Director: John Ford
Writers: Ernest Haycox, Dudley Nichols
Cinematographer: Bert Glennon
Starring: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell
Studio: Criterion / Walter Wanger Productions
The legendary western that begat more legend
By the time director John Ford had cast the role of the Ringo Kid for Stagecoach—loosely based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant—both the genre he was working in (the Western) and the actor he snagged (a towering Iowan named John Wayne) were entrenched in the backwaters of B-movie-dom. But when Ford’s camera zooms in on the Ringo Kid, saddle in one hand and Winchester rifle in the other, against the stunning and inhospitable Monument Valley landscape, one can’t help but feel a rush. This 1939 landmark, crisply restored by Criterion, is a masterful sketch of surprisingly complex characters (town drunk, Southern belle, gambler gentleman, milquetoast midwesterner, brassy floozy, blowhard banker, etc.) thrown together on a journey through Apache country. It’s easy to marvel at legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s death-defying moves, and enjoy the soundtrack that recast American folk songs—or you can simply be gripped by the thrill of the ride.