The plot, whilst simple, creates an intriguing situation that unfolds between the film's central characters, and it is from there that the complex character development ensues. Each character is briefly introduced and given a backstory, and their stories are further expanded upon whilst confined within the stagecoach. It is this alone that makes 'Stagecoach' the classic it is, so simple, yet so well-executed, and it proved a benchmark for the films to follow.
Minor statements and prop-related reveals also add to the complex development the story has to offer, some of which I missed first time round watching, thus giving us new material with each new viewing. From the "just got a telegram" that Gatewood utters (unleashing a flurry of distrust among the group) to the foreshadowing of death in the form of the dead man's hand in a poker game.
However what really boasts this film as the technical marvel it is, is the films craft, sure the sound mix might be a little blown-out, but it's dated, so is an area you can forgive, but with stunning cinematography, beautiful vistas of Monument Valley (that Ford's films would later utilise time and time again), a score of epic proportions and stunt-work that is unbelievable for when it was done, one particular scene that I was in awe at was the jumping from horse to horse scene during the case along the salt flats. Finally we have the actors, who all provide high calibre performances, Thomas Mitchell in particular who provides the film with its comic element, but also delivers some more heartfelt and caring drama at times of soberness, and of course, John Wayne's introductory zoom shot.
So why didn't I give it 5 stars you may ask, it's solely due the limited emotional attachment I had to it, and that there are other westerns out there that provide for more integral entertainment, but don't get me wrong, 'Stagecoach' is a prototype western like no other, and the thought that went into executing it make it one of the finest films of the 1930's.
A masterpiece that is the most important Western ever made. Great plot, well directed by the legendary John Ford. Not just a conventional cowboys-vs-Indians / gunfight sort of Western (though there a large element of that) but a character drama too. There is great character depth and development on display and this is used well in developing the story.
Some great themes running through the movie too, especially one of anti-prejudice.
Good performances all round. John Wayne is great as the Ringo Kid and shows a softer side that wasn't always apparent in his later films. Thomas Mitchell deservedly won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Doctor Boone.
More than just a brilliant movie, a movie that created the blueprint for Westerns, and pretty much defined the genre.
It also made John Wayne a star. He had acted in plenty of movies before this without much impact but Stagecoach is what truly launched his career as we know it.
John Ford had already won a directing Oscar before directing Stagecoach, so this movie wasn't as career-enhancing to him as it was to John Wayne. However, it did set him up as the foremost director of Westerns. Moreover, it was to be the first of many collaborations with John Wayne, a series of collaborations that would see them make movies like The Searchers, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, They Were Expendable, Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
A brilliant and historic movie.