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Cinema History: Stagecoach (1939) – John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine

03/08/2019

Wikipedia

Stagecoach is a 1939 American Western film directed by John Ford and starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne in his breakthrough role. The screenplay, written by Dudley Nichols, is an adaptation of “The Stage to Lordsburg”, a 1937 short story by Ernest Haycox. The film follows a group of strangers riding on a stagecoach through dangerous Apache territory.

Stagecoach was the first of many Westerns that Ford shot using Monument Valley, in the American Southwest on the ArizonaUtah border, as a location, many of which also starred John Wayne. Scenes from Stagecoach, including a sequence introducing John Wayne’s character the Ringo Kid, blended shots of Monument Valley with shots filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California, RKO Encino Movie Ranch, and other locations. Similar geographic incongruencies are evident throughout the film, up to the closing scene of Ringo (Wayne) and Dallas (Trevor) departing Lordsburg, in southwestern New Mexico, by way of Monument Valley.

The film has long been recognized as an important work that transcends the Western genre. Philosopher Robert B. Pippin has observed that both the collection of characters and their journey “are archetypal rather than merely individual” and that the film is a “mythic representation of the American aspiration toward a form of politically meaningful equality.” In 1995, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry. Still, Stagecoach has not avoided controversy. Like most Westerns of the era, its depiction of Native Americans as simplistic savages has been criticized as clear evidence of racism

Plot

In June 1880, a group of strangers board the stagecoach from Tonto, Arizona Territory, to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Among them are Dallas, a prostitute driven out of town by the “Law and Order League”; the alcoholic Doc Boone; pregnant Lucy Mallory, who is travelling to join her cavalry officer husband; and whiskey salesman Samuel Peacock, whose samples Doc Boone takes charge of and starts drinking.

When the stage driver, Buck, looks for his shotgun guard, Marshal Curley Wilcox tells him that the guard is off searching for a fugitive. The Ringo Kid has broken out of prison after hearing that his father and brother had been murdered by Luke Plummer. Buck tells Curley that Ringo is heading for Lordsburg and, knowing that Ringo has vowed vengeance, Curley decides to ride along as guard.

As the stage sets out, U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant Blanchard announces that Geronimo and his Apaches are on the warpath; his small troop will provide an escort to Dry Fork. Upon seeing her distress, gambler and Southern gentleman Hatfield offers his protection to Mrs. Mallory and climbs on. At the edge of town, another passenger flags down the stage: an assertive banker Henry Gatewood, who is absconding with money embezzled from his bank. MORE AT LINK

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