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 <email@example.com>
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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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I grew up watching the old, crotchety, gruff John Wayne, the iconic hero of the right wing, and even though I'd seen some of his early films on television, I'd forgotten what a sexy and compelling presence he had when a young man. It's easy to see while watching his performance how this film made him a star. As great as Wayne is in this film, he doesn't overshadow any of his fellow performers. Thomas Mitchell plays the drunken doctor thrown out of town, a performance that earned him an Academy Award. Andy Devine is hilarious as the complaining, squeaky voiced stagecoach driver. John Carradine is sleek and snake-like as the gambler. Claire Trevor gives a heartbreaking turn as the good-hearted whore thrown out of town by pious hypocrites. Donald Meek plays his name, a meek whiskey salesman befriended by the whiskey-loving Doc. Each actor quickly and deftly sketches his character so vividly that every performance is memorable.
But the real star of the show is John Ford, the director. To introduce and define nine characters in the context of a fast-paced western is no easy task, and he accomplishes it in masterly fashion. Much of the action takes place in the limited confines of a stagecoach, but Ford takes advantage of the limits by staging brilliant and subtle bits between characters; John Wayne casts sultry glances at Clare Trevor, who blossoms under his glance, the young calvary wife's eyes glaze over as the banker pontificates, and Doc sneaks sips of whiskey from the samples case while he solicitously keeps the wind from chilling the whiskey salesman. When the action moves outside, he films the action in dynamic angles and stunts that were the most daring of its time.
If you enjoy westerns and haven't seen this, you have a great night of film-watching ahead of you. And if the last time you saw Stagecoach was some midnight years ago when you wandered home for a bit of the late show before bedtime, watch it again and rediscover what a great western it is
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