Stagecoach Film Essay

Dismiss from your mind, momentarily at least, the John Ford we know, who could define himself with the three words “I make westerns.” Before Stagecoach (1939), Ford’s talking pictures played out in submarines, penitentiaries, and Scottish castles, in Mesopotamia, colonial India, and the Caribbean. Although manly adventure and small-town sentiment had their place, and although Ford would later in his career continue to dabble in subjects outside his soon-to-be signature genre, this was a more scattershot, eclectic filmmaker, who had not yet chosen a particular avenue to explore—even if his silent movies, including numerous short westerns and one genuine epic, 1924’s The Iron Horse, offer an early clue to his interests.

This was also a director who, while a highly paid industry player, had a checkered commercial history and hadn’t yet gained the full trust of his producers. So when, in 1937, he first suggested filming Ernest Haycox’s story “Stage to Lordsburg” to David O. Selznick, his boss dismissed the proposed project as an insignificant B picture and Ford as a flaky talent in need of firm handling. That’s why Ford left Selznick, to film the story, which he’d bought with his own money, eventually making a deal with Walter Wanger at United Artists. The result would be Stagecoach, Ford’s first western since the silent days, and his separation from the genre seemed to have energized him: while the industry as a whole had come to regard the humble oater with benign contempt, Ford now approached it with a new seriousness, as the great American myth. The film would forever fix the relationship between Ford and the Old West.

In Haycox’s short story, a wild but righteous man on a mission of revenge must take a stagecoach through Indian-infested territory to reach the town where his real enemies await. En route, he falls in love, which adds extra emotional force to the peril. In the script Ford commissioned from Dudley Nichols, the hero is also an outlaw who is under arrest, stacking the odds against him even higher. It’s a brilliant structure, following the spectacle of the Apache raid with the more personal drama of the gunfight in Lordsburg.

The film’s journey, during which a disparate group of more or less fleshed-out stereotypes face colossal danger, obeys the formula of the “group jeopardy film” or disaster movie. Ford and Nichols had just scored a hit in this genre with The Hurricane, featuring two of Stagecoach’s stars, playing prototypes of their Stagecoach roles; this time, Thomas Mitchell (body of a giant baby, face of a sodden chimp, yet oddly noble of aspect) is Doc Boone, an alcoholic sawbones, and John Carradine (ambulatory skeleton, only thinner) is Hatfield, an aloof and cold-blooded zealot. Joining these men are Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), a pregnant southern belle (although cinematic propriety of the day prevented her showing any outward symptoms); chubby coachman Buck Rickabough (Andy Devine, his voice an oscillating rasp like from a rusted slide guitar); mild-mannered whiskey salesman Mr. Peacock (the aptly named Donald Meek); crooked banker Gatewood (Berton Churchill), a petty embodiment of hypocrisy and prejudice (bankers were as unpopular in 1939 as today); saloon girl Dallas (Claire Trevor), run out of town by a citizens’ committee of prudish wives; and a sheriff called Curley, on his way to capture an escaped prisoner called Ringo, known to be headed for Lordsburg to kill the men who slew his father and brother. Curley is played by former silent movie gangster George Bancroft, with his extraordinary helmet of hair, a man who never really learned to treat the microphone as a friend, preferring to bellow it into submission.

Stock types, but Nichols and Ford and the cast make them fresh by letting them bounce off one another in surprising ways. Character change elevates Stagecoach far above The Hurricane, where the cardboard figures blow in the wind but don’t bend. Nearly everybody in Stagecoach is either developed or transfigured during the adventure. Snooty Lucy transcends the prejudices of her upbringing via her growing respect for Dallas, and even the timid Mr. Peacock gains a little force. A family man, he is more able to assert himself after Lucy’s baby is born, even if nobody pays much attention. Curley, meanwhile, thanks to his exposure to that noble outlaw the Ringo Kid, abandons his rigid service to the law so a higher justice can be done.

