Stagecoach (1939)

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A stagecoach containing a disparate assortment of characters comes under Indian attack.

John Ford revolutionised the genre with this beautifully crafted western and John Wayne was catapulted to stardom for his performance as the vengeance-seeking gunfighter whose conscience forces him to the defence of a group of strangers. But for me, the film is all about Thomas Mitchell as his preferred typecast of intellectual drunkard, although it’s one of many wonderful performances as the faultless cast represent a hugely likeable bunch and offer Ford an opportunity to highlight social prejudices. The message is to never judge a book by its cover as gunslingers can be honourable, “fallen women” can be thoughtful and considerate, drunks can be courageous and respected gentlemen can be crooks. Also featuring some ground breaking stunt work, this story has been remade many times and its influence can be seen in everything from the work of Akira Kurosawa to The Breakfast Club.

Perhaps a little dated by modern standards, but Stagecoach still stands up as a classic of the genre.

7/10

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