Stagecoach (1939 movie)

Stagecoach is a 1939 American Western film directed by John Ford , starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne in his breakthrough role. The screenplay, written by Dudley Nichols , is an adaptation of “The Stage to Lordsburg,” a 1937 short story by Ernest Haycox . The film follows a group of strangers riding on a stagecoach through dangerous Apache territory.

Stagecoach was the first of many Westerns that Ford shot using Monument Valley , in the American Southwest on the Arizona – Utah border, as a rental, many of which also starred John Wayne. Scenes from Stagecoach , John Wayne’s character ringo Kid, blended shots of Monument Valley with shots on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California , RKOEncino Movie Ranch, and other locations. Similar geographical incongruencies are evident throughout the film, up to the closing scene of Ringo (Wayne) and Dallas (Trevor) departing Lordsburg, in southwestern New Mexico, by way of Monument Valley.

The film has long been recognized as an important work that transcends the Western genre. Philosopher Robert B. Pippin has commented that both of them are “archetypal rather than individual” and that the film is a “mythical representation of the American aspiration toward a form of politically meaningful equality.” [3] In 1995, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry . Still, Stagecoachhas not avoided controversy. Like most Westerns of the era, its depiction of Native Americans has been criticized as clear evidence of racism. [4]


In 1880, a group of strangers boards the stagecoach from Tonto, Arizona Territory , to Lordsburg, New Mexico . Among them are Dallas ( Claire Trevor ), a prostitute driven out of town by the “Law and Order League”; the alcoholic Doc Boone ( Thomas Mitchell ); pregnant Lucy Mallory ( Louise Platt ), who is traveling to join her cavalry officer husband; and whiskey salesman Samuel Peacock ( Donald Meek), whose samples.

When the trainee driver, Buck ( Andy Devine ), looks for his shotgun guard, Marshal Curly Wilcox ( George Bancroft ) tells him that the guard is looking for a fugitive. The Ringo Kid has been broken up by Luke Plummer. Buck tells Curly that Plummer is heading for Lordsburg and, knowing that Ringo has vowed revenge, Curly decides to ride along as guard.

As the internship sets out, US Cavalry Lieutenant Blanchard ( Tim Holt ) announces that Geronimo and his Apache are on the warpath; Her small troop will provide an escort to Dry Fork. At the edge of town, two more passengers down the stage: gambler and Southern gentleman Hatfield ( John Carradine ) and assertive banker Henry Gatewood ( Berton Churchill ), who is absconding with money embezzled from his bank.

Further along the road, the stage comes across the Ringo Kid ( John Wayne ), stranded after his horse has gone lame. Even though they are friends, Curly has to take it. But when they reach Dry Fork, the expected cavalry has gone on to Apache Wells. Buck wants to turn back, but most of the party votes to proceed. At lunch before departing, the group is taken aback when Ringo invites Dallas to sit at the main table. Hatfield offers Mrs. Mallory his silver folding cup, rather than have a drink from the canteen directly. Hatfield states that he was ever in Virginia . He says that he served in the Confederate Army under his father’s command.

On arriving at Apache Wells, Mrs. Mallory learns that her husband had been wounded in battle. When she faints and goes into labor, Doc Boone has to sober up and deliver the baby with Dallas assisting. Later that night, Ringo asks Dallas to marry him and live on a ranch he owns in Mexico . Afraid to reveal her past, she does not answer immediately. The next morning, she accepts, but does not want to leave Mrs. Mallory and the new baby, so she tells Ringo to go on her ranch, where she will meet him later. As Ringo is escaping he sees smoke signals heralding Apache attack and returns to custody.

The stage reaches Lee ‘s Ferry, which Apaches have destroyed. Curly uncuffs Ringo to help lash logs to the stagecoach and float it across the river. Just when they think that danger has passed, the Apaches attack and a long chase, where some of the party are injured fighting off their pursuers. Just in the run-up to the rescue and hatfield is getting ready to save Mrs Mallory from capturing with her last bullet, the 6th Cavalry Rides to the Rescue.

At Lordsburg, Gatewood is arrested by the local sheriff and Mrs. Mallory learns that her husband’s wound is not serious. She thanks Dallas, who gives Mrs. Mallory her shawl. Dallas then begs Ringo not to confront the Plummers, but he is determined to settle down and return. Luke Plummer ( Tom Tyler ), who is playing poker in one of the saloons, hears of Ringo’s arrival and joins his brothers to join him. Ringo Survives the Curtain, Expecting to Go Back to Prison. As Ringo boards wagon, Curly prompts Dallas to ride with them to the edge of town, but when she is so Curly and Doc shout to stampede the horses, letting Ringo ‘escape’ over the Mexican border.


