New version of Stagecoach derives from a 1939 Walter Wanger production for United Artists, written by Dudley Nichols from a 1937 short story by Ernest Haycox.
Film kicks off with a gory two-minute sequence establishing the brutality of Indians on the warpath, the menace which hangs over subsequent developments, after which the stagecoach starts loading its motley passenger crew. Ann-Margret is quite good as the saloon floozy bad-mouthed out of town under US Army pressure by John Gabriel. Bing Crosby, the boozy medic, is a similar victim of Gabriel’s incorrect evaluation of a drunken brawl.
Bob Cummings, the gutless bank clerk absconding with a large payroll, is excellent. Cummings delivers much depth, evoking pity and sympathy. He makes an excellent heavy.
To Alex Cord goes the choice John Wayne role of Ringo, framed into prison by landgrabbing Keenan Wynn. Cord underplays very well, and conveys the stubborn determination to avenge his dead father and brother, killed by Wynn, which sustained him during a sadistic incarceration from which he has escaped to join the stage.
Artist Norman Rockwell, who designed pic’s logo and painted the perceptive talent portraits used in end titles and exploitation, appears briefly in an early saloon scene.