Country Throwback: Johnny Cash and The Highwaymen Starred in Remake of John Wayne’s Classic

by Matthew Wilson

Johnny Cash and John Wayne may have never met. But that didn’t stop the country legend from starring a remake of the cowboy’s classic.

In fact, the entire western genre got a whole lot more country music back in 1986. All four Highwaymen decided to star in a western together. Yes, that’s four of country music’s biggest legends. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Cash formed the supergroup back in 1985. Over a decade period, the quartet recorded three major studio albums and became one of country music’s biggest team-ups. Of course, Cash knows a bit about legendary quartets.

But they also starred in a western together. The four-country stars came together to star in a TV remake of the 1939 classic “Stagecoach.” That film featured John Wayne in an early role that turned him into a movie star.

‘Stagecoach’ Was an Influential Film

Directed by John Ford, “Stagecoach” was a seminal film for the western genre back when it released in 1939. Shot in Monument Valley, the film followed a stagecoach and a group of strangers across dangerous terrain. The film cast Wayne as the Ringo Kid, a dangerous outlaw. The Ringo Kid arrived on film in an iconic fashion, and Wayne’s portrayal soon cemented him as one of the genre’s rising stars.

During the era of black-and-white films, the film was an early pioneer for the genre. Many films that followed built on its influences. Wayne would soon become a force to be reckoned with in the genre. Even the eventual Spaghetti westerns were formed due to the 1939 film. Director Sergio Leone, a pioneer for that genre, wanted to capture the larger than life aspects of Ford.

Johnny Cash Led the Remake

All that to say that the Highwaymen’s remake had tall boots to fill. It was never going to match the lasting impact of the original. But it also never tried to. Instead, 1986’s “Stagecoach” was a fun romp across the Old West. Made for TV, it lacked the flourishes of a director like Ford. But it’s interesting in other ways.

Kristofferson took over Wayne’s role as the Ringo Kid. Meanwhile, the other artists filled less famous roles.

The film is worth a look for the fact that viewers can see four of country music’s biggest artists unite together. Watching Cash interact with Nelson, Jennings, and Kristofferson is worth the price of admission alone. Besides, who didn’t want to see the Man in Black cowboy-up?