Stagecoach 1939: Forever the Original

This is written for the March 2022 Genre Grandeur hosted by Movie Rob with this month’s theme being Oscar winners and nominees.

(Filmzie)

Before beginning the article, with the 94th Oscars airing soon why not take this opportunity to check out Filmzie, a free streaming service available online and on the app, that currently is offering hidden Oscar winners and nominations. They are currently hosting semi forgotten short titles such as 1941’s Churchill’s Island , 1956’s A Chairy Tale, 1957’s City of Gold and many more!

Warning: Minor spoilers to follow!

When I first learned of the John Ford and John Wayne collaboration team when I was younger, there always seemed to be this age old debate when trying to figure out the best movie the pair did together: The Searchers or Stagecoach. Oddly, although I didn’t see these movies fully at that young age, I was more interested in saying, “Well what about She wore a Yellow Ribbon” because the VHS cover looked interesting or, “What about The Quiet Man” because I had heard it was a, “romance”, movie. I was less interested in two hardcore westerns, even though that’s exactly what the duo was legendary for.

Now that I’m older, and have seen these films many times each, I think I’m more inclined to say the best movie the pair made together is more so a 4-way battle of Stagecoach vs Searchers vs The Quiet Man vs The Man who Shot Liberty Valence. Yet, even with me making my claim for all these legendary movies, Stagecoach is where it all started, and without it, there is no Searchers, Quiet Man, or Liberty Valence.

Stagecoach (1939) is the ultimate example of perfect timing and careful planning to create a rousing success. It was the return to the western for John Ford, if you can believe it, as he hadn’t directed a western since a silent picture from 1926 called 3 Bad Men. While John Wayne had never really been away from the western, it was his return to John Ford, after nearly a decade away from each other professionally with their previous pairing being 1930’s Men Without Women (The Duke was only in a bit part!).

On top of those reunions, Stagecoach was also to be the reunion picture for the western genre and the audience, as the genre had fallen to B-movie filler and radio serial status. Despite the fact the simple story of Stagecoach would introduce nothing “new” to the western overall: 9 strangers gather together in a stagecoach, and it takes them on a journey that will change them by the end of it; what Ford did instead was elevate characters and stunt work to surprise the audience.

For instance, by then cliché characters like the drunk (Thomas Mitchell), the outlaw (John Wayne) and the prostitute (Claire Trevor) were all given layered backstories and behaviors: Doc the drunk ends up sobering up to deliver an officer’s wife’s (Louise Platt) baby, outlaw Ringo only killed to defend his family, and prostitute Dallas ends up being a great caretaker to the newborn baby when the mother falls ill. Other western staples like a carriage attack scene, chase on horseback sequence, and shootout scene were raised to new status when Ford employed the stunt coordination of actor Yakima Canutt (who also would also be a bit player within the film).

Take a look at the intricate carriage chase/ attack sequence, and the careful use of the cameras, actor placement, and rigging in order to pull of the very dangerous scene. There is no CGI, protective gear, or safety equipment; just perfect timing, knowing your marks, and a stuntman dedicated to the craft.

By the time the Oscars came around, Stagecoach would rack up 7 nominations winning two: Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell, and Best Music (scoring) for Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, and Leo Shuken. Most notable nominations include Best Director for Ford and Best Picture- both of which lost to Gone with the Wind.

Perhaps the biggest remembrance of Stagecoach was John Wayne becoming a mega star (despite not scoring an Oscar nom.) after working in movies for 13 years. Ford was very willing on reuniting with Duke, as the financial backer/ producer Walter Wanger wanted better-knowns Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in the roles of Dallas and Ringo. To see his vision become reality, Ford sacrificed half the budget and did not give John Wayne top billing- small prices in my opinion!

The most under-rated John Wayne Leading Lady: Claire Trevor

In the end, I believe Stagecoach has lasted the test of time (although not without criticism of animal cruelty and treatment of Native Americans) and it will always be the touchstone for the western genre. A story of its journey has and will be told many times over, but not to the high caliber that Ford created.

Stagecoach was remade 27 years later in 1966, directed by Gordon Douglas with a star studded cast (Ann Margaret, Bing Crosby, Red Buttons, Stefanie Powers to name a few) and while I personally can’t speak for everyone, I have no desire to watch it and enjoy it. Out of shear curiosity if I ever do decide to watch it, I could only imagine myself hate watching it and longing to watch the original. I always have a stance that when you’re watching or listening to a remake movie or cover version song and you want the original, then the remake is no good to begin with.

What Ford crafted together was utter magic in 1939 and it’s still magic today 9 decades later in 2022. It will live forever in a moment in time in which people could believe in heroes again, and that will never go out style!  

5 Royal Biopics I can’t stand: Pick my Movie Tag 2


I was tagged by Reelweeggie Reviews with the “Pick My Movie Tag” to write about 5 Royal Biopics I can’t stand. The rules for this tag are as follows:

  • Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
  • Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
  • Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
  • Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
  • All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
  • All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
  • Have fun!

