John Ford's Stagecoach

John Ford's Stagecoach

John Ford's Stagecoach

John Ford's Stagecoach

Synopsis

Stagecoach is one of the classics of Hollywood cinema. Made in 1939, it revitalized the Western genre, served as a milestone for John Ford's career, and made John Wayne a star. This volume offers a rich overview of the film in essays by six leading film critics. Approaching Stagecoach from a variety of critical perspectives, it considers it within the contexts of authorship, genre, American history and culture. It also examines the film's commentary on race, class, gender and democracy, while remaining attentive to the film's artistry.

Excerpt

The first image of an Apache Indian in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) follows a reaction shot and shout from the whiskey salesman Peacock, as he spots Yakima, the station-keeper Chris's wife. She is, he warns everyone else, “a savage!” and Chris replies jokingly – betraying some obvious pleasure in the thought – that “she is a little bit savage, I think. ” He also allows that she is indeed “one of Geronimo's people, ” and so for him a kind of security, since having an Apache wife means the “Apaches don't bother me. ” More than just a brief bit of comic relief or a measure of how finely these people have had to calculate their relationships – for both pleasure and safety – at this far edge of “civilization, ” this scene illustrates how quickly and superficially determinations about others are made here. and especially subject to this sort of quick judgment are the Indians, whom, the film emphasizes, most of the whites know only by reputation or general appearance – thus the film's opening in which a soldier mistakes a Comanche cavalry scout for a renegade Apache. This play of racial representation and judgment or misjudgment echoes a number of other instances of problematic or troubled racial representation in Ford's films, while it also points toward his larger concern with the nature of civilization, particularly its fear of the other, its hardly repressed sense that even “a little bit savage, ” even a slight taint, usually seems far too much for American tastes.

Of course, Ford's films have always presented a very complicated situation for the study of racial representation. For like many another filmmaker earlier in the twentieth century, Ford would at times use . . .

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