AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Stagecoach
Director: John Ford (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Mar 1939
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles premiere: 2 Feb 1939
Production Date:   early Nov 1938--7 Jan 1939
Duration (in mins):   95-96
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Claire Trevor (Dallas)  
    John Wayne (Ringo Kid)  
    Andy Devine (Buck)  
    John Carradine (Hatfield)  
    Thomas Mitchell (Doc [Josiah] Boone)  
    Louise Platt (Lucy Mallory)  
    George Bancroft ([Marshal] Curley [Wilcox])  
    Donald Meek (Peacock)  
    Berton Churchill (Gatewood)  
    Tim Holt (Lieutenant [Blanchard])  
    Tom Tyler (Luke Plummer)  
    Chris Martin (Chris)  
    Cornelius Keefe (Captain Whitney)  
    Elvira Rios (Yakeema)  
    Francis Ford (Sgt. Billy Pickett)  
    Florence Lake (Mrs. Nancy Whitney)  
    Marga Ann Daighton (Mrs. Pickett)  
    Walter McGrail (Captain Sickle)  
    Paul McVey (Express agent)  
    Brenda Fowler (Mrs. Gatewood)  
    Chief Big Tree (Indian scout)  
    Yakima Canutt (Cavalry scout)  
    Chief White Horse (Indian leader)  
    Bryant Washburn (Cavalry captain)  
    Duke Lee (Lordsburg sheriff)  
    Kent Odell (Billy Pickett, Jr.)  
    Harry Tenbrook (Telegrapher)  
    Jack Pennick (Bartender)  
    Louis Mason (Sheriff)  
    Joe Rickson (Ike Plummer)  
    Nora Cecil (Boone's landlady)  
    Mary Kathleen Walker (Lucy's baby)  
    William Hopper (Cavalry Sergeant)  
    Ed Brady (Saloon keeper)  
    Vester Pegg (Hank Plummer)  
    Buddy Roosevelt (Rancher)  
    Bill Cody Jr. (Rancher)  
    Theodore Lorch (Express agent)  
    Robert Homans (Editor)  
    Si Jenks (Bartender)  
    Jim Mason (Jim)  
    Franklyn Farnum (Deputy)  
    Merrill McCormick (Ogler)  
    Artie Ortego (Barfly)  
    Jack Curtis (Bartender)  
    Helen Gibson (Dance hall girl)  
    Dorothy Appleby (Dance hall girl)  
    Steve Clemente    
    Fritzi Brunette    
    Leonard Trainor    
    Chris Phillips    
    Tex Driscoll    
    Teddy Billings    
    John Eckert    
    Al Lee    
    Jack Mohr    
    Patsy Doyle    
    Winnie Browne    
    Margaret Smith    

Summary: In 1855, the Overland stage from Tonto to Lordsburg leaves town with eight people on board. In the front, sit Buck the driver and Marshal Curley Wilcox, who is riding shotgun to protect the stage from hostile Indians and from the Plummer brothers, a vicious band of outlaws. The passengers consist of Doc Josiah Boone, the town drunk; Dallas, a woman of ill repute, who, like Doc, has been banished from town; the pregnant Lucy Mallory, who is taking the stage to meet her husband, a cavalry officer, and is treated gallantly by her fellow passenger, Hatfield, a gambler; Gatewood, the town's sanctimonious banker who mouths respectability while clutching a carpet bag filled with stolen money; and Peacock, a timid whiskey drummer. Because of an Apache uprising by Geronimo, the cavalry escorts the coach to the first station at Dry Fork. Along the way, Buck stops to pick up the Ringo Kid, who has escaped from prison to seek revenge on the Plummers, who killed his family and sent him to jail on false testimony. After Curley arrests Ringo, the stage continues on to Dry Fork, where they discover that there are no troops to escort them farther. Voting to continue on alone, they reach the next stop, where their journey is delayed when Mrs. Mallory, learning that her husband has been wounded, goes into premature labor. Doc sobers up to deliver the baby, and as they await Mrs. Mallory's recovery, Dallas and Ringo fall in love and Dallas urges Ringo to escape. Ringo is on the verge of leaving when he sees Apache war signals, and the passengers hastily board the stage to make a desperate dash to Lordsburg. Just as they think the danger has passed, the Apaches attack at a dry lake bed, wounding Peacock and Buck and killing Hatfield. At the last minute, the cavalry rides to the rescue and escorts the stage to Lordsburg, where Gatewood is arrested for embezzlement. There, Curley grants Ringo his freedom so that he can avenge the murder of his family, and after gunning down the Plummers, Ringo and Dallas ride off into the night to begin life anew at his ranch across the border. 

Production Company: Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: John Ford (Dir)
  Wingate Smith (Asst dir)
  Lowell Farrell (Asst dir)
Producer: Walter Wanger (Pres)
Writer: Dudley Nichols (Scr)
Photography: Bert Glennon (Dir of photog)
  Ray Binger (Special photog)
Art Direction: Alexander Toluboff (Art dir)
  Wiard B. Ihnen (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Otho Lovering (Film ed)
  Dorothy Spencer (Film ed)
  Walter Reynolds (Film ed)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost)
Music: Boris Morros (Mus dir)
  Leo Shuken (Mus cond)
  Richard Hageman (Mus score based on American folk songs adpt by)
  Franke Harling (Mus score based on American folk songs adpt by)
  Louis Gruenberg (Mus score based on American folk songs adpt by)
  John Leipold (Mus score based on American folk songs adpt by)
Sound: Frank Maher (Sd)
Production Misc: Daniel Keefe (Prod mgr)
  Jack Kirston (Asst prog mgr)
  Ned Scott (Still photog)
Stand In: John Eckert (Stunts)
  Jack Mohr (Stunts)
  Yakima Canutt (Stunts)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Source Text: Based on the short story "Stage to Lordsburg" by Ernest Haycox in Collier's (Apr 1937).
Authors: Ernest Haycox

