Stagecoach (1966 film)

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Poster of the movie Stagecoach.jpg
Theatrical poster design by Norman Rockwell
Directed byGordon Douglas
Screenplay byJoseph Landon
Dudley Nichols
Based on"The Stage to Lordsburg"
1937 Collier's
by Ernest Haycox
Produced byMartin Rackin
Red Buttons
Michael Connors
Alex Cord
Bing Crosby
Bob Cummings
Van Heflin
Slim Pickens
Stefanie Powers
Keenan Wynn
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier A.S.C.
Edited byHugh S. Fowler, A.C.E.
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 15, 1966 (1966-06-15)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[1]
Box office$4 million (US/ Canada)[2]

Stagecoach is a 1966 American Western film, directed by Gordon Douglas between July and September 1965, as a color remake of the Academy Award-winning John Ford 1939 classic black-and-white western Stagecoach.[3] Unlike the original version which listed its ten leading players in order of importance, the major stars are billed in alphabetical order.[4]


In 1880, a group of strangers in Wyoming Territory boards the east-bound stagecoach from Dry Fork to Cheyenne. The travellers seem ordinary, but many have secrets that they are running from. Among them are Dallas, a prostitute who is being driven out of town; an alcoholic doctor, Doc Boone; pregnant Lucy Mallory who is meeting her cavalry officer husband; and whiskey salesman Samuel Peacock. As the stage sets out, U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant Blanchard announces that Crazy Horse and his Sioux are on the warpath; his small troop will provide an escort part of the way.


Actor Role[note 1]
Ann-Margret Dallas, The Dancehall Hostess
Red Buttons Mr. Peacock, The Whiskey Salesman
Mike Connors Hatfield, The Card Sharp
Alex Cord The Ringo Kid
Bing Crosby Josiah Boone, The Alcoholic Doctor
Bob Cummings Henry Gatewood, The Embezzler
Van Heflin Curley Wilcox, The Marshall
Slim Pickens Buck, The Stage Driver
Stefanie Powers Mrs. Lucy Mallory, The Expectant Mother
Keenan Wynn Luke Plummer, The Killer
Brad Weston               Matt Plummer
Joseph Hoover            Lieutenant Blanchard
John Gabriel                Captain Jim Mallory
Oliver McGowan          Mr. Haines
David Humphreys Miller             Billy Pickett
Bruce Mars                        Dancing Trooper
Brett Pearson                  Drunken Sergeant
Muriel Davidson       Mrs. Ellouise Gatewood
Ned Wynn                   Ike Plummer
Norman Rockwell       Busted Flush the Poker Player
Edwin Mills                 Sergeant Major
Hal Lynch                   Jerry the Bartender
The Westernaires[5]   US Army Cavalry
Uncredited (in order of appearance)
Walker Edmiston Cheyenne Wells Fargo agent
Priscilla Morrill Eloise
Harry Carter poker player
Ottola Nesmith landlady
Kam Tong Waldo
  1. ^ As indicated on the poster — character names are not specified in on-screen cast credits

David Humphreys Miller and Norman Rockwell[edit]

Also in the cast, playing their sole credited film roles, were two artists, 15th-billed David Humphreys Miller, a 47-year-old western historian who specialized in the culture of the northern Plains Indians and created, among his works, 72 portraits of the survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and 20th-billed Norman Rockwell, 71 years old, who was engaged to be on the set in order to paint the portraits of the stars and assigned the small role of a town poker player nicknamed Busted Flush.[6] The film's closing-credits sequence features the full-screen inscription, THE CAST AS PAINTED BY NORMAN ROCKWELL, followed by images of each of the ten leading players in the same order as in the opening credits. The portraits were also used in the poster for the film.[7][8]



Producer Martin Rackin said he became interested in making the movie after he finished a stint as head of production at Paramount. He said he felt the original was dated and modern audiences were not that familiar with it. He also believed Westerns were the "bread and butter of the industry".[9]

A friend of his was buying the rights to the film but was short of money. Rackin stepped in and succeeded in selling the film to Darryl F. Zanuck at Fox.[9]

He hired Gordon Douglas to direct. The men had worked together ten times before and Rackin called him "the most underrated director in Hollywood - he even made Harlow look interesting - a workhouse who keeps helping out when a studio is in trouble and just hasn't had the right material."[9]

Alex Cord was recommended to Rackin by Edmond O'Brien and Richard Quine.[10]


Filming started July 6, 1965.[11]

A statement in end credits reads: "The Producers express their appreciation to the owners of the Caribou Country Club Ranch at Nederland, Colorado, and to the Park Department of that state, for their cooperation in the making of this film."[4]

Comparison to 1939 film[edit]

In parallel with the 1939 version, Ann-Margret, replaces Claire Trevor as the dancehall hostess/prostitute Dallas.[12] Red Buttons, takes the role of Mr. Peacock, the alcohol peddler in a minister's garb, played in 1939 by 8th-billed Donald Meek.Michael Connors portrays the tough gambler, Hatfield, originated by John Carradine.

