Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List (1993) Director: Steven Spielberg

“Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.”



Schindler’s List is a beautiful but harrowing and sobering holocaust film shot almost entirely in black and white. Amazingly, Spielberg was unsure about the project, and he tried several times to pass the film to other directors (like Roman Polanski, a survivor of the Krakow ghetto, who turned down this opportunity, but he later famously made his own holocaust film, The Pianist). Not only is Schindler’s List a lengthy and powerful film for ordinary audiences to watch, but also, as shooting was underway in Poland, Steven Spielberg was overwhelmed with emotions connected to his own Jewish heritage. It was a deeply gut-wrenching experience Apparently, Robin Williams called Spielberg regularly to tell him jokes and cheer him up during filming.

1993 was a monumental year for Steven Spielberg. He shot both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List at the same time. Both are excellent movies -some of the best of the era. Schindler’s List is based on a 1982 Thomas Keneally novel called “Schindler’s Ark.” The novel won the Book Prize.

“Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I’ll be very unhappy.”

The story is based on the true account of Oskar Schindler, a factory businessman and member of the Nazi party who wound up saving over a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Schindler is played by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes plays the somewhat unbelievably brutal and sadistic Nazi S.S. Officer, Amon Göth, and Ben Kingsley plays Schindler’s friend and accountant, Itzhak Stern. Both Neeson and Fiennes were relatively unknown prior to Schindler’s List. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Schindler is not merely a playboy businessman, but rather he becomes a sympathizer and savior of many victims of the holocaust. In fact, he risks his life, money, and credibility to save as many Jews from the gas chambers as possible. In one particularly memorable scene, as the ghetto is liquidated, one girl wearing a red coat appears (one of the only moments of color in the film). We later learn that she has been slaughtered in one of the camps.

“The list is an absolute good. The list is life.”

As the war ends, Schindler is forced to flee in hiding while consumed with regret and wishing he had done more. In reality, the real Schindler fled Germany for Argentina where he became a farmer, eventually going bankrupt and relying on funds from Jewish organizations to stay afloat. Amon Göth was later captured after the war and hanged, following the Nuremberg trials.

The closing scenes of the film are some of the most powerful. Many years later, we see huge lines of families visiting the grave of Oskar Schindler in Jerusalem to pay their respects by placing stones on his grave marker. Many of the true survivors from Oskar Schindler’s factory walk arm in arm with their actor counterparts at the end of the movie. The real Schindler died in 1974.

Moonraker (1979) Review

Moonraker (1979) Director: Lewis Gilbert

“First there was the dream, now there is reality. Here in the untainted cradle of the heavens will be created a new super race, a race of perfect physical specimens. You have been selected as its progenitors. Like gods, your offspring will return to Earth and shape it in their image.”



Heavily influenced by the rise of popular science fiction movies like Star Wars, the eleventh Eon James Bond film takes 007 on a wild and campy adventure from California to Venice to Rio, and finally into outer space, while chasing a megalomaniacal magnate. Moonraker is the fourth to star Roger Moore, and the third film in the series directed by Lewis Gilbert: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker (1979). Moonraker was the third Bond novel published by Ian Fleming, initially released in 1954. The producers originally intended to create For Your Eyes Only (as originally shown in the closing credits of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me), however with the rise of the recent Star Wars mania, they decided to go with the space theme for James Bond.

At the outset of the film, a Moonraker space shuttle –on loan from the Americans– is suddenly hijacked while midair over England. M (Bernard Lee) summons James Bond to investigate, but while on the plane en route back to England, James Bond’s plane is hijacked by Jaws (Richard Kiel), the towering henchman from the previous 007 film (The Spy Who Loved Me). Bond narrowly survives the attack by free-jumping out of an airplane. Immediately, we get a sense of how goofy this film will be when Bond steals a parachute midair from a falling assassin, and Jaws falls, not to his death, but gently onto a comical circus tent. Cue the opening credits with Shirley Bassey’s third of three James Bond theme songs (this was the least memorable of the three in my view). James Bond is then sent to California, to the headquarters of Drax Industries which is the manufacturer of the Moonraker space shuttle. Bond meets the sinister head of the company, Hugo Drax (played by Michael Lonsdale –a role for which he is best known today). Along the way, we also meet his Samurai henchman, Chang (Toshiro Suga), and NASA scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead (played by Lois Chiles -the role for which she is best known). While taking a tour of the facility, Bond tests the centrifuge chamber, but when Dr. Goodhead is called away, Chang disrupts the test, nearly killing Bond as he spins around in circles. The sheer force nearly kills him. That evening, Bond sleeps with Drax’s pilot Corinne Dufour (Corinne Cléry) who reluctantly offers Bond information hidden in Drax’s study of a blueprint via a glass vial company in Venice. The next day, Bond goes hunting with Drax for some odd reason, and Bond deliberately shoots a marksman out of a tree –apparently he has whimsically killed the man! As Bond departs, Drax sends his attack dogs after his traitorous pilot. We are led to believe she is hunted and killed by the dogs –a rather dark and grisly demise for a Bond film.

