Answer to Ayn Rand? John Wayne in Stagecoach? (1939) has now been released in a beautiful Blu-ray version courtesy of Criterion Collection. Click the photo to visit its Amazon page.Reports about the influence of certain books among American conservatives, Ayn Rand’s novels for example, have started us thinking about the liberal’s bookshelf. What should go on the list of required reading for progressives?

But no reason to limit ourselves to books, not when we have the 1939 movie Stagecoach to consider.

It’s a great yarn, John Ford’s first Western “talkie,” with everything we love about that genre: a brave, stoic John Wayne; Thomas Mitchell’s Academy Award-winning whiskey doctor; the good-hearted prostitute; an exciting chase scene and a happy ending.

With all that action going on, it might be easy to forget that the real villain of the film is a sanctimonious banker, Gatewood, who harangues the other passengers about what’s wrong with America while clutching a bag of embezzled loot to his lap.

“I don’t know what the government is coming to,” he announces. “Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks!”

Seen in the light of the Great Recession, which might not have been caused by bankers, but which was certainly made a great deal worse by their greed and corruption, the scene seems very contemporary.

These days, when our prosecutors seem unable to send anybody to jail for the crimes committed in the financial meltdown, it’s very gratifying to see the sheriff snatch Gatewood by the scruff of his neck when the stagecoach arrives in Lordsburg.

Now that’s entertainment!

What films would you add to the liberal’s shelf?

How about movies for the conservative’s shelf?

Add your Comment below.

Originally published at, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

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