Stagecoach Parent Guide
The adventure is in the journey -- not the destination.
Parent Movie Review
The 1939 film Stagecoach remains one of the most influential Westerns of all time and launched John Wayne on his way to stardom. Wayne, born Marion Morrison, had already worked as a prop man, done stunt work and starred in a number of lower budget films when director John Ford decided to cast him in the role of Ringo Kid. Although the studio balked in favor of a more notable Hollywood name, Ford persisted in his decision and as they say, a star was born.
The script, based on a short story by Ernest Haycox, follows a group of passengers traveling by stagecoach from Tonto to Lordsburg during an Indian uprising. Despite the danger, most of them have reason to take the risk.
Two of the riders have been cast out of town by a ladies’ organization bent on cleaning up the community’s image.
Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell who won an Oscar for his role) has also been asked to leave by the Law and Order League. His love of drink has cost him his medical credibility. Despite being thrown out, Doc couldn’t be happier to make the acquaintance of fellow passenger Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek). The reticent whiskey seller is on a road trip to hawk his wares. Doc takes a special interest in Sam’s sample case and offers to keep it in his care.
Dallas (Claire Trevor) appears to be a woman of ill repute, though no one is so bold as to say the word “prostitute”. She’s quite a contrast to Lucy Mallory (Lucy Platt), the delicate wife of a military officer who is on her way to reconnect with her husband. And at the last minute, a slick gambler of Southern origin (John Carradine) that smitten by Lucy, hops on the stagecoach to accompany her.
The late boarding passenger is bank manager Ellsworth Gatewood (Berton Churchill). Taking a satchel full of the bank’s funds, he chooses to escape the heavy-hand of the Law and Order League as well—or more specifically his wife who heads up the reform group.
Along the way, the stage picks up Ringo Kid. Recently escaped from jail, he is on his way to Lordsburg to kill the men who framed him. Marshal Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft) rides shotgun for the stage’s driver Buck (Andy Devine). The Marshal plans to take Ringo in but in the meantime he’s glad to have another good hand with a gun.
Although the group travels through the wide expanse of the west, Stagecoach, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat that released five years later, corrals the cast into the confines of the horse-drawn vehicle and exposes their individual foibles and strengths. Credited with innovative cinematography, a spectacular setting and thoughtful character development, the film is considered by some to be a textbook example of filmmaking. Orson Wells, reportedly watched it 40 times before making his movie Citizen Kane, and he listed Stagecoach as one of his top ten films.
Exploring the intricacies of human interactions and the judgments freely cast on others, Stagecoach not only hurled John Wayne into the spotlight, but more importantly the film forever influenced the way Hollywood made movies.Directed by John Ford. Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release March 2, 1939. Updated October 8, 2015
Rating & Content Info
Why is Stagecoach rated Not Rated? Stagecoach is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A man accused of murder breaks out of jail and goes in search of those who framed him. We hear gunshots when they meet, but do not see any on screen action. A stage is attacked by a band of Apaches. During a prolonged skirmish, numerous characters are shot with bullets or arrows (without gratuitous blood effects).
Sexual Content: Characters make comments about the alleged activities of another woman, suggesting she is a prostitute.
Language: Some name-calling is included.
Alcohol / Drug Use:Characters drink on several occasions. One character is portrayed as drunk for much of the film. He has to be sobered up to deliver a baby but resumes drinking right afterwards. Some characters also smoke.
Page last updated October 8, 2015
Stagecoach Parents' Guide
What characters are considered to be less acceptable in society? How do their moral characters compare with those deemed more decent or affluent? How does Ringo treat Dallas? Do the characters’ opinions of each other change over the course of the story?
How does the confined nature of the stagecoach affect the people inside? What do we learn about their personalities?
How does the portrayal of Native Americans differ today from movies of Stagecoach’s era? What does the film do to justify the ending scene? How was the law administered in the Old West?
The most recent home video release of Stagecoach movie is May 25, 2010. Here are some details…Home Video Notes: Stagecoach: The Criterion Collection
Release Date: 25 May 2010
Stagecoach releases to home video (Blu-ray or DVD) in a Criterion Collection edition. Bonus extras include:
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer in an Aspect Ratio of 1.37:1, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
- Audio commentary by noted western authority Jim Kitses
- Bucking Broadway (1917), a fifty-four-minute silent western by John Ford
- Extensive video interview with Ford from 1968
- Video interview with Dan Ford
- Video interview with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
- Video essay by writer Tag Gallagher
- Video feature about Monument Valley
- Video interview with stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong
- Radio dramatization of Stagecoach from 1949
- Theatrical trailer
- A booklet featuring an essay by David Cairns
Related home video titles:
John Ford also directed Henry Fonda in 1940 movie The Grapes of Wrath for which Ford won a Best Director Oscar. Andy Devine, who plays the stagecoach driver, appears in the 1956 movie Around the World in 80 Days, and lends his voice to the character of Friar Tuck in Disney’s animated movie Robin Hood.