The Western Film: Culture and Concept – “Stagecoach” Screening

“Stagecoach” (1939) was Director John Ford’s first sound Western, and not only re-established him as the master of the genre, but transformed the way audiences and critics viewed Westerns. The story followed a disparate group of passengers as they travelled through dangerous Apache country from Arizona to New Mexico. Original posters for the film carried the taglines “A Powerful Story of 9 Strange People” and “Danger Holds the Reins as the Devil Cracks the Whip!” The film achieved a number of milestones: no other film had been shot on location in the massive landscape of Monument Valley; it was the vehicle that propelled John Wayne from B-Westerns to mainstream stardom; and it initiated the return of realism and integrity in the Western genre after years of marginalization. “Stagecoach” went on to receive seven Oscar nominations, garnering a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for co-star Thomas Mitchell (Doc Boone), and sharing the Oscar for Best Score with “The Wizard of Oz.” Several remakes (1966 and 1986) achieved lesser success, but the groundbreaking original has continued to influence generations of filmmakers.

Following the film screening, Joe Fortunato, Senior Lecturer at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will lead a discussion on the influence of Ford’s innovative direction on filmmaking in general, as well as the shift toward sophistication and greater popularity within the genre as a result of the realism and revision of Western archetypes, themes and characterizations featured in “Stagecoach.”

Joe Fortunato

Fortunato, a native of Akron, Ohio, graduated from Yale University before moving to Los Angeles where he enjoyed a 15-year career in the entertainment industry as a development executive and television writer. During his Hollywood career he was involved with such comedies as “The Louie Show,” “Ink,” “Murphy Brown” and “Living in Captivity.” As Senior Lecturer at Arizona State University, he teaches film, television and screenwriting. His latest research projects include “The Gaze and The Spielberg Face: Steven Spielberg’s Application of Lacan’s Mirror Stage and Audience Response” and “Truth, Torture and the Political ‘Chilling’ of Zero Dark Thirty.”

Presented in conjunction with Arizona State University’s Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture and the Arizona State University Foundation. Admission to this program is included with museum admission, and free to museum members and ASU students with I.D. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Not rated.