Saturday, 8 January 2011

Stagecoach 1966-1986

The other surprise of the New Year Christmas period was the 1966 version of John Ford’s classic Western Stagecoach so I also view again the 1986 made for TV version which I also recently experienced and reviewed. I would have liked to have also seen the original version and then compared individuals roles and the three versions overall. I have a merged vision from the experience.

The film is an account of the lives of a group of diverse travellers who commence a stage journey from a town in Arizona to a town in New Mexico during the era when Geronimo and his Apache Indians were attempting to reclaim their land from the new arrivals. There are two stops for fresh horses, food and comfort breaks on a journey which is usually undertaken within one day. The army advises the coach driver and his passengers that their has been activity, including the cutting of the telegraph and advises against departure but offers them an escort to the first stop stating that other army escorts will accompany the other stages.

When the coach driver visit the Marshal for his shotgun rider he is told that the man has been sent out with a posse to try and capture an escaped convict known as the Ringo Kid, the part played by John Wayne in the 1939 original and Kris Krisskofferson in 1986. The 1966 version has a ex football player called Alex Cord. The convict alleges he was framed by men who killed his father and brother and it is believed he is now on this way to Lordsburg, the destination town for the stage coach, to seek revenge on the killers who live there. The marshal decides that in the circumstances he will undertake the role as shot gun rider and as they leave town two events occur which make the story.

The coach is flagged down by the bank manger who is leaving town, he says having been telegraphed to take papers to the bank at Lordsburg, a statement which immediate attracts the interest of the Marshall and driver who have been told the telegraph line has been cut. We, the audience, know that the man has been threatened to be exposed to his family by his mistress and has decided to run off with the shipment of cash brought to the bank by the stagecoach. He is played Robert Cummings in1966.

The second development is that the Ringo Kid having lost his horse attempts to board the coach only to be recognised by the Marshal, arrested, disarmed and made to sit inside the coach on its floor.

Van Heflin plays the Marshal in 66 with Johnny Cash in 1986. I thought the Cash version is a good one. Also deciding to make the journey is the pregnant wife of an army officer she is travelling to be with for the birth of their first child. She is played by Stefanie Powers in 66 the most well known of three actresses playing the role.

The second woman is a bar girl being run out of town by the local women’s committee although in the remake she is the victim of a man who promised to marry her. Ann Margret plays the role in 66 and in each instance the casting has been excellent in matching Dallas and with the Ringo Kid in such a way that the eventual coupling is credible.

There is a Doctor, a drunk in the original film but switched to Doc Holiday in the remake, the Dentist gunfighter, a real life individual remembered for his part in the Gun Fight at the OK Coral with Wyatt Earp in the town of Tombstone. Doc Holiday is on his way back to Tombstone and the Whisky salesman is in search of new markets. In 1966 the role is taken by none other than Bing Crosby as Doc Josiah Boone, dying from consumption.

There is also a former Calvary paymaster who was saved from execution by the father of the wife on her way to join her husband. He had gambled the wages and been imprisoned where he had learnt to become a card sharp gambler making his living from town to town. He offers to protect the wife until joining her husband because her father’s support for him in the past. The remaining traveller is a specialist whisky salesman selling his wares from town to town. Red Buttons takes the role in 1966.

When they arrive at the first stop they are provided with food and rest but are told the new army escort had been attacked and that the wife’s husband had been injured and taken their base while the rest of the troop were out on the trail of the Indians.

The existing escort is under orders to return but offers to take anyone who wishes back with them. The whisky salesman does so in the three films. When they reach the second stop they find is has been attacked and partially destroyed with the relief horses run off. The wife goes into labour so they are forced to stay over night. The wife gives birth with the help of the Doc and the women of the night. She has struck up a relationship with Kid who tells her of the ranch he and his family were developing and offers a home to her as they are two of kind.

As anticipated when they set off they are attacked by the Indians and in the remake there are two differences. In the original it is the cardsharp who is killed but in the remake he survives while in the original the banker survives to be arrested on reaching Lordsburg but in the 86 remake he is killed. I cannot remember what happens in the 66.

They are rescued by the army who drive off the Indians when all appears lost and the wife with her baby finds that in charge is her husband who contrary to the previous report had only a minor injury. In the original film the Ringo Kid goes off and gets his revenge killing all three brothers involved in the family deaths and the framing of him. In the remake the Marshall together with the Doc and the Cardsharp are all involved in tackling the gangsters leading to the death of the senior brother in a fair shootout and the arrest of the other two.

There is one other difference between the films is that in the original the Kid returns to custody expecting to be returned to prison and asks the Marshall to arrange for the woman to get to his ranch to wait for his release. The Marshall allows him to go off with the woman, although still a fugitive. In the remake his innocence is established before the shoot out and therefore the couple are free to start their new life together. I thought the remake was as well acted as the original and maintained an authentic feel.

No comments:

Post a Comment