At any rate, based on the information Bond has learned from Drax’s study, he heads to Venice where he, once again, encounters Dr. Goodhead, and he soon realizes that she is a spy, as well. They learn that the Venetian glass vials are being designed to distribute toxic nerve gas. We are then treated to an utterly ridiculous gondola boat chase scene through the canals of Venice –a street pigeon gives a double-take as Bond cruises overland in a gondola through St. Mark’s Square. Later while investigating the vials, Bond is attacked by a masked Chang who is brandishing a samurai sword, and in the course of the fight he kills Chang by tossing him through the clocktower over St. Mark’s Square, sending him crashing onto opera performance as Bond mutters “play it again, Sam.” Bond makes one slip-up with MI6 as Drax manages to conceal his laboratory, and Bond is forced to take a “leave of absence” (though he secretly continues to pursue the case). Bond and Goodhead then follow Drax’s business to Rio de Janeiro, Bond meets up with his local contact Manuela (Emily Bolton). Jaws reappears in Rio in the midst of a street festival, and nearly kills Bond and Goodhead while suspended high above ground in a cable car. After Bond escapes, Jaws amusingly falls in love with a woman and we see Bond riding up to a secret rendezvous with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) donning a poncho while the theme for The Magnificent Seven plays. Bond travels down the Amazon River in a pontoon toward Drax’s base, having been fully equipped with gadgets by Q, before hang-gliding over a giant waterfall while escaping Jaws. He is led into Drax’s lair by a cohort of women before being dropped into a pond with an enormous python that nearly strangles him to death. Bond and Goodhead then avoid being burnt alive and somehow manage to sneak aboard a rocket ship before takeoff. The last portion of the film takes place aboard a vast space station where Drax has been constructing a futuristic city in an attempt to create a master race of humans (a space version of Karl Stromberg’s vision for an underwater civilization) –however, Drax’s eugenics view of humanity offends Jaws, who realizes he is an oddball/outsider in society along with his new girlfriend, so he turns on Drax. Bond initiates an emergency stop sequence which sends the station into zero gravity. This is followed by an absurd space laser battle, concluding with Bond launching Drax into space. Bond and Goodhead escape in a pod as the space station is destroyed, while Jaws and his new girlfriend, Dolly (Blanche Ravalec), also manage to escape.

Moonraker was created with an astronomical budget (pun intended) of $34M, approximately twice the budget for The Spy Who Loved Me. And the heavy funding worked, at least from a financial perspective, because Moonraker became the highest grossing James Bond film up to that point –a feat that was only later upstaged when Goldeneye was released.

Whereas in the early days, Sean Connery’s James Bond had sophistication and wit, Roger Moore’s portrayal of the character in the ’70s was more like a silly uncle, always making uncouth jokes and winking at the audience as if to sheepishly say: “I didn’t do it.” Aside from being a visually impressive film, Moonraker is a pretty terrible movie. It is almost like a parody of a James Bond film. Roger Moore starts to show his age, and the once dynamic and intense James Bond chase scenes feel slapstick and cartoonish. Perhaps the biggest eye-roll of the movie comes when Jaws, the menacing and fearsome henchman from The Spy Who Loved Me, falls in love with an awkward young girl and suddenly has a change of heart. The introduction of space travel is something new for Bond, but it is an obvious nod to the popularity of Star Wars at the time. I enjoyed Moonraker more than I anticipated after watching it through this time around, however it still ranks among the worst of the James Bond movies for me.

