posted 04/08/04 06:54 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
This is the movie that I looked forward to seeing ever since I was a kid. As a kid I loved to re-read an old 1966 SATURDAY EVENING POST my dad bought with Bing on the cover and with at least 2 articles about the making of STAGECOACH. One article was about Bing and his new family (some funny pictures). I loved reading about it - especially as I loved western movies. And always enjoyed Bing's cowboysongs. I used to listen to the LP HOW THE WEST WAS WON time and time again.... My dad told me that it was a good movie and had some funny Bing scenes, and I hoped I would get a copy of it some day. But this was long before the video. And they never showed many Bing movies on Swedish TV in those days. But some years ago it suddenly turned up on a cable channel. I friend recorded it for me and I was excited to finally get the chance to watch it. The movie is filled with great actors, maybe not exactly the A-team, but still great actors. Except for the lead. I hated Alex Cord who lacked everything needed in an actor. No charisma, no charm. He should have stayed being a stuntman. If they at least had given the chance to some actor like George Peppard or somebody like that. With Steve McQueen or Paul Newman it would have been a hit! I still enjoy the movie, but Cord annoys me a lot. He's so pale compared to Bing while the other actors are at least OK. I've for example always enjoyed Van Heflin and Slim Pickens. But Bing is great. He plays the part with a lot of humour. And I enjoy Stagecoach even though it seems to lack something. And with Bing singing the theme instead of Wayne Newton would also have been an improvement. I enjoy the original movie too. But I still don't consider it such a masterpiece. I might be quite alone to say so, but I feel the 1939 version is dated. I love Wayne and I love Ford, and the movie is enjoyable enough. But I would never put it on a list of favourite movies. The later version is as good in it's own way - changing the lead might have done all the difference. I hope it will turn up on DVD. It's a lot better than many other westerns that have been released on DVD lately. And Bing is always great - even in bad surroundings. It's like his recordings, even a bad Crosby record is enjoyable and a lot better than any record by other artists (usually). That's my two cents! I'm writing from memory, as I still am not able to watch any of my videos. But I know my Crosby movies well enough to give an opinion. To tell the truth you don't need to know very much about anything to have an opinion, do you?
posted 04/17/04 08:56 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I did get to watch "Stagecoach" last night and enjoyed it very much. I wish I had a better copy, but the one I have is not bad, but not great, and not letterbox.
This is Bing's last Hollywood film, and I thought that he ended his movie career with an excellent performance. In fact, one has to applaude Bing for even taking on the role in the first place, since he alone was attempting to recreate the only character in the film, whose portrayer in the original 1939 version, Thomas Mitchell by name, had been nominated for an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actor), which Mitchell won. And 1939 is still claimed by many to be Hollywoood's greatest year for motion pictures.
So here comes Bing in a very demanding role. I would never have the time to do it, but I would love to know who has the most on screen time in this 1966 version of "Stagecoach" among all the actors. If it isn't Bing as Doc Boone, he is awfully close to the most on screen time. This is primarily due to the fact that Doc Boone has more interaction with the other characters than any other role. And to that extent, Bing really carries the picture.
I like the entire cast, and it is really an all-star cast, with the exception of Alex Cord as The Ringo Kid. And I believe that the film's producers did the right thing in casting an unknown to replace what John Wayne did in 1939.
Certainly there were many fine actors who could have done a better job that Cord. But they would have brought a lot of baggage with them in the form of their already developed screen persona, and the comparison with Wayne would have detracted from the ability of this 1966 reamake to have it's own identity. Note that at the end of the film, it took Cord dozens of bullets to dispatch Luke Plummer and sons, and it only took John Wayne three bullets. But apparently the producers of this 1966 remake wanted a moodier, kind of sullen and quieter Ringo, which I thought Alex Cord did a decent job with.
Ann-Margaret over played her role of Dallas some, but then if she didn't she would not be Ann-Margaret. Of course, she is always great to look at. If you ever see this "Stagecoach" remake on auction on ebay, it invariably lists Ann-Margaret and/or Bing Crosby as the stars it is listed under. Michael Connors (very close to the Mike Connor name used by Sinatra in "High Society"), Was pretty well cast as the Southern Gentleman, Hatfield. Slim Pickins was Slim Pickins as he always is, and there is not anything wrong with that. Stephanie Powers, another beautiful, young (then)actress was good as Mrs. Mallory, the Army wife, and she would spend many years with Bill Holden, who played opposite Bing in "The Country Girl". Red Buttons played the whiskey drummer, Mr Peacock, and did his usual fine job. Van Heflin was also well type cast into the the tough, no-nonesense Marshal role.
