“The Grapes of Wrath” is probably the main reason John Ford is one of my favorite directors of all time. But it’s his extended filmography, including 1939’s “Stagecoach” that cements the legacy.
Recently, the 1939 black and white classic just so happened to win the Large Association of Movie Blogs’ Movie of the Month event for August. As a fan, I’m more than happy to talk about it.
I experienced the flick back in college in one of my film classes at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. The class was exploring some of Ford’s filmography, so along with “Stagecoach,” I also saw “The Quiet Man” and “My Darling Clementine.”
The one that stuck out though, in my opinion, was “Stagecoach.” There’s a reason it won two Academy Awards and earned another five nominations.
There are two aspects I really love about “Stagecoach.” First and foremost, it’s the colorful cast of characters played wonderfully by an ensemble cast. Most memorable is John Wayne’s Ringo Kid, a classic outlaw with a heart of gold.
However, the rest of the group, all with different backgrounds, is what really brings things together. Dallas, the prostitute forced out of town, the banker, the gambler, the dishonored doctor and the marshal. Watching the group interact with their various personalities, many cases in the small confines of a stagecoach, is fascinating.
There’s the thrill of the adventure in America’s southwest, but it’s the characters that really makes it work. Hatfield being a gambler while also carrying a southern charm or Gatewood’s antagonistic attitude.
The relationship between Dallas and Ringo is especially charming. Ringo inviting Dallas to the table for a meal when no one else does is a very nice moment. It’s easy to see why the role served as such a major part of John Wayne’s career.
The other aspect I enjoy is the contrast of the intimate, small space of the stagecoach and the wide open land of the southwest. There’s spaciousness to it all, allowing for action and adventure, while also enabling sequences of dialogue between characters.
Ford really put something special together, raising the bar for the whole art-form. The writing, acting and many technical aspects hold up today.