Today, as a sort of homage to Monument Valley and Goulding’s (see this post), I watched John Ford’s 1939 Stagecoach. This film, regarded by Orson Welles as a budding cinematographers’ text book, launched the career of John Wayne (until then a B-movie staple with a major slump to his name) and would forever associate John Ford with the Western movie and the Western movie with John Ford. It also indelibly associated the Western with the landscape of Monument Valley. The David Cairns article at this link provides a good summary critique of the film (though note the apparent mystery as to why Ford used Monument Valley – anybody who goes to the little museum at Goulding’s knows the answer to that). This is a cleverly geometrical film in its composition and it is easy to see why Welles loved it, from the different camera angles through the innovative lighting to a plot involving several complicated characters ‘evolved’ by the unfolding plot with its religious and mythological undertones. The distinctive geological forms of Monument Valley provide not just an arresting backdrop but an integral part of the film; Ford would surely not have left the camera’s gaze to linger so long on a simple image of a stagecoach crossing countryside if it hadn’t been for the extraordinary nature of that countryside. The Apache Indian, in the form of a renegade Geronimo (handsomely played by a real chief), is cursorily sketched as a villainous threat. There is no attempt to explain why he might have jumped the reservation or been angry with whitemen in general. And at least two of the characters, who shout consistently throughout, had clearly not yet made the transition from silent movies to the talkies. Many of this film’s iconic moments would become Western clichés, and the viewer has to usher them away in order to see the movie for what it was when it first appeared. It also stands as a monument to Ford’s belief in Wayne’s star quality – as the latter would go on to prove again and again in his illustrious career.