Written by Fantasma el Rey
The Criterion Collection has added another masterpiece to their list in John Ford’s 1939 classic, Stagecoach. The title alone sounds like an epic in storytelling, a huge saga in the annals of the American West. And it is kind of that way. A story about people, all with a past, some good, some bad, and all really only hinted at. The location of the story plays just as big a role and is also in its own way shrouded in mystery. All this is put together well by a master filmmaker holding the reins of an unforgettable story. Along for the ride is an all-star cast, including one whose star will begin to truly shine here as a team will be forged that will last two lifetimes.
Stagecoach is the tale of travelers thrown together in tight quarters, forced to deal with each other for long hours on a trip that would become the stagecoach ride from Hell as they fight for theirs lives against harsh weather and Apache Indians. As our core players are assembled we notice that most are outcasts of some sort, looked down on by society and victims of “that foul disease known as social prejudice.” We have a fallen Southern gent turned gambler (John Carradine), a crooked banker (Burton Churchill), a drunkard doctor (Thomas Mitchell), a “lady of the night” (Claire Trevor), and an outlaw cowboy called the Ringo Kid (none other than John Wayne) recently busted out of jail and seeking revenge. Also present are the finer folks of society, the military officer’s wife (Louise Platt), the whisky salesman (the aptly named Donald Meek), our stage driver (western staple Andy Devine), and the lawman (George Bancroft) riding shotgun to keep an eye on the kid. As well as many others who had been in western films and would continue to for years to come including Tim Holt, Tom Tyler, Chris-Pin Martin and legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt.