Stagecoach the Film

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  • Topic: John Wayne, John Ford, Patrick Wayne
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  • Published : November 6, 2012
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John Ford’s Directing Techniques in the Film Stagecoach
By Bob
For Cine 121 (01)

John Ford’s film “Stagecoach” from 1939 had several important hidden messages tucked away inside it. The film has everything from social injustice to alcoholism, prostitution, gambling, and even working class people in general. This paper’s aim is to bring to light some of these messages that are expressed through Ford’s use of mise-en-scène and cinematography. In the scene when Ford introduces Dallas, it is not clear that she is a prostitute, nor is it clear that Doctor Boone is an alcoholic. It is clear that they are both being railroaded out of town though. When they’re about to start their journey out of town, Ford frames the shot of them in between two porch posts, with the two of them centered, and lower than everyone else. This is to symbolize their lower standing in society, as well as to place them in it together. The following shot shows them being followed out of the town by the sheriff and the group of “proper” ladies. Ford frames the doorway they’re heading into as a dark place, seeming as if their leaving the light of the “good” and “proper” town and into someplace evil.

Later on in the dinner table scene, John Wayne’s character offers Dallas a seat at the table close to Mrs. Mallory. The scene falls quiet as if to represent some sort of an outrage, like everyone in the room is shocked that they have to share the table with a prostitute. Ford uses a close-up shot of Mrs. Mallory shooting Dallas a look as if to say, “how dare you sit near me”, and Dallas bows her head like she’s ashamed and knows she shouldn’t be there. Then Mrs. Mallory, the gambler, and the banker move to the other end of the table, to represent Dallas’s outcast position in society. The room is small, as well as the table, and moving the 8 to 10 feet away really doesn’t make a big difference. I think the slight move simply represented the hatred and disdain for prostitutes. Like eating near a...
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