Unfortunately, the film and the novel have almost nothing in common. Whereas the film is an over-the-top grab bag of James Bond cliches, Ian Fleming’s original novel is highly coveted by fans. In it, Hugo Drax is a celebrated British patriot who is secretly a German Nazi constructing a rocket set to destroy London as revenge for World War II. Mi6 is first suspicious of Drax when he cheats during a card game at a popular men’s club. The only similarities between the book and the film include the name “Hugo Drax,” the existence of a Moonraker rocket, and a brief nod by M in the movie to playing cards with Drax: “I hope you know what you’re doing, Bond, I play bridge with this fellow, Drax.” In my view, the original novel drastically overshadows this rather mediocre film.

Click here to read my review of Ian Fleming’s novel Moonraker.

The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Director: Lewis Gilbert



The Spy Who Loved Me is the tenth Eon James Bond film, the third and by far the best of the Roger Moore Bond series. The title is derived from the Ian Fleming novel -apparently Fleming disliked this novel so much that he refused to release it in order to prevent it from being made into a film, so studio executives simply created a whole new plot but kept the title. They also wanted to re-introduce the infamous Blofeld character, after the somewhat lackluster villains in the previous two Roger Moore Bond films, but, once again, they were unable to acquire the rights for either Blofeld or SPECTRE due to ongoing issues with the copyright holder Kevin McClory. The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film made solely with Albert “Cubby” Broccoli as the producer, after his unfortunate falling out with Harry Saltzman. Previously, Saltzman and Broccoli were the dynamic duo who produced every prior James Bond film through their company Eon Productions, overseeing the franchise from a small-budget novelty film into a massive blockbuster series.

The Spy Who Loved Me opens with the mysterious disappearance of two submarines: one British and the other Soviet. The Soviets call up their best agent, Major Anya Amasova (a.k.a. Agent XXX, played by Barbara Bach -wife of Ringo Starr), and the British call up their best agent, James Bond (a.k.a. 007), who is predictably in bed with a woman in Austria, but when he gets the call he sports a vibrant yellow suit and starts skiing downhill away from a group of villains until he plunges off a massive cliff and opens a parachute revealing the British flag -the “Union Jack.” One of the skiing henchmen he kills is a rival agent -who turns out to be Amasova’s former lover at the beginning of the film. Bond then travels to Egypt to seek out recently stolen microfilm plans for a highly advanced submarine tracking system, where he meets up with Amasova. The two reluctantly join forces, realizing they have mutually shared objectives in this case. Bond also encounters a massive henchman who is seemingly indestructible with steel teeth named Jaws (played by Richard Kiel -a 7 foot 2 inch tall man who struggled with gigantism all his life until his death in 2014. He also reprised the role of Jaws in Moonraker). Bond and Amasova encounter Jaws in a train scene that contains strong echoes of From Russia With Love.

Both agents learn that the man behind the submarine attacks is a megalomaniacal billionaire named Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jürgens). Stromberg brings the two scientists who developed the submarine tracking down to his submerged vessel “Atlantis” to thank them, but he demonstrates his power to them by shockingly dropping his secretary into the shark tank where she is killed for stealing information from Stromberg. He then allows the two scientists to escape but he blows up their helicopter shortly thereafter for some reason. 007 and XXX travel to Sardinia to investigate Stromberg’s secret base. Posing as a married couple, they infiltrate the base and learn that Stromberg has ofthe massive underwater base called “Atlantis.” They are captured, and Amasova learns that Bond killed her lover. She vows to kill Bond after the mission. Stromberg reveals his plan to use the two captured Soviet and British submarines to launch nuclear warheads from each, thus spawning a massive nuclear holocaust, while Stromberg remains secluded in his underwater lair, Atlantis. He hopes to create a new civilization under the sea. He takes Amasova as his prisoner down to the Atlantis, meanwhile Bond escapes his captivity and he frees the trapped British and Soviet submariners and they reprogram the submarines not to fire the nuclear warheads. Next, Bond goes to Atlantis to rescue Amasova -he encounters Jaws again and throws him into Stromberg lethal shark tank, but instead Jaws kills the shark and survives. Bond and Amasova leave in an escape pod together and Amasova decides against killing Bond. They are rescued by the British Royal Navy. Meanwhile, Jaws escapes the destroyed Atlantis and we see him swimming off into the ocean at the end.

