Widely credited with resurrecting the Western genre-as always, rumors of the form's death turned out to have been greatly exaggerated-John Ford's Stagecoach balanced epic action with rich characterization, and established both John Wayne and Monument Valley as monuments of the screen. But if “Stagecoach is to American movies what The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is to American literature” (Charles Taylor, New York Observer), like Twain's novel, it offers many pleasures beyond and despite its canonical importance. The plot brings together nine disparate characters, including drunken Doc (Thomas Mitchell), fallen Dallas (Claire Trevor), and the wanted Ringo Kid (Wayne), on a stagecoach traversing Apache country. Ford deftly evokes the evolving social dynamics of this Grand Hotel–like microcosm, revealing hypocrisies as well as surprising moments of tolerance. Like the narrative, the visual dimension negotiates between the intimate and the sweeping; Orson Welles reportedly studied the film's use of deep focus before making Citizen Kane.

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