STAGECOACH (1939)

4 mins read

STAGECOACH (1939) 1

365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 95

Release Year: 1939

Oscar Wins:

Best Supporting Actor

Best Original Score

Oscar Nomination:

Best Picture

Best Director

Best Editing

Best Art Direction

Best Cinematography (Black & White)

THE PLOT THUS FAR

A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process.

WHAT WE THOUGHT

John Ford is the undisputed master of the American Western. Unfortunately, by the time that this film rolled around…the Western was out of style. It was hard as hell to capture sound on an open set and most people didn’t even want to bother. So, the Western that flourished during the Silent Era had all but died. That was until John Ford got the go ahead from United Artists to begin work with a washed up Western star that hadn’t had a hit in nearly a decade. And, with that the John Ford/John Wayne filmography began.
The Ringo Kid has been wrongly accused of a crime and is on his way to Lordsburg to avenge both the false accusations and more importantly, the murder of his father and brother. Dallas is implied to be a prostitute, and so is ostracized from Tonto by a self-stylized matronly moral majority. Doc Boone is far more concerned with getting drunk than being a doctor, and is partially ostracizing himself from Tonto. Hatfield is a “gambler gentleman” with a shady reputation and a false identity. Lucy Mallory is trying to get to her husband, who is in the military; she’s in a surprisingly “secret” physical state. Samuel Peacock, whom everyone keeps mistaking for a reverend, is in the alcohol business and just wants to get back east to get back to his business. Henry Gatewood is a crooked banker trying to flee before his questionable dealings are discovered. And the stagecoach drivers consist of a lovable buffoon, Buck and the most forthright, straight arrow of the bunch, Marshal Curly Wilcox.

Even though Stagecoach remains tightly focused on its wilderness road trip, that might seem like a large stable of characters to shape into a taut plot. Ford, working from script by Dudley Nichols and Ben Hecht, based on a short story, “Stage to Lordsburg”, by Ernest Haycox, keeps the proceedings in check by only giving us the information we need to explore the evolving relationships, and only focusing on each character when they’re important to the plot. This results in a few of the characters being functionally absent for extended lengths of time, but Ford can so easily establish a “deep” character with a minimum of screen time that the absences are not a detriment.

The Blu-Ray comes with a commentary, featurettes, video interviews and original 1949 radio production. The A/V Quality is supported by a robust 1080p transfer and original mono audio track. The booklet boasts a rather strong essay, but the whole package is just an embarrassment of riches. Check out the archival audio interviews with Ford to get a sense of the man in his element. Also, check out the bonus Bucking Broadway to get a sense of where the story was heading. Silent Westerns are hard to come by anymore, especially in HD. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!

TroyAnderson

Troy Anderson is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of AndersonVision. He uses a crack team of unknown heroes to bring you the latest and greatest in Entertainment News.

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