Ford had used young propman Marion Morrison as an extra in Hangman’s House in 1928, and recommended him for the lead in Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail the following year, but under his new name, John Wayne, the actor had since labored in B movies and serials, learning his craft, and to point his toes into the ground when he walked, converting a lumbering gait into that distinctive sashay-swagger. Ford had followed his protégé’s progress and considered him ready for a break. And Nichols’s script was a star maker, holding back Ringo’s entrance until the other travelers have been introduced and the journey begun. The fast dolly-in to close-up on Wayne, thirty-one but still an Adonis, if Adonis twirled a rifle, marks the end of his B-movie purgatory and the beginning of his stardom. (Wayne was paid $3,700, a substantial savings given that Devine and Mitchell got more than 10K apiece. The highest fee went to Trevor, the film’s biggest name.)

As Edward Buscombe has observed, the traditional western has sexism built in because the woman symbolizes an alternative to violence: she offers the hero a way out without killing, but to satisfy the need for action, this offer must be rejected, making the woman’s role a rather tiresome impediment to the main attraction. But Dallas does more than allow the specter of pacifism to be raised and rejected. Her presence in the coach triggers the film’s social critique, wherein all the characters can be defined by their attitude toward her. (It helps that Trevor was no ingenue—if Dallas seems a little too vulnerable, she nevertheless projects a believable air of world-weariness.) Ford suggested that Haycox’s story was inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s “Boule de suif,” another tale of a carriage journey in wartime with a prostitute protagonist. But Haycox’s work contains no trace of Maupassant’s evisceration of bourgeois prejudice; it seems more likely that “Stage to Lordsburg” reminded Ford and Nichols of Maupassant, and they borrowed some of his bitterness. The stagecoach becomes a miniature civilization, isolated in a vast expanse of hostile wilderness.

Monument Valley had barely featured in movies before Stagecoach, for the excellent reason that it was two hundred miles from anywhere. And how and why Ford chose it remains something of a mystery. He probably welcomed the remoteness, since it made close supervision by the studio impractical. He would return with almost every western, regardless of where its story was laid (the years-long wandering of The Searchers and the desperate trek from Oklahoma to Montana in Cheyenne Autumn were both filmed almost entirely on that one Utah mesa), making the prehistoric moonscape stand for his entire West. Even within Stagecoach, he warps actual geography, switching buttes around like chess pieces to create an infinite loop of Road Runner backdrop.

With the setting taken care of, Ford strove to make the studio interiors equally convincing—low ceilings press down on the cast, floorboards resound with sonorous thuds. The solid ceilings also forced naturalism on cinematographer Bert Glennon, who had to blast light in through the doors and windows. But Glennon makes realism painterly, with the lambent glow as Wayne ignites his cheroot with a lantern, or the dawn blazing through a far doorway.

Ford’s low angles seem to have influenced Orson Welles on Citizen Kane: Welles reportedly ran Stagecoach forty times to learn film grammar. One thing he didn’t pick up from Ford was the 180 degree rule, since Ford ignores it during the Indian attack, showing coach and horses crossing the screen left to right, then right to left. But since the layout of the chase is so simple, we’re not fooled into believing they’ve switched direction, and the chaotic shot changes add to the frenzy of the pursuit.

Wayne’s stunt double from his B pictures, Yakima Canutt, staged a spectacular series of falls and leaps, doubling for both Ringo and various Indians. Jumping from his steed onto the team pulling the coach was hazardous enough, but Canutt alarmed Ford by falling from the front horses, dragging along the ground, then letting go and passing between all six horses and under the stage, which had to travel at top speed to avoid weaving from side to side and killing him. “All in all, it is a gag that you could easily rub yourself out with if you make the wrong move,” wrote Canutt.

Throughout the film, the Apaches are an anonymous threat, Geronimo a mere renegade with no motivation supplied. It’s the least nuanced portrayal of Indians in any of Ford’s classic westerns, though his relations with the Navajo extras were very warm—he even had a medicine man on retainer to arrange photogenic cloud formations for his camera.

As the running battle reaches a crescendo, we abruptly change pace for a thirty-second shot where Carradine’s character, down to his last bullet, aims his pistol at the head of Lucy Mallory, whose eyes are closed as she prays for deliverance. He obviously intends to grant it. This idea, the preservation from a “fate worse than death,” harks back to Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, in which a pistol is raised as bludgeon to mercy-kill a young maiden and spare her defilement by black soldiers. The difference, of course, is that Ford’s movie doesn’t endorse the plan. Carradine’s hand spasms and drops the gun, as he’s slain offscreen, and then a bugle sounds, like Gabriel’s trumpet in answer to Lucy’s prayers—the Seventh Cavalry, in place of Griffith’s Klan.

It’s a remarkable moment. The religious overtones tie in with the film’s mythic side: the archetypal characters who carry with them the backstories of a thousand western yarns, the fantasy landscape evoking a time of legend, and a mysticism revealed in playing cards. Carradine earlier doomed himself by drawing the ace of spades; one of Wayne’s enemies (Tom Tyler) will hold aces and eights, “the dead man’s hand” that folklore says was drawn by Wild Bill Hickok right before he was gunned down. Ford’s technique is to erect a Wild West of the imagination, governed only by the laws of storytelling, and then go into it as an explorer, insisting on its reality by recording convincing details (like the stray colt running behind the stagecoach when it first appears)—an ethnographer of an unreal world.

The story of Stagecoach takes us from a town of self-righteous humbugs to Lordsburg, a protonoir hellhole of prostitution and incipient violence (all forms of urban living seem intolerable to Ford). Once our surviving characters reach their destination, the supporting cast get theatrical exit lines and Ringo’s revenge moves to center stage, with his impending prison sentence and his love for Dallas as complicating factors. These are so expertly balanced that a happy ending seems impossible, which is all part of Nichols’s screenwriting artistry.

His script invents some idiosyncratic but plausible frontier attitudes: for instance, in this final showdown, three against one is considered fair, but if one of the three wields a shotgun, that’s murder. In Haycox’s story, the gunfight is only overheard, which must have suggested the spectacular elision by which Ford builds to an emotional climax.

Stagecoach, which Selznick had written off as a potboiler, was immediately recognized as an important picture, by both critics and audiences. Ford had given the pulp pleasures of the western the weight of legend, with added character psychology and social commentary carried in human interactions and glances. The film was a triumph. And still Ford’s best years were ahead of him, when he would repeatedly exploit the new territory he had opened up to transmute popular entertainment into cinematic poetry.

David Cairns is a writer and filmmaker based in Edinburgh, and the author of the blog Shadowplay (www.dcairns.wordpress.com).

Thanks to B. Kite and Sudarshan Ramani.

Background

Stagecoach (1939) is a classic Western from film auteur John Ford. This film - his first sound Western - was a return to his most-acclaimed film genre after a thirteen year absence following Fox's Three Bad Men (1926) (and The Iron Horse (1924)). In the meantime, he had produced the superb, Oscar-winning drama about Irish republicanism, RKO's The Informer (1935).

This film debuted John Ford's favorite setting - the majestic Monument Valley of the Southwest - the first of seven films he made in the famed western valley, followed by My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Searchers (1956), Sergeant Rutledge (1960), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Ford's reputation was elevated considerably by this film - it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Black and White Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration, and Best Film Editing, and won two awards for Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Mitchell) and Best Score (for its compilation of 17 American folk tunes of the 1880s).

This Ford Western paved the way for all his other memorable Westerns, including My Darling Clementine (1946), his "Cavalry" trilogy, The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). An inferior, Technicolor remake was attempted by Gordon Douglas in the 60s, Stagecoach (1966) with Bing Crosby, Ann-Margret, Robert Cummings, Stefanie Powers, and Red Buttons.

This revolutionary, influential film - a story of redemption - is considered a landmark quintessential film that elevated westerns from cheaply-made, low-grade, Saturday matinee "B" films to a serious adult genre - one with greater sophistication, richer Western archetypes and themes, in-depth and complex characterizations, and greater profitability and popularity as well.

[Note: By 1939, the Western genre had fallen out of favor, but Stagecoach helped reinvent the genre, providing for its rebirth. It must be remembered however, that 1939 also saw the release of other blockbuster Westerns including Union Pacific, Dodge City, The Oklahoma Kid, Ford's own Technicolor Drums Along the Mohawk, Destry Rides Again and Jesse James.]

