Why Hollywood insists on remaking classics will always be a puzzle. John Ford's 1939 version of the Haycox story was a genuine western classic; this remake is a genuine western omelette. Only the presence of Crosby, in his last acting job in films, saves the movie from being a total mess.
The original was made for about a half million and ranks as one of Ford's best pictures; this version pales by comparison. Following an Indian rampage, a stagecoach takes off from a small town. Aboard are Ann-Margret, a dance hall "hostess" who has been asked to leave town by the local Army
officer; Crosby, a drunken doctor whose face hasn't seen a razor for a spell and who hasn't drawn a sober breath in years; Connors, a southern card shark; Cummings, a meek bank clerk absconding with a payroll; Buttons, a shy liquor salesman; Powers, the pregnant wife of army man Gabriel; Pickens,
the driver of the coach; and Heflin, a crusty police officer. The stories of all are revealed through scenes interspersed among several incidents. Cord is a fugitive who joins up with the coach and is arrested by Heflin. When Powers is about to have her child, Crosby sobers up for the first time
and helps deliver the baby. Indians come after the group and there's a pitched battle. Cord has been falsely accused of killing his father and brother, who were actually dispatched by Keenan Wynn and his sons Weston and Ned Wynn. Naturally, Cord is out for revenge. In spite of this, he manages to
win over the cynical Ann-Margret and they become lovers. When the stagecoach finally arrives in Cheyenne, the journey is finished, but the action isn't. Cord is handcuffed to the stagecoach wheel to keep him from going after Keenan Wynn and family. Cummings enters the local bar run by Lynch. When
Heflin learns that Cummings has robbed a bank, he goes in after him but is wounded by Wynn's sons. Then Keenan Wynn kills Cummings and takes the ten grand Cummings had stolen. Cord is set free to help fight the gang and manages to nail Wynn, along with his sons, as a fire breaks out in the saloon.
Although there's been a reward out for Cord, Heflin realizes that Cord is a good man and has, in fact, saved everyone's life. He allows Cord and Ann-Margret to leave while the rest of the town is trying to put out the fire. While the original had engaging characters and not all that much violence,
this remake concentrates on bloodletting. The dialog fails in its attempt to be "adult," and the performances are generally substandard. Norman Rockwell appears briefly. Because he'd done the excellent portraits of the actors used with the end credits, he was rewarded with a role in the picture,
his first and only. Wayne Newton sings "Stagecoach to Cheyenne" (Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance), not a very likeable or memorable song. Cord had a tough act to follow, playing the John Wayne role. Ann-Margret was better than anyone expected, turning in a strong performance. But the big surprise in
this film was Crosby, portraying the alcoholic doctor with humor and sensitivity. Crosby had won an Oscar nomination as an alcoholic singer in THE COUNTRY GIRL 12 years before and this role was a small reprise of that memorable performance. Following STAGECOACH, he only returned to the screen as
host and narrator for Jack Haley Jr's documentary, THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT. STAGECOACH was filmed on location in Colorado.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Why Hollywood insists on remaking classics will always be a puzzle. John Ford's 1939 version of the Haycox story was a genuine western classic; this remake is a genuine western omelette. Only the presence of Crosby, in his last acting job in films, saves t… (more)