The featured song at the outset of the film is performed by Carly Simon entitled “Nobody Does It Better” -a surprisingly apropos song. Interestingly enough, the cinematography for the film was done by Claude Renoir, son of the actor, Pierre Renoir, and the grandson of the famous Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favorite Bond films, or at least my favorite from the Roger Moore era. The mystery and intrigue surrounding a villain who desires to build a submerged, deep-sea civilization is amusing and compelling all at once. Also, the introduction of Bond working together with an enemy, albeit reluctantly, and then falling in love with a rival Soviet spy is a new twist. The Spy Who Loved Me is a welcome departure from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.

Stagecoach (1939) Review

Stagecoach (1939) Director: John Ford

“If there’s anything I don’t like, it’s driving a stagecoach through Apache country!”

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Based on Ernest Haycox’s short story entitled “The Stage to Lordsburg” (1937), John Ford’s magnificent Stagecoach takes us inside an overland route aboard a bumpy stagecoach as a group of strangers make the dangerous trip from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. This film –a Chaucerian pilgrimage– grants us a deep and intimate portrait of each character, while also presenting a heroic, albeit nuanced, image of a triumphant, unified America.

From the beginning, as the credits role, Americans Indians come thundering over the desert on horseback. Two riders (one a Cheyenne) approach an army encampment from out of the vast and desolate terrain of Arizona/New Mexico. A trumpet sounds while an American flag is raised. The two men are couriers who report of widespread Apache attacks throughout the area which have “burnt every ranch building in sight” (one remarks that the Cheyenne man is no threat because the “Cheyenne hate the Apaches worse than we do”). Then a telegraph arrives from Lordsburg bearing only one word: “Geronimo” –the telegraph wires have been cut, but still the name of the vicious Apache warlord remains ever-present threat in the region. This ominous scene casts a dark shadow over the rest of the film as we wonder what horrors might await the passengers at the end of the line. Upon first glimpse, we might be tempted to chastise the film already for its portrayal of Indians as heartless, one-dimensional villains, and there may be some veracity to that claim, however it should also be noted that John Ford hired some 200 Navajo Indians to play these roles, paying them a union wage no less –an act which was praised by the Navajo at the time, earning Ford the name “Natani Nez” or “Tall Leader” among them. It’s also worth noting that not all American Indians are portrayed in the same light in the film –note the distinctions between the unnamed Cheyenne man (who is given a close-up view of his face) and contrast him with the fearful rumors of Geromino and the Apaches.

Back in the safe frontier town of Tonto, Arizona, we are carefully introduced to each character with whom we will travel. There is: Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), a pregnant southern belle making her way westward to meet her Cavalry lieutenant husband who has been stationed at the next stop on the stagecoach (Dry Fork). Next is Hatfield (John Carradine), a sly southern gentleman and former Confederate soldier who is rumored to be a “notorious gambler.” Then we meet Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft), the marshal of Tonto, who volunteers to “ride shotgun” on the stagecoach in the hopes of capturing the infamous outlaw, Ringo the Kid, who has recently broken out of prison and is likely hunting down his enemies the “Plummer boys” in Lordsburg. Next is Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill), a sharp-dressed banker who accepts two large boxes of payroll from Wells Fargo on behalf of the Miners’ & Cattlemens’ Bank –he confidently remarks, “What’s good for the banks is good for the country!” However, the camera carefully pans inward, hanging just long enough for an intimate portrayal of his face, revealing something dark and troubling about his character. Next, we meet a prostitute named Dallas (Claire Trevor), who is publicly shunned by a group of priggish ladies in town, and we also meet a drunken physician named Dr. “Doc” Josiah Boone (Thomas Mitchell) who has been recently evicted by his landlady. When he spots Dallas, he misquotes Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (Is this the face that wrecked a thousand ships, And burnt the towerless tops of Ilium?”). Both Dallas and Dr. Boone are being run out of town by the uppity, conservative, self-righteous ladies of the town’s “Law and Order League.” Both Dallas and Doc Boone are “victims of a foul disease called social prejudice.” Then, we meet a whiskey drummer named Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek), an “easterner” from Kansas City, Kansas (rather than Kansas City, Missouri) with a wife and five children. Naturally, Doc Boone refers to Mr. Peacock as “Reverend” and compels him to stay for the trip. The stagecoach is led by Buck (Andy Devine), a loose-talking man who only took the job in order to marry his Mexican girlfriend, Julieta. Along the way, they stumble upon none other than the infamous outlaw Ringo the Kid (John Wayne), who has been trudging through the wilderness due to a “lame horse.” He is arrested and kept under watch in the stagecoach as it continues onward toward Lordsburg.