The film's sophisticated screenplay by Dudley Nichols (who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Ford's The Informer (1935) and was a frequent collaborator with Ford), about the perilous adventures of a group aboard a stagecoach across Indian country between two frontier settlements during a sudden Apache uprising, was based on Ernest Haycox's Collier's Magazine short story "The Stage to Lordsburg," (appearing in April, 1937). But it also bears a slight resemblance and was inspired by Guy de Maupassant's Boule de Suif (literally 'Tub of Lard'), the story of a prostitute (Boule de Suif) traveling in a carriage through Prussian-occupied, war-torn France during the Franco-Prussian War with refugees who are prominent members of the French bourgeoisie. Director Ford also wove into the story colorful Western characters from Bret Harte's The Outcasts of Poker Flat.

As in other films of the 1930s including Grand Hotel (1932), Shanghai Express (1932), and Lost Horizon (1937), colorful, vividly-portrayed, widely-varied characters ("nine strange people") of clashing social classes/values are thrown together by fate and closely confined for a period of time as a group:

Nine Characters
Description
Dallas (Claire Trevor) a prostitute (or dance hall gal) forced to leave town
Ellsworth Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill) an embezzling banker
Hatfield (John Carradine) a former Confederate, a card-shark gambler
Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek) a whiskey salesman
Doc Josiah Boone (Thomas Mitchell) an alcoholic, disgraced frontier doctor (surgeon)
Mrs. Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt) a pregnant young bride, the wife of an Army cavalry officer en route to his post
Buck Rickabaugh (Andy Devine) a stage driver
Marshal Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft) a Marshal riding shotgun
the Ringo Kid (John Wayne in a breakthrough rolea rugged, escaped outlaw, who is picked up on the road shortly after the coach's departure

They act out in their relationships their representative social types. In Stagecoach, nine passengers during a stagecoach journey are placed together in a position of danger, one in which their true characters are tested and revealed. Major social issues and themes (sexual and social prejudice, alcoholism, childbirth, greed, shame, redemption and revenge) are closely mixed together into an exciting adventure story.

The structure of the film is very formal, divided neatly into eight episodes (four scenes of action alternating with four scenes of character interaction).

  • The short prologue regarding the cavalry and the telegraph wires
  • The 12-minute expository sequence in the town of Tonto, including the introduction of most of the characters and the establishment of their class distinctions
  • The first leg of the trip on the stagecoach to Lordsburg
  • The Dry Fork way station where the coach stops for food - includes the memorable dinner table scene
  • The second leg of the trip toward Apache Wells in the snow
  • The Apache Wells (Mexican) outpost, where Lucy's baby is born
  • The final leg of the trip to Lordsburg, including the exciting Indian attack and the cavalry rescue
  • The town of Lordsburg, where Ringo Kid faces the Plummers in a shoot-out
The Story

The credit titles are presented with a woodblock style typeface. Following the credits but before the main story, a short prologue presents the perilous atmosphere. Two couriers (one a Cheyenne Indian) gallop on horseback to a military/cavalry outpost, going past where a flag is being raised. Faintly in the background, "I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair" is heard on the soundtrack. They report to a captain and lieutenant (Tim Holt) that Apaches "have burnt every ranch building in sight" and "are being stirred up by Geronimo." The captain is assured that the passive-faced Indian scout (Chief Big Tree) isn't lying: "Naw, he's a Cheyenne. They hate Apaches worse than we do."

A telegraph message is transmitted from nearby Lordsburg, but then the line goes dead - the wires have been cut. The only word in the message that is received is "Geronimo." There is evidence of Indian trouble near Lordsburg - Apache warriors are on the warpath against white pioneers near the Arizona border with Mexico.

The main locale is the Southwest of the 1880s in the little town of Tonto, Arizona, where the characters are carefully introduced. (Eventually, there will be six stagecoach passengers accompanied by three others - the driver, the shotgun assistant, and an escaped prisoner who joins the group on the trail.)

The town is introduced to the lively tune of "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie." [Note: The tune becomes the theme music played when the stagecoach crosses the desert on its two day trip to Lordsburg in New Mexico.] The dusty Overland Stage Lines stagecoach pulls up on the other side of the street from the Tonto Hotel. Passengers are helped off the coach by the bulky, skittish stage driver Buck Rickabaugh (Andy Devine) during a rest stop. One of the passengers who will continue on toward Lordsburg is Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), a pregnant lady on her way west (from the South) to meet her husband - a Cavalry lieutenant. The genteel Lucy gasps about one of the men, named Hatfield (John Carradine), that she notices outside the hotel - he's a white-hatted, shady, former Confederate officer turned cardsharp gambler: "Who is that gentleman?" The raffish, imperial-looking Hatfield appears as if he recognizes her. Town friends, the Whitneys, describe Hatfield: "Hardly a gentleman Mrs. Mallory. I should think not. He's a notorious gambler."

Buck inquires about his regular "shotgun guard" in the Sheriff's office, learning that he is "out with a posse...trying to catch the Ringo Kid" who probably "busted out" of the penitentiary and is "aimin' to get even with them Plummer boys" whose testimony sent him there. [To be introduced later in the film, Ringo Kid was jailed for defending his family - father and brother - against the Plummers. He escaped with intentions to avenge their deaths by killing the no-good Plummers.] Interested in pursuing both Ringo and Luke Plummer in Lordsburg, Tonto's Marshal, burly Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft) volunteers to "ride shotgun" with Buck and prevent an expected confrontation with the Ringo Kid.

In the town's Miners' & Cattlemens' Bank (with capital of $50,000 and assets of $250,000 proudly displayed on the front door window), pompous, self-important banker Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill) accepts the $50,000 Wells Fargo payroll delivery from the coach lines, declaring: "What's good for the banks is good for the country." A closeup of Gatewood's snarling face is seen with the shadow of a cross behind him like a curse.

Down the street, a saloon dance-hall girl (prostitute/whore dressed in bright tones) named Dallas (Claire Trevor) is resentful for being shunned and ostracized as a scarlet woman from town, hustled along by the virtuous, plump, moralistic, matronly women of the Ladies Law and Order League and a sheriff's deputy. [Their walk is accompanied by the marching version of director Ford's favorite hymn, 'Shall We Gather at the River?'] In front of the priggish ladies, a drunken, tipsy Dr. Josiah Boone M. D. (Thomas Mitchell) is also evicted by his English-accented, stern-faced landlady (a member of the Ladies League) for not paying his rent. As he is put out on the street, the educated doctor quotes (mis-quotes) from Marlowe's Dr. Faustus:

Is this the face that wrecked a thousand ships
And burnt the towerless tops of Ilium? (He gestures with a farewell kiss) Farewell.

Dallas complains to the bibulous and disreputable Doc about their shared predicament of being victims of a disease called "social prejudice." They are escorted/railroaded out of town by decent, self-righteous citizens:

Dallas: Haven't I any right to live? What have I done?
Boone: We're the victims of a foul disease called social prejudice, my child. These dear ladies of the Law and Order League are scouring out the dregs of the town. Come on. Be a proud, glorified dreg like me.

Boone offers his arm to his banished companion Dallas, invoking thoughts of the French Revolution: "Take my arm, Madame la Comtesse. The tumbril awaits. To the guillotine!" They walk arm in arm to the local saloon where Dr. Boone enters and asks Jerry (Jack Pennick) the bartender for one last drink:

Boone: Jerry, I'll admit as one man to another that economically, I haven't been of much value to you. Suppose you could put one on credit?
Jerry: If talk was money Doc, you'd be the best customer I've got.

When Doc explains that he is leaving town permanently, the bartender acquiesces and provides him with a free drink: "Just this one." The only other person in the bar is another passenger from the coach, Mr. Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek), a timid, solemn whiskey drummer (salesman). [Peacock is continually mistaken for a clergyman, and called by incorrect names throughout the film - Hancock and Haycock.] The three characters - the bartender, Doc, and Peacock - form a triangle, with Peacock at its apex in the background.

The intoxicated doctor moves over to the salesman after learning his profession, falsely pretending friendship by putting his arm on his shoulder. He is keenly interested in the ample supply of whiskey samples from the man's small case. In the bank, Gatewood speaks to his shrewish, domineering wife (Brenda Fowler) who demands five dollars to pay the butcher - she informs him of her invitation for lunch with the ladies of the Law and Order League. Presumably, this is the last straw - Mr. Gatewood places the Wells Fargo payroll in a leather bag and prepares to take flight with the embezzled funds.

In this film - actually a morality play, each of the characters are representative, archetypal character types, divided initially between respectable and disrespectable social outcasts. However by film's end, the disreputable members of society prove to be the most noble, virtuous, and selfless.

