stagecoach

By far the best western film of 1939, Stagecoach is a cinema treasure for a variety of different reasons, the most important being it was the film that put John Wayne on the movie map and also is the first major pairing of director John Ford and star Wayne.

Ford and Wayne made 14 films together. They were friends as well…buddies to the end. And, that friendship comes across on screen in each of their films. But, it all truly began with Stagecoach. I said earlier the pair had made 14 films together…well, that is not counting the seven films Ford made with Wayne as just an extra in the late 1920s/early 1930s.

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When simple-minded, big-city lawyer James Stewart arrives in the town of Shinbone, he butts heads with town bully John Wayne as they fight over a woman and over how to run Shinbone. After notorious outlaw Liberty Valance comes to town, Wayne and Stewart set aside their differences to fight him. Stewart and Wayne shine as both tortured souls in their own ways. Not Ford and Wayne’s finest pairing, but with the addition of Stewart, this one is a must-see classic Western. On a side note, this film trademarked Wayne’s “pilgrim” expression, which he uses too many times to count here.

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Civil War veteran Ethan spends more time wandering the West than he does with his family. When he finally comes home, he soon finds himself searching once again: this time, for his sole-surviving nieces who were kidnapped after a raid on his brother’s home by Indian chief Scar. Many consider (including myself) this the best work from the frequent collaboration of John Wayne and director John Ford. The vistas from Ford’s famed location Monument Valley never looked more stunning. Wayne never was more tormented and troubled, really showing his acting range in this one. What a brilliant combination!

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