Winchester ’73 (1950)

Winchester ’73Winchester73
Directed by Anthony Mann
Written by Robert L. Richards and Borden Chase
1950/USA
Universal International
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#238 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Not men. Hunting for food, that’s alright. Hunting a man to kill him? You’re beginning to like it.

Lin McAdam: That’s where you’re wrong. I don’t like it. Some things a man has to do, so he does ’em.

This beautifully crafted Western gave us the new darker, angrier James Stewart.  Miles away from Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, made the same year.

Lin McAdam (Stewart) is traveling with sidekick High Spade (Millard Mitchell) on a mission to find and kill Dutch Henry Brown in revenge for killing his father.  En route, they stop in Dodge City on the day when a priceless Winchester ’73 rifle is to be awarded as the prize for winning a sharpshooting contest.  Lin and Dutch end up vying for the gun.  Lin wins handily but Dutch ambushes him in his hotel room and takes it away from him.

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Dutch and his gang hightail it out of town.  The gun appears to be cursed and passes from one hand to another in a series of violent reversals.  Dutch must sell it to a crooked Indian trader, he loses it to the chief of a warring Indian tribe (Rock Hudson in his screen debut), it is taken away during a battle with the Indians and awarded to a coward, and he is killed for it by Waco Johnny Dean (Dan Duryea), who is on his way to join up with Dutch.  Lin participates in many of these fights and continues his relentless pursuit after Dutch.  With Shelley Winters as a dance hall girl/love interest, Will Geer as Wyatt Earp, J.C. Flippen as a cavalry sergeant and Tony Curtis in a tiny part as a soldier.

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Jimmy Stewart loses every trace of his aw-shucks demeanor in this film and becomes one hard hombre.  He is compelling all the way through.  The film is beautifully staged and shot.  If you like your Westerns violent, this should not be missed.


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