What can I say about the 1939 version of Stagecoach that hasn’t already been said? Stagecoach is the story of a motley diverse group of strangers who are in a hurry (for one reason or another) to beat feet get to Lordsburg. The setting is the old West. So they hustle out of town by—you got it—stagecoach.
And along the way, they run into an outlaw named Ringo (in the days well before The Beatles). Apparently, Ringo is without a ride and is forced to hitchhike across Arizona Territory (played spectacularly by Monument Valley). So Marshal Curly Wilcox, who’s riding shotgun, invites Ringo (kinda) to join their merry band.
The passengers make for an interesting mix of characters: a dance hall prostitute who’s been run out of town; a pregnant woman trying to meet up with her military husband; an alcoholic doctor; a gambler and “Southern gentleman”; a distinctly unheroic whiskey salesman; and a banker who has embezzled 50 grand from his employer. Plus Ringo, the stage driver, and the Marshall. You can just imagine the conflicts that ensue.
In both versions, they’re set upon by Indians. In both versions, there’s controversy about whether to turn back or keep going. And, without revealing spoilers (for those few of you who have not seen this magnificent movie), I’ll only say that, by the end, each of the characters has a better understanding of the other and there are moments where either justice is served or sins are forgiven.
You’ll notice I haven’t said much about the 1966 version. And not because it’s a completely unworthy movie. An unnecessary one maybe—but unworthy? No. Both versions have the same characters with the same qualities, except the remake is in color and with different actors. And with slight tweaks to the plot that reflect the sensibilities of the time about the acceptable level of violence in movies.
There’s something about the color in the remake that takes away from the stark imagery of the West as portrayed in the original. In fact, one could argue that Stagecoach is a metaphor for the isolation and vulnerability of the westward pioneers. Or you could just say it’s a great story and leave it at that.
But the 1939 version was directed by–*bow* *scrape*—John Ford. It is a truly classic film.
So if you’ve never seen this movie and you like Westerns, what the hell’s the holdup you simply must see the original.
And if you have nothing better to do and it happens to be on, the 1966 version is an inoffensive way to pass the time. And not nearly as horrible as its critics would have you think.
Try not to let the Wayne Newton or Norman Rockwell closing credits put you off! 🙂