Take a Drink: for drinking or general drunkenness. Thanks Doc Boone!
Take a Drink: whenever someone turns up their nose at Dallas
Take a Drink: for insane stunts and pre-Code blood splatters
Do a Shot: when the 1939 banker demonstrates how Republican talking points haven’t changed a bit in 75 years (and 10 Presidential terms)
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Quick- tell me what you think of when I say “John Ford Western.” John Wayne. Monument Valley. The U.S. Cavalry. Apaches. Stagecoaches. Main Street showdowns. Be-ruffled prostitutes. Fabulous albino fros…
Nope, that’s either your nightmares or Jodorowsky.
Shoot, that may be the list you think of for just “Western.” Stagecoach started that all. It’s the story of eight stage travelers who find themselves forced to cross hostile territory alone to reach their destination. One passenger in particular has even more danger waiting for them there.
John Ford had never made a Western with sound before Stagecoach. John Wayne had never had a Hollywood lead role. Monument Valley had never been used as a Hollywood backdrop. That they all are American icons speaks directly to the influence of this film.
Ford’s direction makes good use of Monument Valley’s beauty, and captures action kinetically, maximizing the breath taking stuntwork on display.
Because in 1939, you just put on an extra pair of pants and did this shit. (At 34 seconds… maybe three pairs of pants).
He also experiments with a few scenes that would look like cutting edge filmmaking even today. A POV river-crossing shot in particular is awesome to see and most likely groundbreaking. Richard Hageman’s rousing score is the perfect accompaniment to the on-screen action as well.
Orson Welles called Stagecoach “the perfect textbook of filmmaking” and apparently watched it over 30 times before making his own masterpieces, and besides the advanced technical aspects of the film, the script also shines. Stagecoach establishes character first and foremost, knowing the ensuing danger and death will lack impact without it, and a game cast who readily create fully realized characters in a short amount of time. Thomas Mitchell as the alcoholic, well-meaning Doc Boone and Claire Trevor as a harried prostitute with a strong backbone both stand out, and Andy Devine’s voice always sends me straight back to childhood (Fox Robin Hood!), but make no mistake, this is the John Wayne Show.
Judging from his starstruck introduction and the fact that one of the film’s dual climaxes is wholly his, you might assume that he was a star already before Stagecoach, but despite a long B-movie resume, this was his first (and possibly only, judging from the studio kickback at casting him) shot. In Stagecoach you can see Marion Robert Morrison become JOHN WAYNE, from that signature drawl to the inate integrity and rugged determination that made the legend. Also somewhat surprisingly, he had some straight up sex appeal. That didn’t quite make it into his later roles.
It takes a looong time for the action to start. The character and tension-building at work during the setup makes up for that, but some things could’ve been scaled back, like, say, the utterly nonsensical “this until now completely healthy and I think I remember svelte lady is PREGNANT and the baby is coming NOW!” plot twist that is barely acknowledged later.
Stagecoach is pretty much the prototype of everything you think a Western is.