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Stagecoach Essay

1213 words - 5 pages


An Interpretation of 'Stagecoach'

In 1939 John Ford masterminded a classical western film by the name of Stagecoach. This film has the integrity of a fine work of art. Being that it could be considered a work of art, the impression left on a viewing audience could differ relying on the audience's demographics. However, it is conceivable to all audiences that Ford delivers a cast of characters that are built on stereotypes and perceptions conjured from 'B' westerns that preceded this film's time. Each character is introduced to the audience in a stereotypical genre, as the film progresses, these stereotypes are broken down and the characters become more humanized. This is apparent with a handful of characters being portrayed better than others. One can investigate each individual character to correlate such a pattern. The characters are, in no particular order: Curly, Hatfield, Gatewood, Peacock, the stagecoach driver, Dallas, Lady Mallory, and of course Ringo.

Robert Slotkin writes in Gunfighter nation, " . . . by 1890 it was clear that the industrialization of the economy had produced a social order in which wealth and power would increasingly be concentrated in the hands of relatively few men . . . "(p 31). It was this social order that influenced iconography of many 'B' westerns. Such iconography would create the ideal of the crooked banker, or the shoot em' up outlaw and even a brothel prostitute, all of which are found in Ford's Stagecoach. The social classes that each character can generally be categorized as an upper, middle and lower class.
In Stagecoach the upper class is composed of Gatewood and Lady Mallory. Gatewood is first introduced as a stern and modest character and part remains to be for most of the film. He exemplifies the 'B' western icon of the crooked banker in every manner. His crooked behavior is not revealed until the end of the film climaxing at his arrest as the stagecoach reaches town. His actions are arrogant and always in line with a financial mind set. His main focus was bag full of money, nothing else. Even as the stagecoach was under siege by the savage Indians, the audience could catch a glimpse of Gatewood clasping his bag rather than brandishing a firearm. Gatewood's character is one of those that does not stray from the 'B' side icon. He is clearly plays the stereotype of the financial trusts that fueled the industry of the time. Lady Mallory,also in the category of upper class is really of little significance in the plot of this movie. Her only claim to such an elite profile is her husband, who belongs to the US Calvary. Her iconography is that of upper class women, nothing more really. She longs for her husband, she too is arrogant to some degree, and she is despised of things subordinate to her nature. She is revolted Dallas who is portrayed as a prostitute. She could not even bear to share a meal at the same table with someone of Dallas's social standing. It is only...

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