Respectable
Disrespectable
Banker GatewoodProstitute Dallas
Confederate HatfieldOutlaw Ringo Kid
Pregnant Mrs. Lucy MalloryAlcoholic drunk Doc Boone

Buck calls for all passengers to board the stagecoach for "Dry Fork, Apache Wells, Lee's Ferry and Lordsburg." The first four passengers include Dallas, Peacock, Boone, and Lucy Mallory. Before Lucy boards, her snobbish friends caution her about traveling with "that creature" Dallas and the malpracticing doctor: "Doc Boone? Why he couldn't doctor a horse?" Playing cards in a nearby gambling hall, Hatfield notices the odd grouping of passengers traveling with Lucy: "Like an angel in a jungle. A very wild jungle." The overland coach is to be escorted by a cavalry detachment of troops and the passengers are warned by handsome Lieutenant Blanchard (Tim Holt) of the impending trouble caused by Geronimo's Apache warriors. Nevertheless, all of the passengers decide to travel from Tonto to Lordsburg through dangerous and hostile Apache Indian land:

Curley: Well, me and Buck are taking this coach through, passengers or not. Now whoever wants to get out can get out. (Peacock starts to exit but is restrained and urged by Doc Boone to remain - mostly for his whiskey samples.)
Boone (to Peacock): Courage, courage Reverend. Ladies first.
Curley: How 'bout you Dallas?
Dallas: What are ya tryin' to do? Scare somebody! They got me in here. Now let 'em try to put me out. There are worse things than Apaches. (Dallas looks at the stern-faced ladies from the League.)
Curley (to Lucy): If you'll take my advice ma'am, you won't take this trip.
Lucy: My husband is with his troops in Dry Fork. If he's in danger, I want to be with him.
Peacock (nervously to Boone): You see brother, I have a wife and five children...
Boone: Then you're a man. By all the powers that be Reverend, you're a man.
Curley: All right folks.
Hatfield: Marshal. Make room for one more. (Removing his hat) I'm offering my protection to this lady (referring to Lucy Mallory). I can shoot fairly straight if there's need for it.
Curley (gruffly): That's been proved too many times Hatfield. All right, get in. We're late.

A Southern gambler with superficial Eastern sensibilities, Hatfield's main purpose is to strictly guard Mrs. Mallory's virtue. Soon after, when they are close to the outskirts of town, a sixth passenger - banker Mr. Gatewood flags down the coach and boards, carrying a small bag in which he absconds the funds. As he boards, he makes a questionable statement:

Buck: Goin' to Lordsburg?
Gatewood: That's right. Just got a telegram. I stopped to pack this bag.

Through the majestic rock formations of Monument Valley, the stagecoach is followed by the Cavalry troops riding guard, while Curley and Buck converse in a two-shot on the driver's seat (as they often do in the film). Dense and poor, Buck comically complains about his domestic situation with his distinctively squeaky voice:

I just took this job ten years ago so I can make enough money to marry my Mexican girl Julietta. I've been workin' hard at it ever since...My wife's got more relatives than anyone you ever did see. I bet I'm feedin' half the state of Chihuahua...And what do I get to eat when I get home in Lordsburg. Nothing but frijoles beans. That's all. Nothin' but beans, beans, beans.

Inside the coach, Doc Boone takes advantage of more of Peacock's samples. Boone also explains to Gatewood why they are being escorted by troops:

Boone: We're all gonna be scalped, Gatewood. Massacred in one fell swoop. That's why the soldiers are with us.
Gatewood: (To Lucy) He's joking, of course.
Peacock: Oh no he's not. Oh dear no. I wish he were.
Boone: It's that old Apache butcher Geronimo. Geronimo - nice name for a butcher. He's jumped the reservation - on the warpath.
Gatewood (distressed): Geronimo? Well why weren't the passengers notified? Why wasn't I told?
Boone: We were told, Gatewood. Weren't you told when you got that message from Lordsburg?
Gatewood (covering up): Oh yes, yes, yes. Of course. I forgot.

Both Doc Boone and Curley are suspicious and mystified by Gatewood's assertion that he had received a telegraph message from Lordsburg, knowing that the lines have been cut: "I can't figure out how he got that message...He said he got a message. The telegraph line ain't workin'."

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