging into Westerns and eventually into Stagecoach.
Stagecoach manages to gather some passengers of various backgrounds, into a stagecoach as they travel through hostile Indian territory. Among the passengers are a pregnant woman, a gambler, an alcoholic doctor, a prostitute, and a whiskey salesman. The film does tend to be a bit sluggish in the beginning, but it is meant to help get an understanding of the various people to board the stagecoach. Also, I had a hard time getting into Andy Devine’s character, Buck. He came off kind of cartoonish compared to the other characters and I never could connect with him. It is not until the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) makes his flashy appearance that things started to pick up. From here the film mostly deals with the interactions of these various characters and their backgrounds, which is interesting to watch play out. For example, it is intriguing to see how the people treat one another, such as some not wanting to have any interaction with the prostitute. Whereas, the Ringo Kid is friendly to her and pretty much everyone.
Things really heat up in a big way when they encounter the Indians. The action here is fantastic! There is a point in the chase where an Indian manages to get on the front two horses of the stagecoach, is shot and falls between the horses and holding onto the traces between them. He eventually falls lets go and the horses and stagecoach pass over him. It is fascinating work by stuntman Yakima Canutt and very dangerous to perform. Interesting to note, that Steven Spielberg pays homage to this film and Canutt as Spielberg does something very similar during a truck chase in Spielberg’s film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones ends up at the bottom of a moving vehicle, passes underneath it until he ends up being dragged behind it.
The film is quite enjoyable and it definitely gets better as it moves along. The cinematography in the Monument Valley Arizona/Utah border is quite a sight and there are plenty of fine shots of the stagecoach rolling on through the valley. Stagecoach is known for being a great western as it kicked off the wonderful team of John Wayne and John Ford, and they would eventually go on to make some more known classics such as The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and others which I am now excited to see. A big plus though, I’m glad I finally know where this “Curly” quote comes from that I’ve heard so much in the past.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2