All the passengers, despite their disagreements, must find a way to sit in close proximity with one another and dine together on the dusty journey while fear of the Apaches lurks at every twist in the road. Interestingly enough, this group of nine strangers is neatly divided into three segments –three members of the troupe are considered to be socially respectable, high society individuals (Gatewood the banker, Hatfield the Confederate gentleman, and Lucy Mallory, the pregnant southern belle), and three others are socially shunned (Dallas the prostitute, Ringo the Kid, and Doc Boone the drunk). The final three are fairly neutral (the Marshal Curley, Mr. Peacock, and the driver Buck). However, despite initial appearances, people are not always as they seem in Stagecoach.

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Mr. Gatewood, the banker, loudly speaks as if he is a pillar of civic virtue –a conservative, upstanding businessman. Along the road, while expressing his indignant outrage about the federal government, he announces: “I have a slogan that should be placed on every newspaper in the country. America for Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking, over one billion dollars per year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!” He represents a mix of the populist and financier strands of thought in American society, however he is soon revealed to be little more than a criminal. His reason for traveling to Lordsburg is secretly to embezzle money from his own bank (he claims to have received a wire, despite the fact that the telegraph cables have been cut). His defense of civic virtue is actually a smokescreen for his own lust for wealth. Mr. Gatewood is contrasted with Hatfield, the suspicious southern gentleman who may or may not have shot a man in the back (a most ungentlemanly act). He possesses a stately silver cup bearing an emblem he refuses to acknowledge as his own. However, Hatfield is widely known as a “notorious gambler” and also a “tinhorn gambler.” His reason for traveling to Lordsburg is a commitment to fabled southern gentility, a demonstration of chivalry, in escorting and protecting the virtue of the pregnant Lucy Mallory. As portrayed through subtle glimpses and tight dialogue, Hatfield shows that he has a romantic affinity for Mrs. Mallory –a married woman who is also pregnant– because Hatfield apparently once served under her father in the Confederate army during the Civil War. In the final Apache attack sequence, Hatfield reveals the most about his character. When the Apaches begin to close in and the stagecoach is running short of ammunition, Hatfield intends the final bullet in his gun for Mrs. Mallory –he is so disgusted by the bestial, racially inferior Native Americans that he would rather murder a lady than see her virtue forcibly taken by “savages.” Hatfield represents a complex bit of nasty, racist tropes, the likes of which appear again and again in John Ford’s films. And regarding Mrs. Mallory –why is she traveling over dangerous terrain while nine months pregnant? Would it not be safer for her to deliver a baby back in Tonto? We continually hear vague rumors about her husband, a man whom we never meet –apparently, he has been injured in Apache raids.

Stagecoach takes place in the 1880s, an era in which the American Civil War was fresh in the minds of people. Doc Boone, despite being a silly drunkard, is a Union veteran (he describes the Civil War as the “War of the Rebellion” whereas Hatfield dubs it the “War of the Confederacy”). Doc Boone is also regarded as a “philosopher” and a “fatalist.” He is a Shakespearean Fool, one who is frequently called upon for guidance by others within the stagecoach, and when Mrs. Mallory goes into labor, only Doc Boone has the skills to handle the situation. His competence and wisdom is often far greater than all others, and his alcoholism indicates a certain degree of truth-telling. His background and motivations for traveling to Lordsburg remain somewhat murky. Nevertheless, Doc Boone is the backbone of the overland trip. He stands in contrast to either the banker, who pretends to be a pillar of the community, or the southern gentleman, who is actually a troubled gambler. Additionally, the illicit lady of the night, Dallas, is actually revealed to be a more nurturing caregiver for Mrs. Mallory’s newborn child than the child’s own mother, the uppity southern belle, Mrs. Mallory. And Dallas is, in many respects, shown to be a more respectable lady in her own right. Despite her history, she is a woman worthy of marriage and motherhood. And her redemption comes from one of the least likely figures –Ringo the Kid, a rugged outlaw, who recently broke out of prison. However, Ringo is continually proven to be a “good kid” with an extensive familial history connecting him with many other characters, including Doc Boone and Buck. Ringo is optimistic and heroic because he treats people fairly, regardless of their past. When other passengers are reticent about accepting him, Ringo remarks, “I guess you can’t break outta prison and into society in the same week.” By the film’s end, Ringo the outlaw is actually shown to be our hero, while the real outlaws –men like Mr. Gatewood– are brought to justice.

