Original vs. Remake: ‘Stagecoach’

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! 🙂

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15 Responses to Original vs. Remake: ‘Stagecoach’

  1. *cough*, *cough*….(and very quietly)…I have the John Wayne version at home on DVD and…yes, yes, unforgivable…haven’t watched it yet. Been meaning to and before I know it, another year has passed. I’ll make sure I put it to the top of my To Watch list.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The 1939 version is incredible. So many memorable moments. I haven’t seen the 1966 version yet, but intend to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Like I said, the 1966 version was … the same, but different. After all, they were re-doing a classic. But I think it’s an interesting attempt, if not a perfect one.

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  3. Michael Eddy says:

    My stance on remakes (especially of classics) is: don’t do it. Unless you can make it better (i.e. the technology has improved so that the KING KONG of 1933 with it’s brilliant stop motion can be updated to KONG: SKULL ISLAND in IMAX and take your breath away). In the case of Stagecoach – they should have quit when they were ahead. Like you said – John Ford and the star-making vehicle (stagecoach, get it?) for John Wayne. And black and white. Hollywood loves to say that they’re always looking for original material – but they live on remakes, reboots and comic books. I’ve never made it through the remake of this one because – why bother?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      You might want to grit your teeth and check out the ending of the 1966 movie. The violence of the confrontation at the end actually startled me–a little. It isn’t gratuitous violence, just not the same as the original.

      However, I agree that the original Stagecoach is far superior.

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      • Michael Eddy says:

        Debbi – when you said “grit” my teeth, I thought you were going for a play on True Grit – which was another Wayne remake – but one I actually liked (BIG Coen brothers fan) – and had Jeff Bridges won the Oscar – I think it would’ve been the first time two actors had ever won an Oscar for playing the same role – in different movies. In any event, should the Stagecoach remake show up on TNT or someplace – I’ll give it a look.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Debbi says:

        That’s funny. I have seen the remake of True Grit, but not the original. I should watch just to compare them. I love Jeff Bridges in the remake. 🙂

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  4. Michael eddy says:

    I love Bridges as well. Thought he was spectacular last year in HELL OR HIGH WATER. But Wayne is terrific as Rooster Cogburn. The movie’s really good – Robert Duvall is a bad guy – and believe it or not – Glen Campbell (his entire career – Wayne had a habit of casting young singers in his movies – Ricky Nelson etc.) – who plays the Texas Ranger that Matt Damon played in the remake – is pretty good as well. I thought he did a really nice job. Think how intimidating it could’ve been to be in your first movie opposite John Wayne (and then afterwards be able to say that you supported him on his way to winning his first and only Oscar). he pulled it off. Later, Wayne reprised the role in ROOSTER COGBURN opposite Katharine Hepburn (the only time those 2 legends had ever appeared together in a movie). Not so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Hell or High Water is another film I want to review. If I didn’t do it already. I’m beginning to lose track! 🙂

      Just saw it recently and loved it so much!

      I will have the check out the original True Grit.

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      • Michael eddy says:

        HOHW was my favorite film of 2016. Taylor Sheridan – who wrote it (and was Oscar nominated for the screenplay) wrote and directed a new one which is getting some major buzz – called WIND RIVER. Can’t wait to see that one. Taylor started as an actor (had a cameo in HOHW and used to have a recurring role on “Sons of Anarchy”)

        Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Will have to look out for that one! 🙂

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  5. Very good review of a classic western, Debbi! It is like the difference between an indie film and a box office behemoth. Ford’s version was gritty, believable. The 1966 version is all technicolor and big stars. You are right, it isn’t terrible, just unnecessary.

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