skip navigation


Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (1)

DVDs from TCM Shop

Stagecoach A group of disparate... MORE > $25.97 Regularly $39.95 Buy Now blu-ray


powered by AFI

The American folk songs adapted for the score included the traditional ballads "Lily Dale," "Rosa Lee," "Joe Bowers," "Joe the Wrangler," "She's More to Be Pitied Than Censured," "She May Have Seen Better Days" and "Shall We Gather at the River?" Additional songs used for the score included the African-American spiritual "Careless Love;" "My Lulu," music and lyrics by Wilf Carter; "Gentle Annie" and "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," music and lyrics by Stephen Collins Foster; "Ten Thousand Cattle," music and lyrics by Owen Wister; and "Trail to Mexico (Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie)," a traditional ballad whose strains are heard in the opening credits and throughout the film. A New York Times article noted that John Wayne was borrowed from Republic, and that he "was the first star Republic has loaned to a major lot." According to Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items, Andy Devine was borrowed from Universal and John Carradine was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox. A January 1939 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Republic had to postpone The Three Mesquiteers pictures which at that time starred Wayne, for six weeks because of Wayne's participation in Stagecoach. Contemporary information indicates that director John Ford had asked David O. Selznick to produce the film but Selznick turned him down. A biography of Ford notes that he spent $2,500 for the rights to the Ernest Haycox story on which the film was based, and further notes that in 1937, after co-writing a script with Dudley Nichols, Ford tried unsuccessfully to interest Darryl Zanuck at Twentieth Century-Fox. Other studios approached, according to the biography, were M-G-M, Paramount, Columbia and Warner Bros. Some modern sources indicate that Walter Wanger wanted Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich cast as the leads, but Ford insisted on Wayne and Claire Trevor. Stagecoach marked the first of three films in 1939 and 1940 in which Wayne and Trevor were paired as a romantic team. Modern sources note that the film was originally budgeted at $392,000, and cost over $500,000 to make. Gerard Carbonara, according to modern sources, worked on the score. Stagecoach was Ford's first picture using Monument Valley, Utah as a location. In addition to Monument Valley, contemporary sources note that scenes were shot on location at Kern River near Kernville, Fremont Pass at Newhall, Muroc Dry Lake near Victorville, Chatsworth and Calabasas, CA, and Kayenta and Mesa, AZ. According to publicity items, the picture was produced with the cooperation of the Navajo-Apache Indian agencies and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Modern sources have frequently indicated that Stagecoach elevated Wayne's career above "B" status, and raised the status of Westerns from the "B" to "A" level as well. However, according to contemporary sources, Stagecoach was one of several Westerns made between late 1938 and early 1939 that were produced on large budgets including, Union Pacific, Jesse James, Dodge City and Stand Up and Fight. In a New York Times article on December 25, 1938, Hollywood-based writer Douglas W. Churchill noted that "The arroyos and the canyons of the West are resounding to the declamations of the glamour boys astride their pintos. The raucous-voiced independent cowboy stars have surrendered the deserts to the higher-priced performers..." New York Times writer Frank S. Nugent wrote an article for the paper in March 1939 in which he expressed similar thoughts: "We've formed the habit of taking our horse operas in a Class B stride...But all that is now changed." Nugent went on to say, "But if, in principle, we look askance upon the grand horse opera, in practice we must admit a wholly immature delight over...Stagecoach...he [Ford] has taken the old formula...and has applied himself and his company to it with the care, zeal and craftsmanship that might have been accorded the treatment of a bright new theme." Stagecoach was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. Thomas Mitchell received an Academy Award for his supporting role as "Doc Boone," and Richard Hageman, Franke Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken received an Academy Award for their score. Although Louis Gruenberg was also credited with the score, his name was not included in the nomination. Stagecoach also made the National Board of Review's ten best list, and Ford was honored as best director of 1939 by the New York Film Critics. Wayne and Trevor recreated their roles in a 1946 radio broadcast, introduced by John Ford, and Trevor and Randolph Scott appeared in a radio version in 1946. Stagecoach was remade by Martin Rackin Productions in 1966, directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Ann-Margret and Alex Cord (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.4677). A made-for-television movie of the story, directed by Ted Post and starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, aired on the CBS network on May 18, 1986.