Wednesday, June 19, 2013


1939, US, directed by John Ford

Already rich in its own cinematic history, Stagecoach assumes its small place in the history of our family as the first full-length film that I watched with Shay, at the tender age of two-and-a-half. I highly doubt he picked up on the cinematic finer points -- the wonderful shot that introduces John Wayne, crowning him a star in the process, the richly detailed characterizations in the crowded stagecoach, the creation of many of the myths of the screen Western -- but he seemed to find the story absorbing. As befits the obsessions of a toddler, he was concerned every time the horses were offscreen, and needed not just reassurance that they would indeed be back but also information on where they currently were and what they might be up to.

Unsurprisingly, Shay found the central fight between a raiding party and the stagecoach hugely exciting, but he also found Andy Devine's voice and demeanour very amusing, and quickly picked up on the fact that Wayne was top dog in this particular microcosm. The long sequence at a rest house was a good deal more challenging for his limited patience, but he never gave up on the film and was most intrigued -- as many of us might be -- by the arrival of a baby when there was no obviously pregnant woman in the travelling party. In other words, my toddler son was baffled by the restrictions of the Production Code years before he ever heard of such a thing.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States