Before I name and pan the 5 biopics, I’d like to link some fun Oscar nominated shorts offered by Filmzie and their service. Filmzie is a free streaming service and it has recently launched in the US on Roku. It is available across the globe on a range of connected TVs, via its app, and though your web browser. They are currently offering the following Oscar nominated shorts for free with the links below:

Very Very Nice (1960) , Paddle to the Sea (1965), Pas de deux (1967), and Copy (1967)

Personally, embracing my inner Anglophile, I also see they are offering a range of Gordon Ramsay’s (my favorite chef!!) cooking shows including the UK versions of The F word, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape!

Changing the guard, I now present 5 royal biopics I can’t stand:

1- LifeTime TV’s William and Kate 2011. Starring Camilla Luddington (she’s from Berkshire like Kate!) and  Nico Evers-Swindell. LifeTime TV is always below par, but this is just plain embarrassing. Sure they shot on location, but they shot at Oxford University, not St. Andrews. Cheesy made up scenes like Kate and Will going out for a run with Will’s bodyguards having to keep up or Kate looking at cribs through a shop window leading to a rift and their breakup. The funny stand out scene is when Will jumps in the lake so he can swim out to Kate to, ‘win her back’, as she’s training for the 2007 charity Dragon Rowing Race. The proposal scene set in Africa was clearly green screen, making the backdrop super fake!


2: Hallmark’s William and Catherine: A Royal Romance 2011: (Starring Alice St. Clair, and Dan Amboyer as William and Catherine, Victor Garber as Prince Charles and Jane Alexander as Queen Elizabeth II). This aired on my 15th birthday (Aug 27)! I was really interested to watch at the time and while this one is better than LifeTime’s its still BAD. Kate meets William outside her dorm and drops her laundry- and gets embarrassed when he picks up her bra by accident – cringe! Also some blatant inaccuracies: Prince Harry at the Don’t Walk Fashion Show is a major one that comes to mind. Plus, a running theme of them calling each other Will and Kate at college, then when getting serious calling themselves William and Catherine. The other cringe-y running gag is the pair playing, “never have I ever“, a bit irritating after the first couple times they played it. One thing I will say that may date this production in an awful way, is there is a framing story arc of Diana’s 1995 Panorama interview being the, “advice“, for William as he’s preparing to propose to Kate.

3: Mary Queen of Scots 2018: Starring Margot Robie as Elizabeth I and Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots . (I think I accidentally put 2013 on Twitter, but meant to put 2018). This movie was pretty lack luster, (and no, it didn’t bother me they had a fictional face to face meeting, as the 1971 film also had this occur), it didn’t have soul. While the costumes were great, the narrative was just plain boring. I saw it in theaters and I kept waiting for tension to come up between the two historical legends, and it never happened. While I don’t think we need to choose a, “side“, or a team, what does need to be recognized is there was legit ill-will between these two women. They were not trying to be friends or even family (as they are cousins: Mary Queen of Scots is a great granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth is Henry VII’s granddaughter). I know it’s not common to have women be screen enemies these days, but when telling a historical story, the truth needs to be apparent. Thankfully for that reason, there are plenty of other options when it comes to these Queens!


4: Diana 2013: Starring Naomi Watts as Diana and Naveen Andrews as Hasnat Khan. I was a skeptic about this one to begin with, but it again had no feeling, no soul. The positive element were the costumes with Naomi looking physically spectacular, yet the script was garbage. If felt as if Naomi was doing an impression of Diana rather than an interpretation (Helen Mirren took the interpretation approach for her title role in The Queen). The romance with Khan was the center of this narrative, and we really don’t feel any other element that is Diana. We see her going to a charity ball, or going to the landmines, but she’s just there, present with no emotion attached.  Add on the bizarre pacing, editing, and bad music choices, this one was tough to sit through. It could be used as docu-drama with the visuals, but as a biopic, it was plain awful.


5: Spencer (2021): I admit I haven’t seen this one, but clips and trailers I have seen turn me off immediately, I wouldn’t mind catching it on tv or streaming (where I could fast forward), but instinctively know I would cringe. Kirsten Stewart as Diana is the first mistake. Of all the young women out there, she gets chosen to portray The Princess of Wales? I’ve never been a fan of Twilight (seriously, ask my Mom or Sister and they would tell you, “Emily wasn’t into it at all, even if her friends were, she never was“). The one alluring element is the fact Stella Gonet of House of Eliott fame is in this movie and she’s a very seasoned actress; it would be cool to see her play Queen Elizabeth II. Still, it just feels like it would be a terrible movie. (P.S. Does anyone else notice Diana’s hair is more bob like, rather than pixie like? IT BOTHERS ME!)

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, 5 royal biopics that I personally think are the worst of them out there. I think the key part to any biopic is respect to the real person/ people you are centering the narrative around and when you drop the ball on that, then the whole project falls apart.
Good or bad in execution, I will say royal biopics are always something to look forward to because it allows you to geek out over who- and what- looks right and what doesn’t, and that’s the super fun part!

Many thanks to ReelweegieMidget Reviews for nominating me! And also Thanks so much to Filmzie for providing the Oscar nom. shorts!!! Be sure to check them out!

Lastly, I’d like to pass the tag by nominating Phyllis Loves Classic Movies to write about 5 of her least favorite Hitchcock movies!