BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Stagecoach

Screenplay info
Written by: Ernest Haycox (story "Stage to Lordsburg"), Dudley Nichols, Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0031971
Filmsite.org entry: http://www.filmsite.org/stagec.html

Synopsis
Scouts alert cavalry to Indian presence. They try to wire Lordsburg, but are cut off.

Coach arrives in Tonto. Several characters are quickly introduced, mostly through interactions with other characters (class distinctions). The coach takes on passengers (Lucy, Peacock, Hatfield, Dallas, Doc) and starts to leave, with Curly riding shotgun. A bunch of cavalry go along as escort as far as the next stop, tell passengers about Apaches (first decision: go on or not?). The coach picks up embezzler Greenwood. Coach encounters Ringo, who's arrested by Marshal Curly.

The coach arrives in Dry Fork. Cavalry leaves, even though there's no one to take their place. Another vote for going on or turning back. Dinner table scene, with Lucy and Greenwood sitting away from Ringo and Dallas.

Coach arrives at Apache Wells -- no troops there, either. Lucy falls ill. Dallas takes care of her. Doc sobers up. Yakima (Chris' Apache wife) tells vaqueros to take spare horses, disappears herself. Baby is born. Dallas and Ringo talk. He explains his quest for vengeance, she sympathizes, he proposes. Another argument on whether to stay or keeping going.

Dallas tells Ringo to escape, gives him rifle, puts him on horse and sends him on way. He stops at top of hill, though, looking out. Curly rushes up, intending to arrest him. Ringo points out smoke signals. Coach sets off again, comes to burned-out ferry. Curley unlocks Ringo's cuffs. The coach fords the river.

Apache attack. Gatewood tries to run, Peacock's hurt, but all other men fire back. Buck gets hurt, so Ringo jumps onto horses and drives them. They run out of ammo. Hatfield has one bullet left, points it at Lucy (mercy killing), but is shot himself. The cavalry arrive, the Indians flee. Hatfield dies (reveals really is part of upper-class). Coach arrives at Lordsburg. Lucy (nice to Dallas), Peacock taken care of. Luke Plummer is told of Ringo's arrival, sends for his brothers. Gatewood is arrested.

Curly lets Ringo go for 10 min. He walks Dallas to alley, then walks back. Meanwhile, Luke's brothers turn up at saloon. Luke demands shotgun from barkeeper, gets it. Doc asks for it back, Luke gives it, then promptly gets gun from his woman. Ringo kills the Plummers. The coach pulls up with Buck and Curly. Ringo gets in, says Curly will make sure Dallas gets to his ranch. With encouragement (ride with him a little ways), Dallas gets into coach. Curly and Doc throw stones at horses, send coach on its way across the border.

My notes
-- stereotyped characters. Southern gentleman, drunk doctor, prostitute with heart of gold, cruel Indians, sneaky Mexicans.
-- cavalry saves the day
-- very detailed shooting directions (type of shot, camera movement, etc.)
-- straightforward storytelling, prosaic language
-- very little background -- bare minimum to establish basic character. Plot is the main thing.

FT 540 notes (from 05/27/03)
-- example of Silver Age
-- formulaic
-- journey to Lordsburg
-- why does Ringo get vengeance? It's his nature. Why does Doc sober up and save day? It's his nature.

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