Bob Cummings played against type in a rare villian role and also turned in a fine performance. Keenan Wynn had played many a villian, as well as other rolls and was very villianous in this endevour.
I have a very fuzzy recollection of seeing an award show of some type in which Bing, as Doc Boone in "Stagecoach", was nominated for some distant version cousin of "Best Supporting Actor", which he died not win. If anyone else can support this vague memory, I would sure be happy to know the particulars.
Like all Bing fans, I do not understand why Bing did not get to sing the song "Stagecoach to Cheyenne" over the credits. It is not that I do not like Wayne Newton, but this was before he had his voice lowered with surgery, and I feel that, given the film's story and atmosphere, a deeper more resonant voice, such as Bing's, especially since he was in the film, would have been more appropriate. Oh, well.
Anyhow, in conclusion, a decent film, a lot of talented stars, and a stellar peformance by our man, Bing. Certainly, a must have in the film library of any true Bing fan.
Hardly ever mentioned, is the fact that Bing's daughter, Mary, played in the TV movie version of "Stagecoach" with sort of an all Country-Western cast of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and others.
Finally a little trivia question. Name the only other film in which Bing played a doctor who carried a revolver.
posted 04/19/04 09:28 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I got to watch "Stagecoach" late Saturday night and was impressed. Not that I would call this in any way a typical Bing Crosby movie, I was impressed that this was almost as good a Western as a John Wayne movie. Yes, I know it's a remake of Duke's original, but the style and tone was much like Duke's movies of the early '70's. Even the background music sounded like the same kind of music used in Duke's "The Cowboys". I have 2 versions of Bing's "Stagecoach", letterboxed and the boxed TV frame version, I watched both at the same time on a split screen TV. I liked the widescreen version because I got to see more Bing in it (he was often in the scene on the right hand side of the picture but the TV boxed version cut him off, so you'd never know Bing had some camera time if you only saw the TV screen version). But my letterbox version was one I didn't record myself and was a copy that was blurry and not a lot of fun if you like to see a clear and in-focus movie. The TV screen version was one I recorded myself and the picture was as sharp as you could ever want, perfect looking, except you couldn't see Bing in some scenes when he wasn't the central character talking due to it being the TV square screen version.
I'm a big Duke fan, I've seen all his movies and I thought Cord did a decent job in Duke's old role. He even dressed the way Duke dressed in his '60's cowboy movies, pinkish orange shirt and blue bandana. Mike (not Michael) Connors was great in this Southern Gentleman role, I'm so used to watching him as Mannix I had to get used to his Southern accent coming out of his mouth, and I kept looking for Peggy to tell him to be careful. (Mannix is my favorite detective show.) Van Heflin looked the part of an old time stagecoach driver, excellent in his role. Ann Margaret was as fetching as ever, helped me not to fall asleep everytime she came on the screen. Bob Cummings who I've always thought had one one of the funniest TV shows, Love That Bob, was really great as a sort of sneaky, hoity-toity, cowardly weasel. Slim Pickens almost sounded more like Andy Devine than Andy did. (Andy played the same role in Duke's original.) This film was violent and gritty, Bing even heaves(!) at one point in the movie. Now, I must admit, I could have lived the rest of my days without ever having to see and hear Bing heaving, but still it was a realistic gritty type Western, so I suppose a little cookie losing is necessary after you drink cup after cup of coffee and salt proportioned evenly in the same mug as Bing did. I was kind of disappointed Bing didn't have any long speech moment at some time during the movie. He could have done a great job as an old man commenting on the life he's seen as a now drunken doctor. I was surprised at the grittiness of this Western, but I liked it all the more for it. Yep, this was a good Western, a decent movie, but not one I would show someone to show just what Bing Crosby is all about. Bing was good in this, but it was very disappointing he didn't get to sing the end theme song. A Bing movie without any Bing music is not a real Bing movie to me. But this was a good western and not a waste of time. I hadn't seen this movie in at least 15 years, it was good to see it again. Felt like I was watching it for the first time. So all in all, I'd give this movie 3 1/2 stars as a great Western and 2 stars as a Bing movie. If you're in the mood for a Bing movie, this is not the one to pick off the shelf, but if you want to see a neat Western, go ahead and watch.