Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water.
A simple stagecoach trip is complicated by the fact that Geronimo is on the warpath in the area. The passengers on the coach include a drunken doctor, two women, a bank manager who has taken off with his client's money, and the famous Ringo Kid, among others. Written by
Andrew Hyatt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the initial Indian attack, Curley uses his shotgun (which is also sawed off, as was the convention to serve as a "scatter gun" to spray buckshot). He manages to kill two Indians with two shots. These Indians are extremely out of range for the weapon. See more »
These hills here are full of Apaches. They've burnt every ranch building in sight.
[referring to Indian scout]
He had a brush with them last night. Says they're being stirred up by Geronimo.
Geronimo? How do we know he isn't lying?
No, he's a Cheyenne. They hate Apaches worse than we do.
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The Overland Stage Lines stagecoach is traveling from the frontier town of Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Geronimo, the Apache chief, has just jumped the reservation and starts an uprising. Before leaving Tonto, the passengers are notified by the Calvary that they are now traveling at their own considerable risk but they will be escorted by the soldiers (here's a clue: don't believe it). Among the passengers are a prostitute being thrown out of town by a group of women with their noses so stuck up in the air you could fly flags off of them. She is joined by a drunken doctor, a gentlemen card shark, a meek whiskey salesman, a crooked banker, a pregnant woman on her way to meet her husband, and a young cowboy who just broke out of jail and out to revenge his family's murder. The coach driver and his shotgun complete the group.
It's all based on a short story called appropriately Stage to Lordsburg but also on a French story (Guy de Maupassant's Boule de Suif) with similar characters traveling in a coach during the Franco-Prussian War.
The basic structure of the plot is also familiar to fans of disaster films. Passengers are introduced, board a common conveyance and face a tremendous danger. The exciting adventure of who lives, who dies, will the stage make it to its destination, and what happens next is highlighted by perhaps the most famous stunts in film history by the most famous and respected stuntman of all Yakima Canutt. If one of the stunts looks familiar, Steven Speilberg recreated it for his first Indiana Jones film.
The film is also a lot more. Unlike other westerns up to its time which were mainly shoot-em-ups between the good guys in the white hats and the bad guys in the black hats, it examines very serious social issues and how different people look down at others differently. Besides prejudice, some of the characters are flawed with alcoholism, greed and revenge. We also see the good in bad people with respect for new life and ultimately redemption. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor (won) and Best Score (won), Stagecoach was John Ford's first sound Western and elevated the genre in both critical praise and popularity. The low camera angles in Monument Valley would become a John Ford trademark. Despite doing 70 films, this is the one that made Wayne a star and it's easy to see why. Many consider it his best performance; both subtle and clear he cares for the needs of the people around him and yearns for his own need for a home, a wife and a family. It is considered one of the great films in cinemas greatest year, 1939. Gone With the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, The Wizard of Oz, Of Mice and Men and Ninotchka were all nominated for best picture alongside Stagecoach that year.
Regarding the political incorrectness of an Apache uprising, well, they happened. If you just happened to be in a stagecoach in the middle of the southwest during an Apache uprising chances are you would be killed. This story does not examine the reasons for the uprising only the effects on a group of travelers trying to travel through it.
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