Stagecoach (1939)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Traditional Western  |   Release Date - Mar 2, 1939 (USA)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Relegated to B-movie status by the mid-1930s, the western was regenerated most prominently by John Ford's Stagecoach in 1939. Ford and screenwriter Dudley Nichols artfully balanced the genre's standard action with the character studies and quality production values of prestigious 1930s films. In the microcosm of the stagecoach, the confrontation between "civilization" and "savagery," Western future and Eastern past, is played out among characters journeying through hostile Apache territory, with honor-bound outlaw Ringo fighting valiantly for a society that shuns him. Though not the top-billed player, and then a B-movie actor, John Wayne as Ringo became the star hero from the moment that Ford introduces him with a rare kinetic flourish. Ford here introduced his signature Western setting of Monument Valley, lending Stagecoach a realism that set it apart from studio-bound films; and his deep focus interiors preceded Citizen Kane by two years. A critical and commercial hit, Stagecoach helped spearhead the revival of the Western as a viable A-feature, and it turned Wayne into an A-list star. When he made Citizen Kane, Orson Welles claimed that he learned everything about directing movies from watching Stagecoach more than 40 times.