I probably sighed, many years ago, when, in my college Great Directors film class, I heard that we were going to watch Stagecoach. I am not a great fan of Western’s, I assure you. But this wonderful John Ford movie was so much more than a Western. It was really all about personal relationships, hypocrisy, snobbery, and the true self coming out in a tough situation. With the exception of the obligatory Apache attack and last minute rescue by the thundering Calvary, it could have happened on the Orient Express. Well, I guess it couldn’t have, because the very diverse folks travelling in the cramped stagecoach would have been in very different sections of the train, rather than confined in one small space. The seeming good guys were a banker, (“What’s good for banks is good for America,” he says) fleeing with the bank’s funds; a Southern “gentleman” – really a suave gambler with some implied disreputable background; an Eastern lady travelling to meet her Calvary officer husband in the Wild West; and a sweet little whiskey salesman. The seeming bad guys were escaped convict John Wayne in his first big role - we know he couldn’t be really bad because he was John Wayne after all, a prostitute with a heart of gold, and a drunken doctor (played by the wonderful Thomas Mitchell) who samples up all Mr. Peacock’s whiskey samples. The fallen woman and the doctor are on the coach because they have been driven out of town by the Ladies’ Law and Order League, the most prominent of whom is the banker’s wife. The interactions of these diverse characters forms the grist of this wonderful movie.
I loved this movie because it is a fabulous movie, but also because John Carradine, playing the suave gambler, reminded me so much of my then husband Dennis, both in looks and mannerisms. (I have to confess that Rudolph Valentino also reminds me of him. He was quite the guy!) So watching this film, was in several ways, a flashback to my youth.
Most of the folks with whom I usually watch movies were not terribly interested in seeing Stagecoach – and I must admit that I probably would not have been that interested either, if I didn’t know what a marvelous film it was – but I knew that Dakki would be enthusiastic. She knows a good movie when she sees one. Plus, she is an avowed John Wayne fan, and will be happy to tell you about driving him in her taxicab, him being a very pleasant fellow, and giving her a big tip. So, finishing up a day of cleaning up Christmas and other debris, I called her up to have a tomato soup and poached egg dinner and watch a fun movie. We had a very good time.