Alphabetically-fourth Alex Cord[13] is the Ringo Kid, the role that made second-billed John Wayne into a star beyond the quickly made low-budget B-western series which had primarily represented his screen appearances during the 1930s.[14] In fifth place is Bing Crosby,[15] making his final major acting appearance in a theatrical feature, playing the alcoholic Doc Boone, bringing his own interpretation to the character portrayal which won fifth-billed Thomas Mitchell the 1939 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[16]

Sixth-placed Bob Cummings plays the embezzling banker Gatewood, a role assigned in 1939 to 9th-billed Berton Churchill, while seventh in line Van Heflin is the marshal, Curley, played in the original by 7th-billed George Bancroft. The eighth alphabetical position is taken by Slim Pickens as the coach driver, Buck, initially portrayed by third-billed Andy Devine, while ninth place falls to Stefanie Powers as the pregnant Army wife, Lucy Mallory, played in 1939 by the 6th-billed Louise Platt.[17]

At the end of the alphabetical cast, Keenan Wynn, in tenth place, is Luke Plummer, the patriarch of a family of killers, portrayed in 1939 by western star Tom Tyler, billed 11th in the end credits. Finally, 12th-billed supporting player Joseph Hoover portrays the Lieutenant, a character originated by Tim Holt, who was listed 10th in the 1939 credits.[18]


Opening credits
sings "Stagecoach to Cheyenne"
Words and music by
Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance
  • "Stagecoach Theme (I Will Follow)"
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Lyrics by Ruth Batchelor
Orchestrated by Harry Betts
Vocal arrangement by Bill Brown
Performed by the Bill Brown Singers
  • "Stagecoach To Cheyenne"
by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance
Orchestrated by Shorty Rogers
Vocal arrangement by Bill Brown
Performed by the Bill Brown Singers


Box Office[edit]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $6,300,000 in rentals to break even and made $6,950,000, meaning it made a profit.[19]


Variety summed it up as: "New version of “Stagecoach” is loaded with b.o. appeal. Ten stars repping a wide spectrum of audience interest, an absorbing script about diverse characters thrown together by fate, plus fine direction and performances are all wrapped up in a handsomely mounted Martin Rackin production...Crosby projects eloquently the jaded worldliness of a down-and-outer who still has not lost all self-respect. Much humor evolves from his running gag with Red Buttons, the preacher-dressed and mannered liquor salesman played earlier by the late Donald Meek."[20]

The New York Times review included: "...The action fans may not be short-changed, but only a few of the principals achieve more than surface effects. In a decided departure from the norm, Bing Crosby, as the unshaven, sodden surgeon, is casual, natural, glib and mildly funny. Mr. Heflin is authoritative and taciturn as the marshal intent on keeping his prisoner, the Ringo Kid, from being shot down by the savage Plummers, and Mr. Cord is properly hard, sinewy and determined as that vengeful lone cowhand...But “Stagecoach,” after all, is a horse opera, and the horses, the eye-catching scenery, those dependable hands, and superb sound and fury make it an enjoyable trip most of the way."[21]

Quentin Tarantino is an admirer of the film saying it "can stand proudly alongside the John Ford version" adding that he particularly enjoyed the performances of Bing Crosby, Alex Cord and Mike Connors, as well as the direction of Gordon Douglas.[22]

Film guide reviews[edit]

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2014 edition) gave Stagecoach 2½ stars (out of 4), describing it as a "[C]olorful, star-studded Western" which "is OK, but can't hold a candle to the 1939 masterpiece". Maltin also calls it "[O]verlong" and notes that "Wayne Newton sings the title song!".[23] Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV (1972–73 edition) also granted 2½ stars (out of 4), characterizing it "[A]n all-star remake of the classic" and evaluating that "[T]he Ford version was better, but the action is still pretty good the second time around". A later edition (1986–87) shortened the capsule review to "[A]n all-star…" and "[A]ction is still pretty good…". A still later edition (1993–1994) retained "[A]n all-star", but revised the second sentence to "[D]oesn't live up to its predecessor, but OK on its own terms".

