Stagecoach

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1880, a motley group of strangers boards the east-bound stagecoach from Tonto, Arizona Territory to Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. These travelers are unremarkable and ordinary at first glance. Among them are Dallas (Claire Trevor), a prostitute who is being driven out of town by the members of the “Law and Order League”; an alcoholic doctor, Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell); pregnant Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), who is traveling to see her cavalry officer husband; and whiskey salesman Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek).

When the stage driver, Buck (Andy Devine), looks for his normal shotgun guard, Marshal Curly Wilcox (George Bancroft) tells him that the guard has gone searching for fugitive the Ringo Kid. Buck tells Marshal Wilcox that Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) is in Lordsburg. Knowing that Kid has vowed to avenge the deaths of his father and brother at Plummer’s hands, the marshal decides to ride along as guard.

As they set out, U.S. cavalry Lieutenant Blanchard (Tim Holt) informs the group that Geronimo and his Apaches are on the warpath and his small troop will provide an escort until they reach Dry Fork. As they depart, the stagecoach is flagged down to pick up two more passenger, gambler and Southern gentleman Hatfield (John Carradine) as well as banker Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill), who is absconding with $50,000 embezzled from his bank.

Along the way, they come across the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), whose horse became lame and left him afoot. Even though they are friends, Curly has no choice but to take Ringo into custody. As the trip progresses, Ringo takes a strong liking to Dallas. When Doc Boone tells Peacock that he served as a doctor in the Union Army during the “War of the Rebellion,” Hatfield quickly uses a Southern term, the “War for the Southern Confederacy.”

When the stage reaches Dry Fork, the group is informed that the expected cavalry detachment has gone to Apache Wells. Buck wants to turn back, but Curly demands that the group vote. With only Buck and Peacock objecting, they decide to proceed on to Apache Wells. At lunch before departing, the group is taken aback when Ringo invites Dallas to sit at the main table, and Mrs. Mallory is clearly uncomfortable having lunch with a prostitute. Mrs. Mallory later asks Hatfield whether he was ever in Virginia; he tells her he served in the Confederate Army under her father’s command. When they arrive, she faints and goes into labor when she hears that her husband had been wounded in battle and has left. Doc Boone is called upon to assist the delivery, and later Dallas emerges holding a healthy baby girl. Later that night, Ringo asks Dallas to marry him. She does not give him an immediate answer, afraid to reveal her checkered past, but the next morning, she agrees if he promises to give up his plan to fight the Plummers. He does so, but she tells him to go alone and will meet him later, as Dallas won’t leave Mrs. Mallory and the new baby. Encouraged by Dallas, Ringo escapes but returns when he sees smoke signals as signs of an Apache attack. The passengers quickly gather their belongings and leave to avoid any encounters with the Apache.

When the stagecoach reaches Lee’s Ferry, the passengers find that the station and ferry have been burned and those who were not killed have fled. Curly releases Ringo from his handcuffs to help tie large logs to the sides of the stagecoach and float it across the river. Just when they think that danger has passed, they are set upon by a band of Apaches. During a long chase, Peacock and Buck are hit and they all run out of ammunition. As Hatfield is about to use his last bullet to save Mrs. Mallory from being taken alive, he is fatally wounded. Just then, the 6th U.S. cavalry arrives to the rescue of the group.

When the stage finally arrives in Lordsburg, Gatewood is arrested by the local sheriff, and Mrs. Mallory is told that her husband’s wound is not serious. When Mrs. Mallory reconciles with Dallas, Dallas gives Mrs. Mallory her shawl to show no hard feelings. Dallas begs Ringo not to seek vengeance against the Plummers, but he is determined to settle matters. Curly grants him leave and his gun. In the ensuing shootout, Ringo dispatches Luke and his two brothers, then returns to Curly, expecting to return to jail. He asks the lawman to take Dallas to his ranch. However, when Ringo boards a wagon and says goodbye, Curly invites Dallas to ride to the edge of town. As she climbs aboard, Curly and Doc laugh and start the horses moving, letting Ringo “escape” with Dallas

REVIEW:

I don’t think anyone is more associated with westerns than John Wayne. Stagecoach is apparently one of his earlier films, as he is quite young and the flick is in black and white. Critics have hailed this as one of the best westerns of all time, but what did I think of this award-winning classic western?

What is this about?

With rumors buzzing about a potential Indian raid, a mélange of troubled passengers climbs aboard the Overland Stage headed for Lordsburg. En route they run into the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), a notorious outlaw who’s bolted from jail seeking vengeance on the men who framed him for murder. But the true threat looms down the road, where marauding Apaches could strike without warning. Will the travelers band together — or unravel under the pressure?

What did I like?

Location. As it turns out, this is one of the rare old westerns that is actually filmed on location, rather than on a soundstage. Personally, I appreciate it either way, but it is a nice change to see that they did go out on location at a time when not many films did such a thing.

The Duke. John Wayne is the epitome of a man’s man. I don’t think anyone is more associated with one genre of film, than Wayne. It all had to start somewhere. I don’t believe this was the beginning of Wayne’s career, but it is pretty early. Usually, Wayne is the one calling everyone else “kid” and other similar terms, but the script is flipped here and it is Wayne that is the youth. Young and talented John Wayne, what more can you ask for?

What didn’t I like?

Heavy. Perhaps you can chalk this up to the fact that I wasn’t really in the mindset to watch this film, or that I was being bother by everyone and their mama bothering me on-line as I was trying to watch, but I had a bit of trouble keeping up with what was going on in the film for a good chunk of the flick. Occasionally, I’d see what was happening, but it wasn’t enough to really tell you.  I was able to tell that this was some heavy material being played out.

Indian giver. With all the talk of Indians in this film, the one person that isn’t on the stagecoach is an Indian. As a matter of fact, we don’t see any of them until the end of the climactic shootout. If you’ve ever seen a western, or read a history book, then you know how big of a rivalry, for lack of a better term, there is between cowboys and Indians. Now, in a film like The Searchers, it makes sense for the Indians to not be seen, as it sets the tone, but this film, we should have seen them as soon as possible, if you ask me.

My apologies for this rushed review of Stagecoach. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I just have too many things going on at one time. From what I was able to discern from this film is that it has earned the credibility for being one of the greatest westerns of all time. However, I wasn’t supremely interested and it came off as just another drama in places. Do I recommend it? Yes, but only if you’re a fan of classic cinema. Otherwise, you’d do better with something like Tombstone. Still, if you’re up for it, give this one a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

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