516 Stagecoach

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Posts: 5850
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#101 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:24 am

I think it's quiet for the same reason the Persona discussion was quiet: what to say about such a monumental film? A clear starting point, like some questions or highly interpretive (ie. debatable) opinions to start everyone off might go some way to dispelling that. I don't wonder if the three of us ought to come up with one question or observation a piece before the list is announced, all of which I can post in the thread--give the thing more of a chance at life.

User avatar
teddyleevin
Posts: 391
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 8:25 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#102 Post by teddyleevin » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:01 pm

I would love a spin-off TV series of Doc Boone. Thomas Mitchell is the soul of this film and his Oscar is so well-deserved. I'm with this film every step of the way. I don't know what else I could possibly say about it. Have you seen those stunts? The approach to the final shootout gets me every time. The first shot of Wayne. I'm desperately trying to think of something new to say about this one. It's brazen at times, subtle in its approach to other things, always asserts Ford's formalism in the clearest strokes. It's the type of Hollywood I wish we had more of/still had.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Posts: 28516
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#103 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:09 pm

I always encouraged my students who were interested in taking screenwriting classes to save their money and just watch this and the Apartment instead, as they'll teach you everything you need to know

User avatar
Sloper
Posts: 956
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#104 Post by Sloper » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:53 pm

This film is so full of good things, but what I like the most are the little interactions between the characters; just small moments that don’t advance the plot but tell you something important. They have the virtue (which I think is typical of John Ford) of being very clear and easy to read, while also being rich enough to yield something new every time you re-visit the film.

When you watch Lucy Mallory’s face the first time she sees Dallas – when the other ladies warn her not to travel with a prostitute – you can see their whole relationship mapped out in the look she gives, and in the way Dallas keeps her eyes facing forwards even though she can hear every word: you can see in Lucy’s eyes that sense of a connection, an instinctive sympathy, which social convention and prejudice force her to suppress. There are several more moments like this between them, until the wonderful payoff at the end when Lucy repeats Dallas’s earlier offer of help, but cuts herself off mid-sentence. She’s remembering how she cut off Dallas earlier, but also realising that a woman in her position can’t afford to give help to a prostitute; and Dallas casually acknowledges all this with her stoic, infinitely forgiving ‘I know’. Just this one relationship between these two women is a mini-tragedy that runs through the whole film.

You can also trace the growth of the relationship between Peacock and Doc Boone, as the former moves from irritation to concern to respect, and again it’s a nice, obvious bit of character development, but played with lots of feeling and nuance by Donald Meek and Thomas Mitchell, so there are always more details to pick up on.

On this last viewing, I even felt a little sympathy for Gatewood and his doomed quest to finally get a little happiness at the end of his loveless existence.

The overall theme of the film is that people naturally bond together, forget their differences and look out for each other, as long as they’re in a situation where ‘the blessings of civilisation’ (to use Doc Boone’s phrase) have been put aside; but civilisation inevitably swallows them back up again, and those bonds of sympathy are dissolved. Okay, not all of them are dissolved, and you could say that even for those characters who won’t see each other again their lives have been deeply touched by this experience. But in spite of the happy ending for Dallas and Ringo, I still think it’s essentially a melancholy film.

User avatar
Drucker
Posts: 4082
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#105 Post by Drucker » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:10 pm

Sloper's right about this being so full of good things, and unlike other Ford films, I can think of no awkward, slightly over-acted or overdone moments. As was remarked, it's not the easiest film to write about for a number of reasons, and it's just one of those films I can always put on and enjoy, and just feels self-evidently great.

With that said, one thought I had as I was thinking of something to write is how beautifully imperfect every character is. There is no real "leader" in the group, and the equality within the trip allows for plenty of time to get to know and enjoy every character.

Another thing I'm trying to articulate is the interesting way that Ford often favors culture above all else, including and especially more formal institutions. A lot of the injustice in his films is perpetuated by outsiders, trying to bring order, formality, and "new rules" to people who've always done things a certain way. Hatfield, Dallas, and Ringo are treated more sympathetically than the members of the party trying to bring law and order to the west. Stagecoach touches on the "civilization being imposed on the west" theme so beautifully, and much less explicitly than other films, perhaps because it is about the journey these people are on. Whereas many westerns focus on an old way of life being threatened or coming to an end, Ford's film doesn't seem to deal with characters who are settled. They are all wandering, journeying together. We don't know where they began or where they will end up. And throughout, we are treated to superb performances, charm, and a rich complexity to all of them.

User avatar
FrauBlucher
Posts: 2971
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#106 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:37 am

Drucker wrote:Another thing I'm trying to articulate is the interesting way that Ford often favors culture above all else, including and especially more formal institutions. A lot of the injustice in his films is perpetuated by outsiders, trying to bring order, formality, and "new rules" to people who've always done things a certain way. Hatfield, Dallas, and Ringo are treated more sympathetically than the members of the party trying to bring law and order to the west. Stagecoach touches on the "civilization being imposed on the west" theme so beautifully, and much less explicitly than other films, perhaps because it is about the journey these people are on. Whereas many westerns focus on an old way of life being threatened or coming to an end, Ford's film doesn't seem to deal with characters who are settled. They are all wandering, journeying together. We don't know where they began or where they will end up. And throughout, we are treated to superb performances, charm, and a rich complexity to all of them.
Oh my,what an excellent observation.

User avatar
Sloper
Posts: 956
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

Re: 516 Stagecoach

#107 Post by Sloper » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:56 am

Yes, that's a great point Drucker - very well said. Your comments made me think, also, that the film has a lovely way of balancing its sympathy and admiration. Even though Hatfield and Boone, or Dallas and Lucy, are set up in opposition to each other, there's a sense that each one's qualities and values are equally important. Although they all end up working together, there's never a sense that the film wants to homogenise them into one collective entity. The stagecoach that brings them together also throws into relief the contrasts between them. It's somehow a good thing that they're all so different, and that they all wander in different directions. That's an important corrective to my earlier point about the sadness of their drifting apart at the end.

User avatar
solaris72
Posts: 683
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:03 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Special List Project Winner: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939

#108 Post by solaris72 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:42 pm

domino harvey wrote:I always encouraged my students who were interested in taking screenwriting classes to save their money and just watch this and the Apartment instead, as they'll teach you everything you need to know
Agreed...and to think that at Emerson the only John Ford I ever saw while getting my BA in film was the kitchen scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance...

Post Reply