Assigning 2 stars (out of 5), The Motion Picture Guide (1987) posited that "[W]hy Hollywood insists on remaking classics will always be a puzzle. John Ford's 1939 version of the Haycox story was a genuine western classic and this is a genuine western omelette. The presence of Crosby, in his last acting job in movies, saves the movie from being a total mess. In 1986, a TV version of the picture was done with several country music stars in the leads, as well as Liz Ashley and Anthony Newley. It was so awful, it made this movie look good by comparison". Later in its write-up, The Guide opines that "[W]hereas the original had engaging characters and not all that much violence, this one concentrates on bloodletting, the dialog is a failed attempt to be 'adult', and the performances are generally substandard. Norman Rockwell appears briefly. He'd done the excellent portraits of the actors used with the end credit and they rewarded him with a role in the picture, his first and only. Wayne Newton sings 'Stagecoach to Cheyenne' (Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance). It's the kind of song one dislikes upon first hearing and hates upon the second".[24]

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever (2011 edition) does not have a separate entry for the 1966 version but, at the end of its write-up for the 1939 classic is the sentence, "Remade miserably with [sic] in 1966 and again—why?—as a TV movie in 1986".

Among British references, TimeOut Film Guide critic Paul Taylor advised to "[L]ook again at the credits before you're tempted: this is the witless remake of Ford's classic, with neither colour nor Cord anything like adequate recompense for Bert Glennon's dusty monochrome or Wayne's early strut as the Ringo Kid" (from 2009 edition).[25] Leslie Halliwell in his Film Guide (5th edition, 1985) felt even less charitable, denigrating it as an [A]bsolutely awful remake of the above; costly but totally spiritless, miscast and uninteresting". Finally, David Shipman in his 1984 Good Film and Video Guide, does not grant it any stars (Shipman's top number is 4), questioning "[Y]ou wonder why they dared – or bothered. In Ford's film (see previous entry), everything works but here almost nothing does". He concludes with "Keenan Wynn plays a bad man waiting for the stage to arrive. His professionalism, and that of Heflin and Crosby, are some consolation".


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p254
  2. ^ Solomon p 230. See also "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
  3. ^ Stagecoach at RareFilm
  4. ^ a b Kleiner, Dick [syndicated Hollywood columnist for Newspaper Enterprise Association describes his visit to Stagecoach's picturesque filming location in Nederland, Colorado] (August 5, 1965). "SHOW BEAT: Rains Swamp Stagecoach". The Florence Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Westernaires appear in the movie "Stagecoach" (1966)" (Westernaires Alumni Association website)
  6. ^ "Norman Rockwell Goes Hollywood" (Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont website)
  7. ^ Stagecoach poster at the Norman Rockwell Museum
  8. ^ Curry, Adrian. "Movie Poster of the Week: The Movie Posters of Norman Rockwell" (MUBI, 09 July 2010)
  9. ^ a b c Style Changes Upgrade '65 'Stagecoach' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 5 Sep 1965: b11.
  10. ^ The Perils of Re-staging the 'Stagecoach' Rackin, Martin. Los Angeles Times 11 Apr 1965: M11
  11. ^ Keenan Wynn 'Stagecoach Killer Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 21 June 1965: C16.
  12. ^ Vagg, Stephen (September 6, 2021). "Surviving Cold Streaks: Ann-Margret". Filmink. Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  13. ^ Austin, Guy in Hollywood. "Show Business / Rodeo rider turns film star… / Will this new Ringo succeed John Wayne?" (The Sun-Herald {Sydney}, June 19, 1966, page 93)
  14. ^ Kehr, Dave [film writer for The Times reports on the long-delayed DVD release of the 1966 version] (October 14, 2011). "The Man Who Dared to Fill John Wayne's Boots". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  15. ^ Wilson, Earl. "Bing Says Sinatra Is Hard To Coop Up" (The Herald Trubune {Sarasota}, August 21, 1965, page 19)
  16. ^ Bastardo, Luigi. "Stagecoach (1966) DVD Review: The Version Everyone Forgot About / Twilight Time brings us a beautiful transfer for a rather underrated remake of the John Ford classic." (Cinema Sentries, November 22, 2011)
  17. ^ "Stagecoack" at Bing Crosby Internet Museum (April 2004)
  18. ^ Erickson, Glenn (October 5, 2011). "Stagecoach (1966)". DVD Savant. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  19. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 325. ISBN 9780818404856.
  20. ^ "Variety". May 25, 1966. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ Weiler, A. H. (June 16, 1966). "The New York Times". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "QT Movie Club (with Quentin Tarantino!)" (Podcast). Pure Cinema Podcast. March 2, 2021. Event occurs at 2:36:00. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  23. ^ Maltin, Leonard (September 4, 2012). "Stagecoach". Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide: The Modern Era. ISBN 9781101604632. Retrieved March 1, 2017. ISBN 1101604638
  24. ^ The Motion Picture Guide (Chicago, 1987), volume VII, pp. 3094–95
  25. ^ Taylor, Paul. Stagecoach (TimeOut)

External links[edit]