Stagecoach

Film
Recommended
5 out of 5 stars
LORD LOVE A DUKE Wayne is ready for his close-up.
LORD LOVE A DUKE Wayne is ready for his close-up.

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

“My name is John Ford,” the venerable filmmaker once claimed. “I am a director of Westerns.” Yes, and Da Vinci was a painter of smiling females, and Frank Lloyd Wright designed decent houses. A more accurate statement would be: I directed the Western—namely, this 1939 tale of frontier justice and class warfare that exemplified the genre at its best. The Irish-American was no stranger to sagebrush and six-shooters when he adapted Ernest Haycox’s novella “Stage to Lordsburg.” (Ford’s 1924 epic, The Iron Horse, had already set the bar high.) But with this movie, the filmmaker gave the horse opera a new icon (John Wayne’s intro shot!) and its gold standard. Cowboys-and-Indians movies existed before Stagecoach; the modern Western, however, starts here.

So the question isn’t whether the movie deserves canonization, but should you shell out for another DVD edition, Criterion imprimatur or not. While the print looks similar to the one used for Warner Home Video’s recent two-disc special edition, the extras offer a resounding “Hell yes, pilgrim.” A commentary track from Western scholar Jim Kitses offers big-picture analysis, complemented by ascot-aficionado Peter Bogdanovich’s anecdotes on the supplementary disc. Featurettes on stuntman Yakima Canutt and Monument Valley, home movies and a particularly cranky Ford interview from 1968 round things out, but the find here is Ford’s rare silent Bucking Broadway (1917). A typically Fordian, if still primitive, Western, it makes you appreciate what he’d do 22 years later.—David Fear

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