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It's fashionable to put down John Ford's 1939 classic; certainly it's the weakest of Ford's major westerns, burdened with a schematic and pretentious Dudley Nichols script (the "cross section of society" on board the stagecoach), but its virtues remain intact. The visual contrast of claustrophobic interior spaces (the coach, the various way stations) with the expanse of Monument Valley provides a vivid physical correlative to the film's thematic push for freedom, and the linear plot has a captivating metaphorical quality in its progress from a dying city through the wilderness to a city reborn. The film moves from east to west, with all that implies. With John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and the incipient Ford stock company.


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