Forget the Apaches. Geronimo and his gang are just noise in this picture. Okay, noise and a few well-aimed arrows. The threat they pose keeps our little party of stagecoach travelers moving right along, I’ll grant you that, but they’re not necessary.
John Wayne is necessary. The moment he appears by the side of the trail to hitch a ride is when the story truly begins. His interest turns the prostitute, Dallas, into a good woman. His recognition of Doc lends the sorry alcoholic a touch of dignity. The two of them come into their own when Lucy Mallory goes into labor.
Maybe the best service Wayne renders is telling the embezzling banker Henry Gatewood off, early on. Gatewood is almost TOO perfect a symbol of everything that’s wrong with America. Just look at how he treats the enlisted man who is called away by his commanding officer:
I can’t get over the impertinence of that young lieutenant. I’ll make it warm for that shake-tail! I’ll report him to Washington – we pay taxes to the government and what do we get? Not even protection from the army! I don’t know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having *bank* examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!
8 thoughts on “Stagecoach”
I’m glad you liked this one. I think John Wayne was underrated as an actor, although he did make a few horrible movies based on the macho stereotype. “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers” were two of his best.
I seem to be mellowing in my reaction to macho movie icons, the older I get. Wayne seemed quite cuddly in this picture, but he’s still the guy you’d want watching your back.
There are still problems with machismo. (Maybe, in some odd way, it’s easier for me to see this as a man.) It can lead to vigilantism and other kinds of shoot-em-up reactions to hurt pride. It can even allow for behaviors such as smoking (which Wayne himself indulged in), under the guise of toughness. It does look pretty good, though, when it’s harnessed to values we can regard as admirable.
In fact, I think “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” makes this point very well.
Wayne moves up from B cowboy star to box office leading man in this movie.
Check out John Ford’s cavalry trio “Rio Grande”, “Fort Apache” (with Henry Fonda), and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”. “SWYR” the best, I think.
Wayne’s greatest role is in “The Searchers”. Beautifully shot. Tremendous acting. Perhaps John Ford’s finest film.
Thanks for stopping by, pardner.
Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me! I’ll start with “The Searchers,” since it’s so high on your list, will let you know when I post the review, okay?
I’m pretty sure ‘shaketail’ in the quote should be ‘shavetail’, which is a slang term for a Lieutenant. Interesting quote nevertheless, and one that doesn’t seem to have dated much.
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