Two devout Fordians make personal contributions to the Criterion disk: Peter Bogdanovich with amusing character portraits of Ford and John Wayne, and Tag Gallagher with a video essay, "Dreaming of Jeannie." Gallagher sketches Stagecoach's aptness as a reflection of post-Depression America and then, with acute sensitivity to the particulars of Ford's style, analyzes key passages. He illuminates the director's genius for exploring inner reality through spatial dynamics, and persuasively demonstrates that "Ford wants us to empathize with people, not to ally against them … to see without intolerance." Ford himself is heard from in a 72-minute interview conducted at his home in 1968 by BBC interviewer Philip Jenkinson; this is fascinating, though less for information and insights imparted than as a chapter in Ford's career-long history of being cantankerous with interviewers. His grandson and biographer Dan Ford presents a quarter-hour of home movies of the director with trusted colleagues aboard his yacht Araner, a home-away-from-home and means of escape from Hollywood … yet often Dudley Nichols would be turning out script pages somewhere on board. Stagecoach made Monument Valley "John Ford country," so it's right that the set should include a short history of the Goulding family, who operated a trading post there, and their relationship with Ford and the Navajo. There are also a (rather disappointing) tribute to Yakima Canutt, the fabled stuntman who played such a big part in executing the movie's famous chase across the salt flats; a 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach with Wayne and Trevor re-creating their roles; a theatrical trailer; and a print essay by David Cairns.
And yet the most exciting component apart from the Stagecoach restoration itself is something else by John Ford: a 54-minute silent comedy-Western from 1917, Bucking Broadway. This was made the year Ford started directing (at age 23), yet the work is both fresh with discovery and remarkably assured. Already it has the look of a Ford picture, as in an early sequence of horsemen gathering, surging up hillsides, crossing a creek, and then (anticipating the first shot of Stagecoach!) breaking into view from behind a roll of land we didn't even realize was there. The playing is relaxed, natural; there's hardly anything "silent movie" about it except that you can't hear their voices. Ford even kids about sentimentality (something he would often be charged with in later years) with a scene of crusty cowpokes getting blubbery over the song "Home Sweet Home." And in the final reel, as hero Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey) arrives in New York City on a mission to rescue his girl, one shot is sublime: the off-center framing of the Westerner, with saddle thrown over his shoulder, striding into the tall, baronial lobby of a Broadway hotel as concierge and bellhops look warily on. Picture-man John Ford had arrived, ready for work. --Richard T. Jameson
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.Read more ›
The story of "Stagecoach" is simple. A lone stagecoach must cross an untamed area populated by hostile Indians. In the stagecoach is an eclectic mix of passengers from various social classes and of various reputations. The heart of the film is the relationship that develops between Wayne's fugitive and Dallas (Claire Trevor), a woman with a scandalous past. These two individuals are arguably the two low rungs on the social standing ladder amongst the film's characters. Yet, when all the chips are placed on the table, it is The Ringo Kid and Dallas who prove to be the most steadfast and dependable. Needless to say, both leads are great. Trevor in particular is the embodiment of 1930's glamour Hollywood.
If there's any one thing that people remember after watching "Stagecoach," it is the amazing chase sequence with the pursuing Indians. It is a marvel of early cinema filmmaking technique that still manages to get the blood pumping in the present day. The sequence is literally a film storyboard come to life and a testament to the notion that action sequences do not succeed in and of themselves, but succeed when carefully planned out and competently executed. This is a timeless lesson that many current filmmakers should take to heart when putting together their films
Shot in Utah's beautiful Monument Valley, Stagecoach follows the adventures of a group of unlikely traveling companions as they cross the stage route in an effort to stay clear of Geronimo and his band. Along the way, the group picks up the Ringo kid (Wayne), a confirmed killer. As the journey progresses, the group's true colors come forth, a young prostitute who was driven from her home (played by Claire Trevor) becomes the true heroine, and the stuck-up aristocratic woman, the banker, and the whiskey peddler are forced to learn a valuable lesson--that true inner character is far more important than social status.
The movie itself is a masterpiece, from the brilliant storyline to the climactic ending with the Ringo Kid's battle in the street. The cinematics are spectacular (especially for that time), and Ford's directing is flawless. There have been many, many Westerns since this one (a great deal of them starring John Wayne), but no Western has ever changed the face of the motion picture industry like Stagecoach did.