He had good reason to lie. Had he told the truth one of the greatest Western of all time might never had been made, and therein lies a tale. . .
Ford had a reputation for being a good money maker when he was forced to be 'down to earth' but box office poison whenever he got 'artsy', which was often. Ford was a genius and he admired great writing, bringing Eugene O' Neill to the screen---and bombing. Outside the theater the folks in 'Middle America' just didn't take to "Mourning Becomes Electra". Thus Ford had good reason to keep the true origin of "Stagecoach" under wraps.
In 'Pudding' which takes place during the Franco-Prussian war, a group of strangers board a stagecoach. Among them are two nuns, an aristocrat and his wife, a cynic, and a prostitute nicknamed "Pudding."
They treat her like dirt until they run out of food and discover she's brought some. Later, when a Prussian officer detains and threatens them, unless 'Pudding' pleasures him, even the nuns insist that she should have sex with him. She complies, but has the last laugh--she's got syphillis and has patriotically infected an enemy of France!
All the passengers are again disgusted with her, except for the cynic, who is instead revolted with the hypocrisy of his companions. The prostitute has proven nobler than the nuns and aristocrats. . .
Well, no one was ready to have a prostitute infect Cochise or Geronimo with venereal disease in a 1940's Western, but the film follows the THEME of the classic story closely: We meet, in order of social status, 1. A respectable banker 2. An Army officer's wife 3. A liquor slaesman 4. A shady gambler, 5. A prostitute and 6. A convicted murderer (The Ringo Kid)
By the end, it's all turned upside down and the convicted murderer turns out to be a hero, the banker a crook, etc.
The uniqueness of 'Stagecoach' comes in part from the fact that yes, it is like " Lifeboat" or "The Breakfast Club " -- A bunch of strangers thrust together via outside forces. The Stagecoach is like a space capsule in the wilderness. So neither Gary Cooper nor any other star of the time would come anywhere near it, since it was written as an ENSEMBLE piece for a group of actors, not as a star vehicle.
Little did they know. . .
And if you wonder why Orson Welles studied it so closely, note the fluidity of the shots inside the supposedly cramped stagecoach, (ever wonder where the camera was? ) the incredible stunts, the sense of inpending doom as they go further into the unknown, and--Aw, shucks partner, let's just say this guy could direct!
Wayne is bigger than life, as is the first frame in which we see him.
We hear a shot , the stagecoach stops, and the camera moves in as a tall John Wayne twirls his rifle, Monument Valley framing him in the background.
Best entrance on film till the 1960's when Sean Connery graced us with "Bond, James Bond " at the casino.
John Wayne stands out and steals the film without even trying.