Stagecoach (1939)

The classic story of a stagecoach travelling through treacherous Apache territory, John Ford’s first western of the sound era made a star of John Wayne.

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“Stagecoach reverberates with an impressive array of Fordian themes and motifs. Above all, there is the sense of an assemblage of mythical archetypes outlined against horizons of history.”
Andrew Sarris, You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet: The American Talking Film, 1998

Based on a 1937 story by Ernest Haycox, with more than a touch of Guy de Maupassant’s celebrated short story ‘Boule de suif’, Stagecoach brought the western new depth and respectability after a decade in which cowboy films were usually cheaply made shoot-’em-ups.

John Wayne was a regular in two-bit westerns himself, until this star-making turn as the Ringo Kid, an outlaw who joins the motley passengers on the stage from Arizona to New Mexico. Their fraught journey takes them through Indian country and the imposing buttes of Monument Valley. Forever associated with his westerns, this was the first time Ford made advantage of this extraordinary landscape. The Apache chase sequences are master-classes in action editing.

Orson Welles studied Stagecoach repeatedly prior to making Citizen Kane (1941). And 1939 was a great vintage for Ford, who also produced Drums along the Mohawk and Young Mr. Lincoln.

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The Greatest Films of All Time 2012

Voted for by 5 critics and 2 directors.

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