  • Claire Trevor as Dallas
  • John Wayne as Henry [5] the “Ringo Kid”
  • Thomas Mitchell as Doc Boone
  • Andy Devine as Buck
  • John Carradine as Hatfield
  • George Bancroft as Marshal Curly Wilcox
  • Louise Platt as Lucy Mallory
  • Donald Meek as Samuel Peacock
  • Berton Churchill as Henry Gatewood
  • Tim Holt as Lieutenant Blanchard
  • Tom Tyler as Luke Plummer
  • Chris-Pin Martin as Chris, innkeeper
  • Elvira Rios as Yakima, Chris’ Apache wife
  • Brenda Fowler as Mrs. Gatewood
  • Nora Cecil as Boone’s housekeeper
  • Francis Ford as Billy Pickett, innkeeper
  • Marga Ann Deighton as Mrs. Pickett
  • Vester Pegg as Ike Plummer
  • Joe Rickson as Hank Plummer
  • Jack Pennick as Jerry, barkeeper in Tonto
  • Duke R. Lee as the Sheriff of Lordsburg
  • Chief White Horse as Geronimo
  • Yakima Canutt as Cavalry scout, uncredited stunt coordinator and second unit director
  • Chief John Big Tree as Indian Scout



The screenplay is an adaptation by Dudley Nichols of “The Stage to Lordsburg,” a short story by Ernest Haycox . The rights to “Lordsburg” were bought by John Ford soon after it was published in Collier’s magazine on 10 April 1937. [6] According to Thomas Schatz, Ford claims that its inspiration in expanding Stagecoach beyond the bare-bones plot given in “The Stage to Lordsburg “was his familiarity with another short story,” Boule de Suif “by Guy de Maupassant . [7] Schatz believes “this scarcely holds up to scrutininy” [8] and argues that Bret Harte ‘The Outcasts of Flat Poker . ” Citation needed ]

Ford’s statement also seems to be the basis for the claim that Haycox himself relied upon Maupassant’s Guy’s story. However, there is no concrete evidence for Haycox actually being familiar with the earlier story, especially as it is well-documented that it is uncontrollably influential in the area of ​​history. [6]

Although Ford had made many Westerns in the silent film era, he had never previously directed a Western sound. Between 1929 and 1939, he directed films in almost every other genre, including Wee Willie Winkie (1937), starring Shirley Temple . [9] Ford declined to use Wayne in any of his projects during the 1930s despite their close friendship, telling Wayne to wait until he was “ready” as an actor. In 1938, Ford gave Wayne a copy of the movie’s script by Nichols with a request to recommend an actor to play the Ringo Kid. After reading it, Wayne suggests Lloyd Nolan for the part, but Ford was not committal to the idea. The next day however, Ford announced to Wayne that he wanted himto play the role. The offer left Wayne feeling as if he had been “hit in the belly with a baseball bat” … and fearing that Ford would change his mind and hire Nolan instead. quote needed ]

Before production, John Ford has gone to work on several Hollywood studios, all of which have been driven by John Wayne in the film. Wayne previously appeared in only one big-budget western, The Big Trail (1930, directed by Raoul Walsh ), which was a huge box office flop. Between 1930-1939, by Wayne’s own estimate, he appeared in about eighty ” Poverty Row ” westerns. Independent producer David O. SelznickFord’s indecision on the subject of film production, but was frustrated by Ford’s indecision. Ford withdrew the film from Selznick’s company and Walter Wanger about the project. Wanger had the same reservations about producing an “A” and more John Wayne. Ford had not directed to the most recent of the silent days, the most notable of which had been The Iron Horse (1924). [9] Wanger said he would not risk his money unless Ford replaced John Wayne with Gary Cooper and brought in Marlene Dietrich to play Dallas. [10]

Ford refused to budge; it would be Wayne or no one. Eventually they compromised, with Wanger putting up $ 250,000, Ford had give seeking, and Ford would give top billing to Claire Trevor , a more well-known name than John Wayne in 1939. [11] Following the movie’s release on March 2, 1939, Ford’s faith in John Wayne has been rewarded with the film and immediate success. [12] Cast member Louise Platt, in a letter recounting the experience of the film’s production, quoted Ford’s saying of Wayne’s future in film: “He’ll be the biggest star ever because he is the perfect ‘everyman'”. [13]


The members of the production crew were posted in Kayenta , Northeastern Arizona , in an old CCC camp. Conditions were spartan, production hours, and weather conditions at this 5700 foot elevation were high with constant high winds and low temperatures. Nonetheless, director John Ford was satisfied with the crew’s location work. For this location, filming took place near Goulding ‘s Trading Post on the Utah border, about 25 miles from Kayenta. [14]Western town scenes were filmed on the RKO Encino Movie Ranch , designed by Academy Award winning Art Director Max Ree . quote needed ]


Stagecoach has been one of the most influential films ever made. Orson Welles argued that it was a perfect textbook of film-making and claimed that it was viewed in more than 40 times in preparation for the making of Citizen Kane . [15] The film made a profit of $ 297,690. [2]