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The beauty of Stagecoach is that it uses archetypes and tropes from classic Western B-movies of the 1920s –the drunkard, the outlaw, the prostitute, the southern belle, the marshal, the priest, the gentleman– and instead of simply regurgitating the same tired one-dimensional characters, John Ford offers an ocean of depth which allows us to examine the Western genre in a new light. They are all flipped on their heads –the upper-class and the under-class. In this way, the entire Chaucerian voyage from Tonto to Lordsburg becomes a grand metaphor for America. Equally facing the same threats, Americans from all walks of life must learn to band together and unite against a common nameless, faceless, savage enemy. No doubt, this message must have resonated with American moviegoers in 1939 against the backdrop of World War II, even if this caricature of Native Americans is troubling to many today. One of the more fascinating and elusive characters in the film is Samuel Peacock (a man whose name no one can seem to remember). He is a forgettable, nervous little man who is regularly referred to as “Reverend” and a “clergyman,” despite his protestations. He is a whiskey drummer, and in this case, alcohol is compared to religion. At different points in the story, disagreements break out among the stagecoach passengers, and in each case, someone steps forward to propose a path toward resolution. At one point, Marshal Curley suggests, “Now if we argue this thing out right, we can get somewhere” (he frequently is the voice of democracy in the film by requesting debate or suggesting a vote on the matter). And at another point, Mr. Peacock –the man who claims not to be a clergyman– warmly implores the group to embrace “Christian charity.” In nearly all cases, characters are reminded to treat women with respect and grace –chivalry is a common value among the stagecoach passengers. Perhaps John Ford suggests here that there are many paths to finding comity among people in a raucous democratic-republic like the United States.

In the end, just when all hopes seems lost during the dramatic Apache attack sequence, a bugle sounds and the American military arrives to the rescue. Compare this with the opening scene of an American flag being lifted over a military fort –the American military is portrayed as a force for good, an orderly institution bringing hope to a wild and lawless land. Lieutenant Blanchard (Tim Holt) rides in with the cavalry to triumphantly save the day. As our stagecoach finally arrives in Lordsburg, Mr. Peacock is recovering from an arrow wound, Hatfield has been killed (his final words mention his father, a judge), and Mr. Gatewood is arrested for embezzlement. News of a Republican convention in Chicago reaches Lordsburg, but it is subordinate to imminent local news. Rumors spread throughout Lordsburg that Ringo has arrived in town –slowly, people start to back away from the local saloon and the otherwise jovial town becomes eerily quiet. Under the shadow of darkness, Ringo shoots Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) and his two brothers, thus exacting vengeance for the murders of his own father and brother. Justice is served by the law, with the arrest of Mr. Gatewood, as well as extra-legally, with the shootout that kills Plummer brothers. Ringo and Dallas are then surprisingly sent off into the night, as the stone-faced Marshal has a change of heart. We are led to believe Ringo and Dallas will be married and settle on his lush ranch which sits just across the border. “Well, they’re saved from the blessings of civilization,” says Doc Boone as he and Marshal Curley chuckle and walk back to the saloon. Appropriately Stagecoach ends with a reminder that this whole metaphor for the American project is only, after all, a comedy –a hopeful glimpse of an optimistic country wherein people can join together in common friendship and respect for one another.

Rolling along gaily through the Monuments Valley (one of John ford’s favorite shooting locations), it’s no surprise that Stagecoach brought about a revival in the Western genre, which had largely fallen out of favor in the late ’20s and ’30s. Stagecoach represents John Ford’s wonderful defense of the Western genre, a type of film-making that can be made with depth and artistry, as well as a message that speaks to broader issues in American politics. It reaffirms the American cultural mythology of hard work and rugged individualism as well as the democratic spirit in its search for unity, compromise, and a common enemy.