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sewhite2000

Dialogue Distribution in Stagecoach (1939)

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I've actually thought about doing this for many movies but haven't been motivated enough to actually execute. In some ways, for all its dramatic and expansive action, Stagecoach feels like a stage play and is, in fact, adapted from a stage play.  I read somewhere once that George Bancroft agreed to do the movie on the understanding he would be the lead character, and if you go by lines delivered and camera time, he actually probably is, but John Ford was actually lying to  Bancroft because he intended all along for John Wayne to have the most important role. Anyway, noting Stagecoach was airing on TCM tonight, I caught its proper airing, then watched it again on AmazonPrime, where it's available for free with my membership this month, where I had the ability to pause, and made notations of the lines of dialogue delivered by each of the 10 principals noted in the opening credits. You might find the results somewhat surprising:

George Bancroft 112

Andy Devine 93

Thomas Mitchell 73

John Wayne 70

Claire Trevor 54

Berton Churchill 45

Donald Meek 32

Louise Platt 31

John Carradine 27

Tim Holt 9

There were some incidents of overlapping dialogue I chose to ignore, but I think those numbers are fairly accurate. I find it especially interesting Claire Trevor got top billing despite only having the fifth-most dialogue. I'm not sure what else she'd been in at that point besides Dead End. Also, Tim Holt, I don't know who owed him a favor, but any number of noncredited cast members had more dialogue than him. 

Edit: Ooh, I also wanted to say John Carradine has tremendous presence in this movie despite delivering only 27 lines of dialogue.

Anyway, that was great fun, and I'd like to do it with another movie some day.

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Less is often more though.  I like Stagecoach too, so I found it at least interesting to see these numbers.

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6 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I find it especially interesting Claire Trevor got top billing despite only having the fifth-most dialogue. I'm not sure what else she'd been in at that point besides Dead End.

Much of Claire's scenes in the earlier parts of the film were merely her expressions and emotions, since she was sort of a suppressed character having to share a stagecoach trip with "the real lady", Platt's Mrs. Mallory and Carradine's condescending Hatfield. She also had appeared in at least 28 films by that time as well and had been nominated the previous year for DEAD END, so maybe that accounts for her top billing.

This film is really an ensemble cast performance. John Ford always had a way of making all his supporting players be as memorable as his leads.

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the man who defined a genre.

"nothing to it, pardner."

John Wayne in Costume for Stagecoach, 1939' Photo - | Art.com

John Wayne his performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956 ...

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Perhaps the reason we remember Claire Trevor and Johan Wayne is that their presence is greatest at the end of the movie.  Starting as an ensemble movie, it narrows its focus to the two at the end, turning the movie into a story about them.

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