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor – Thomas Mitchell
  • Best Music (Scoring) – Richard Hageman , W. Franke Harling , John Leipold, Leo Shuken
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director – John Ford
  • Best Art Direction – Alexander Toluboff
  • Best Cinematography (Black and White) – Bert Glennon
  • Film Editing – Otho Lovering , Dorothy Spencer


  • John Ford won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Director . Other critics gave the film uniformly glowing reviews. [16]
  • In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its “Ten Top Ten” -the best ten films in ten “classic” American film genres-after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Stagecoach has been recognized as the best film in the western genre. [17] [18]

Re-releases and restoration

The film was originally released by United States , Walter Wanger in 1946. Many independent companies have been responsible for this film in the years since. The film ‘s copyright (originally by Walter Wanger Productions) was revived by 20th Century Fox , who produced a later 1966 remake of Stagecoach . The copyright has since been reassigned to Wanger Productions through the late producer’s family under the Caidin Trust / Caidin Film Company, the ancillary rights holder. However, distribution rights are now held by Shout! Factory, which in 2014 acquired Jumer Productions / Westchester Films (which in turn had bought the Caidin Film Holdings after the folding of the Castle Hill Productions distributor ). Warner Bros. Pictures handles sales and additional distribution.

The original negative of Stagecoach was either lost or destroyed. John Wayne had a positive print that had never been through a projector gate. In 1970, it was allowed to produce a new negative, and that is the film seen today at film festivals. [19] UCLA fully restored the film in 1996 from the American Movie Classics network. The previous DVD releases by Warner Home Page 1 Castle Hill / Caidin Trust library. A digitally restored Blu-ray / DVD version was released in May 2010 via The Criterion Collection .



  • The May 4, 1946 radio episode Academy Award Theater had Claire Trevor take over her role alongside Randolph Scott .
  • The December 7, 1946, radio episode of Hollywood Stagecoach Star Star presented , adapted by Milton Geiger. [20]
  • The January 9, 1949 radio episode of Screen Directors Playhouse had John Wayne and Claire Trevor both reprise their shares.


  • The 1966 remake of Stagecoach starred (in alphabetical order) Ann-Margret , Red Buttons , Mike Connors , Alex Cord , Bing Crosby , Robert Cummings , Van Heflin , Slim Pickens , and Stefanie Powers .


  • A 1986 television version featured Willie Nelson , Kris Kristofferson , Johnny Cash , and Waylon Jennings .

See also

  • John Wayne filmography
  • List of movies with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes , a movie review aggregator website


  1. ^ Jump up to:b “Stagecoach: Detail View” . American Film Institute . Retrieved February 9, 2017 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent , Minnesota Press, 2000 P439
  3. Jump up^ Pippins, Robert (2010). Hollywood Westerns and American Myth . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 3, 5. ISBN  9780300172065 .
  4. Jump up^ Aleiss, Angela (2005). Making the White Man’s Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies . Westport, CT: Praeger. p. 60. ISBN  9780275983963 .
  5. Jump up^ Movie time: 20:40 John Wayne says: “Right name’s Henry”
  6. ^ Jump up to:b Ernest Haycox, Jr. (2001). “Ernest Haycox (1899-1950)” . Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission . Retrieved 2012-02-06 .
  7. Jump up^ Thomas Schatz (2003). Stagecoach and Hollywood’s A-Western Renaissance (PDF) . John Ford’s Stagecoach edited by Barry Keigh Grant . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 21-47. ISBN  0-521-79331-9 .
  8. Jump up^ Schatz, p. 27.
  9. ^ Jump up to:b Nick Clooney (November 2002). The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen . New York: Atria Books. p. 194. ISBN  0-7434-1043-2 .
  10. Jump up^ Clooney, pp. 196-197.
  11. Jump up^ Clooney, p. 197.
  12. Jump up^ Stagecoach, by Edward Buscombe, British Film Institute, 1992, pp. 76-82.
  13. Jump up^ Letter, Louie Platt to Scott Ned Archive, July 7, 2002,Thenedscottarchive.compp. 39, 40
  14. Jump up^ Letter Crew from Kayenta, Arizona, December 1938,
  15. Jump up^ Welles, Peter Orson and Bogdanovich,This is Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1998, pp. 28-29. “After dinner every night for a month, I’d runStagecoach…. It was like going to school.”
  16. Jump up^ Clooney, p. 203.
  17. Jump up^ American Film Institute (2008-06-17). “AFI Crowns Top 10 Movies in 10 Classic Genres” . . Retrieved 2008-06-18 .
  18. Jump up^ “Top 10 Western” . American Film Institute . Retrieved 10 May 2014 .
  19. Jump up^ Clooney, p. 191.
  20. Jump up^ ” ‘ Stagecoach’ Is Star Time Play On WHP Tonight” . Harrisburg Telegraph. November 30, 1946. p. 17 . Retrieved September 12, 2015 – .

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