Stagecoach is the great western movie classic that also made John Wayne a star. It is an integral part of the John Ford / John Wayne Collection released by Warner Brothers and, unfortunately, the least pristine looking of the movies I have reviewed from that great western DVD box set. The picture is sometimes grainy, sometimes dusty, and sometimes has a line crossing the screen vertically. It is a shame there is no better print available.
Still, do not let that keep you away from the greatest John Ford / John Wayne collaboration. Stagecoach is much more than a western as its character study through the usual western movie type (the tough cowboy, the rich banker, the floozy, the drunk doctor, the gambler, the coach driver) is both fascinating, a great comment on the society of the time and, interestingly enough, of modern society, and a lesson in screenwriting for anyone who wants to make a good movie. Stagecoach is the story of a group of very different people stuck together for a period of time and having to deal with adversity together. They are always under the stress of being in a difficult situation, in this case having to get to Lordsburg (not too subtle a name) while Geronimo is on the war path.
The genius of director John Ford in Stagecoach is that he makes you care more and more for the characters and allows them a moment or two of brilliant screen time as almost each character gets a moment of grace before the great challenge they must face comes to the forefront. The Ringo Kid character is what took John Wayne from being a B-movie cowboy to a full-fledged star. Ford had a good eye for talent and his giving this pivotal role to his friend Wayne proves that.
Director John Ford did have an ear for comedy. This is provided in Stagecoach by the driver and D0oc, played by Thomas Mitchell. The latter won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in this movie. 1939 was a great year for Mitchell as he also had roles in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Gone With The Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Only Angels Have Wings.
Stagecoach also features one of the greatest western chase scenes ever filmed when Geronimo and his people chase the stagecoach. The movie does not end here, however, as there is the score to settle between the Ringo Kid, John Wayne, and the Plummer brothers and this is one of the best shootouts in western movie history.
The second DVD that comes with Stagecoach features a long documentary on the collaboration between John Ford and John Wayne, a 30-minute documentary titled Stagecoach: A Story Of Redemption, and the radio drama version of the movie (something quite common at the time) with Claire Trevor and Randolph Scott.
A Story Of Redemption is really about the making of Stagecoach, how Ford battled to keep John Wayne as his star, and how Ford discovered what would become known as Ford country. It is one of the best documentary film on the western I have seen.
Other John Ford Reviews
They Were Expendable: Classic war movie by John Ford starring John Wayne
The Long Voyage Home: Classic sea-faring movie by John Ford with John Wayne
The Wings Of Eagles: Biography of Frank Spig Wead. John Wayne does comedy.
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection: The ultimate collection of John Wayne and John Ford in one boxed set.
Fort Apache: A classic cavalry movie starring Henry Fonda
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack.
The Searchers: Simply one of the finest old style western movies John Wayne ever appeared in.
3 Godfathers: Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.