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc. 20/2/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP8662

PCA NO: 5029
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Western
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Apache Indians
  Bankers
  False accusations
  Gamblers
  Marshals
  Outlaws
  Physicians
  Prison escapes
  Prostitution
  Regeneration
  Revenge
  Stagecoaches
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Brothers
  Childbirth
  Embezzlement
  Gunfights
  Murder
  Reputation
  Saloons

Note: The American folk songs adapted for the score included the traditional ballads "Lily Dale," "Rosa Lee," "Joe Bowers," "Joe the Wrangler," "She's More to Be Pitied Than Censured," "She May Have Seen Better Days" and "Shall We Gather at the River?" Additional songs used for the score included the African-American spiritual "Careless Love;" "My Lulu," music and lyrics by Wilf Carter; "Gentle Annie" and "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," music and lyrics by Stephen Collins Foster; "Ten Thousand Cattle," music and lyrics by Owen Wister; and "Trail to Mexico (Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie)," a traditional ballad whose strains are heard in the opening credits and throughout the film. A NYT article noted that John Wayne was borrowed from Republic, and that he "was the first star Republic has loaned to a major lot." According to HR pre-release news items, Andy Devine was borrowed from Universal and John Carradine was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox. A Jan 1939 HR news item notes that Republic had to postpone The Three Mesquiteers pictures which at that time starred Wayne, for six weeks because of Wayne's participation in Stagecoach . Contemporary information indicates that director John Ford had asked David O. Selznick to produce the film but Selznick turned him down. A biography of Ford notes that he spent $2,500 for the rights to the Ernest Haycox story on which the film was based, and further notes that in 1937, after co-writing a script with Dudley Nichols, Ford tried unsuccessfully to interest Darryl Zanuck at Twentieth Century-Fox. Other studios approached, according to the biography, were M-G-M, Paramount, Columbia and Warner Bros. Some modern sources indicate that Walter Wanger wanted Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich cast as the leads, but Ford insisted on Wayne and Claire Trevor. Stagecoach marked the first of three films in 1939 and 1940 in which Wayne and Trevor were paired as a romantic team. Modern sources note that the film was originally budgeted at $392,000, and cost over $500,000 to make. Gerard Carbonara, according to modern sources, worked on the score. Stagecoach was Ford's first picture using Monument Valley, Utah as a location. In addition to Monument Valley, contemporary sources note that scenes were shot on location at Kern River near Kernville, Fremont Pass at Newhall, Muroc Dry Lake near Victorville, Chatsworth and Calabasas, CA, and Kayenta and Mesa, AZ. According to publicity items, the picture was produced with the cooperation of the Navajo-Apache Indian agencies and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Modern sources have frequently indicated that Stagecoach elevated Wayne's career above "B" status, and raised the status of Westerns from the "B" to "A" level as well. However, according to contemporary sources, Stagecoach was one of several Westerns made between late 1938 and early 1939 that were produced on large budgets including, Union Pacific , Jesse James , Dodge City and Stand Up and Fight . In a NYT article on 25 Dec 1938, Hollywood-based writer Douglas W. Churchill noted that "The arroyos and the canyons of the West are resounding to the declamations of the glamour boys astride their pintos. The raucous-voiced independent cowboy stars have surrendered the deserts to the higher-priced performers..." NYT writer Frank S. Nugent wrote an article for the paper in Mar 1939 in which he expressed similar thoughts: "We've formed the habit of taking our horse operas in a Class B stride...But all that is now changed." Nugent went on to say, "But if, in principle, we look askance upon the grand horse opera, in practice we must admit a wholly immature delight over... Stagecoach ...he [Ford] has taken the old formula...and has applied himself and his company to it with the care, zeal and craftsmanship that might have been accorded the treatment of a bright new theme." Stagecoach was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. Thomas Mitchell received an Academy Award for his supporting role as "Doc Boone," and Richard Hageman, Franke Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken received an Academy Award for their score. Although Louis Gruenberg was also credited with the score, his name was not included in the nomination. Stagecoach also made the National Board of Review's ten best list, and Ford was honored as best director of 1939 by the New York Film Critics. Wayne and Trevor recreated their roles in a 1946 radio broadcast, introduced by John Ford, and Trevor and Randolph Scott appeared in a radio version in 1946. Stagecoach was remade by Martin Rackin Productions in 1966, directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Ann-Margret and Alex Cord (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.4677). A made-for-television movie of the story, directed by Ted Post and starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, aired on the CBS network on 18 May 1986. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   2 Feb 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   15 Feb 39   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Nov 38   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 38   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Nov 38   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jan 39   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 39   p. 3.
Life   27 Feb 39   pp. 31-32.
Motion Picture Daily   7 Feb 39   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   31 Dec 38   p. 40.
Motion Picture Herald   11 Feb 39   p. 35.
New York Times   25 Dec 1938.   
New York Times   3 Mar 39   p. 21.
New York Times   12 Mar 1939.   
Variety   8 Feb 39   p. 17.

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