Stagecoach (1939)

John Wayne became a star 75 years ago, in his 80th film—this seminal Western about a disparate group making a perilous journey through Apache territory. Director John Ford actually had to fight to cast the Duke, whose career had been mired in B movies since the failure of his first major starring feature, The Big Trail (1930). The role of the Ringo Kid, a young innocent out for revenge on the man who killed his family, was tailor-made for the young actor. One of 20 productions Ford and Wayne worked on together, this was Ford’s first sound Western and the first of nine films the director shot in his favorite location, Monument Valley, Arizona. Beyond its historical importance, it remains one of the most exciting and best-acted Westerns ever made. The chase scenes as the stage attempts to outrun the Apaches are still thrilling, as are the performances, with Thomas Mitchell winning an Oscar as an alcoholic doctor forced to save lives in spite of his inner doubts.

Dir. John Ford

In attendance: Nancy Schoenberger