Monday, September 27, 2010

Movies You May Have Missed Monday

A new feature here on Dry Ground!

I think it’s funny when one person thinks it’s odd or funny that another person hasn’t seen a certain movie. I mean, do you know how many movies are out there? And how much it costs to watch even a fraction of them? Add in personality, genre likes and dislikes and biases (some people just won’t watch certain actors or genres for instance), and the gap widens more. Yea, the media push works in a lot of cases, but believe it or not there are still scores of people who’ve never seen Avatar, Snow White or (*gasp*) Star Wars.

Since I love story so much, especially story via film, I thought I’d start sharing some of the movies I have discovered, liked, appreciated, and even fell in love with.

I plan to do this randomly, so don’t look for rhyme or reason. Just fun.

Okie dokie, then. First up is…

(Montana’s cowboy culture and wide-open spaces may have influenced me a little…)

John Ford’s 1939 version of Stagecoach starring, among many others, the legendary John Wayne.

Before you turn your nose up at John Wayne (he’s one of those you either love or hate), or tune out because it’s a western (admittedly, not my favorite genre), I urge you to give it a chance. Here’s why.

This movie has everything!

Diverse characters, cowboys and Indians, exciting chases and gun flights, wit, depth, history, a sweet and subtle love story, and just the right amount of cheesy western clichés. In fact, I’m convinced that this movie originated all those western clichés!

For example, I now know what “riding shotgun” really means thanks to this movie!

Now, I haven’t seen the dozens of credited and uncredited performances Mr. Wayne gave in the decade before this film, but his character in Stagecoach, The Ringo Kid, seems to me to define John Wayne as western star. No wonder his career was long and illustrious. He’s charming, handsome, a gentleman, but also a fugitive on a mission of revenge, and a slick gunslinger. He sports that famous drawl, exercising it with several memorable lines. Had this been the first movie I’d seen starring John Wayne, I’d probably have become a life long fan.

Of course, some of the movie tempts the eyes to roll or a disrespectful laugh to escape the lips.

For example, a repetition of frantic orchestral music plays over every scene that shows the stagecoach barreling over desert landscape, which happens every other scene at least. At first, it adds to the excitement of the plot. After the tenth time, it’s like sitting at a vaudeville act – cheers for the hero, boos for the villain!

But since it is a classic, and thus deserving of a chance, watching the whole thing brings applause and smiles, the cheesy parts included.

One aspect of the movie I appreciated most was its simple but truthful revelation of the human race. Each character had a flaw (or two), some wore them on their sleeves, others hid it well. But as they are thrown together in a small space in a perilous situation, sins are brought to light. Such exposure addresses issues such as pride, shame, weakness, redemption, grace, sacrifice, forgiveness and honor. The conclusion, I think, is that everyone is flawed, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of acting with valor. Also, everyone deserves a break because everyone needs a break.

This is a smart film while also being entertaining. It provides action, story, cinematic tension, heart-lurching victories, tender moments and solid performances.

Even if you’d rather go icecap skinny-dipping in the artic circle than watch a western, I hope you’ll warm up to the idea of giving Stagecoach 96 minutes of your life. It’s a ride you won’t regret.

Have you already seen it? What did you think? Are you a John Wayne fan? If you like Westerns, what’s your favorite? I hope to hear from some of you.

Thanks for joining me for the first Movies You May Have Missed Monday. Have a great week, Dry Ground friends!

(photo by


Anonymous said...

Great feature. I haven't seen this one before. I'm not a fan of this genre so I never would have seen it, I don't think.

Looking forward to this theme day, Lori. You have a great view of films!

Jonathan said...

I loved this movie (cheesy parts and all - haha). Although to be fair, I'm a John Wayne and Western fan by virtue of my heritage (maybe it's genetic).

By the way, I love your blog. I love the fearless way you tackle all kinds of subjects with a personal and authentic candor. You truly are in touch with your inner "ness".