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A group of unlikely traveling companions find themselves on the same stagecoach to Cheyenne. They include a drunken doctor, a bar girl who's been thrown out of town, a professional gambler, a traveling liquor salesman, a banker who has decided to embezzle money, a gunslinger out for revenge and a young woman going to join her army captain husband. All have secrets but when they are set upon by an Indian war party and then a family of outlaws, they find they must all work together if they are to stay alive. Written by
After seeing this version on AMC a few days ago, I took out my copy of the original from 1939. It's the difference between a classic western and a routine action film.
Director Gordon Douglas probably because there is an unwritten rule in Hollywood that no one is ever to shoot a film in Monument Valley but John Ford, shot this thing in Colorado. It's not badly photographed, but you really miss the sweeping vistas of the Arizona desert. The Apache become the Sioux here and instead we have Geronimo jumping the reservation it's Crazy Horse instead. One of the great moments of cinema westerns in the original Stagecoach is when the cavalry sweeps by the passing Stagecoach to engage the Apaches in the rescue. John Ford liked it so much he used the same gambit in Fort Apache. In this version you have to believe that the passengers fought them off themselves and then made it into Cheyenne on three wheels with less horses. No way, Jose.
Poor Alex Cord, a competent actor, is no John Wayne. Of course who is and Cord tries his best, but you can't forget the Duke. Michael Connors as Hatfield lacks fire in his portrayal. John Carradine created a real air of mystery about the gambler. Nothing like that here.
This is one of Bing Crosby's few non-singing roles and he got some deservedly good reviews for reprising Thomas Mitchell's Doc Boone. In fact some of his scenes with Red Buttons as Peacock the whiskey drummer are faintly reminiscent of Crosby's work with Bob Hope. Buttons is not Donald Meek and he plays the part differently. Meek was a man with a Dickensian name and he played mostly parts that fit that name perfectly. After the Indian attack, Buttons is a man with a few drinks under his belt ready to lick the world. It's different, but nicely done.
Another musical performer in this was Ann-Margret. For the life of me I can't figure out why with two people like Crosby and Ann-Margret, they didn't give her and him a song or two, a duet maybe. Especially since in the plot line here, Crosby takes a fatherly interest in Ann-Margret as well as in Alex Cord. Her role of Dallas is as a saloon girl so a musical number would not have been out of place.
The rest of the cast performs adequately. Bob Cummings's Gatewood is more fully developed a character here and a bigger rat. Van Heflin and Slim Pickens are able substitutes for George Bancroft and Andy Devine. Stefanie Powers as the pregnant cavalry officer's wife is adequate. The part itself is as thin as the original version with Louise Platt doing it.
The gunfight between the Plummers and Ringo is more fully developed here. You actually don't see it in the 1939 version. Keenan Wynn as Luke Plummer is also more fully developed than was Tom Tyler. Tyler with a minimum of dialog suggested the menace of Luke Plummer. But Keenan Wynn is one evil man here.
In fact whole pages of dialog are taken from the original. Interesting that 20 years later another version was done. But this Stagecoach is a perfect example of why classics should just be left alone.
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