Native American Geronimo is on the warpath in the untamed Wild West, but a stagecoach-load of travellers decide to take their chances and make their way across Utah's Monument Valley. The passenger list comprises an alcoholic doctor (Thomas Mitchell), a shamed prostitute (Claire Trevor), the pregnant wife of a cavalry officer (Louise Platt), a shady bank manager (Berton Churchill), a timid whiskey salesman (Donald Meek) and an on-the-run gambler (John Carradine). En route, they pick up outlaw the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) and, as the journey continues, each of the troupe are given a chance to show their true colours. John Ford's seminal Western made a star of John Wayne, and garnered Oscars for Best Score and Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Mitchell).
Regarded by many as the best Western ever made, Stagecoach
shot John Wayne to stardom and elevated the prestige of a genre that had hitherto been considered a B-movie province. With rumours in the air of a possible Apache attack, a motley group of travellers in a small New Mexico town board the Overland Stage bound for Lordsburg. Among them are the pregnant Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt); timid liquor salesman Peacock (Donald Meek); Hatfield, an aloof gambler (John Carradine); Gatewood (Berton Churchill), a pompous, embezzling banker; and two who have been exiled from town, alcoholic Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell) and Dallas (Clair Trevor), a lady of the evening. Along the trail, they pick up the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), an outlaw who's escaped from prison to take revenge on the Plummer brothers for destroying his family and framing him for murder. As their journey progresses, the hypocrisy of the supposedly respectable passengers becomes clear, and it's the tainted outsiders who display courage and humanity. Described by Orson Welles, who watched the film innumerable times before making Citizen Kane
, as his cinematic textbook, Stagecoach
is superbly made in every respect, layering humour and sharp characterisation into an exciting plot that includes a spectacularly photographed chase in Monument Valley.