After Custer and the 7th Cavalry are wiped out by Indians, everyone expects the worst. Capt. Nathan Brittles is ordered out on patrol but he's also required to take along Abby Allshard, ... See full summary »
In a marksmanship contest, Lin McAdam wins a prized Winchester rifle, which is immediately stolen by the runner-up, Dutch Henry Brown. This "story of a rifle" then follows McAdams' pursuit, and the rifle as it changes hands, until a final showdown and shoot-out on a rocky mountain precipice. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
James Stewart spent a lot of time practicing with the rifle so he would look like an authentic westerner. See more »
This movie is based on a rifle-shooting competition held in Dodge City on 4 July 1876. During a poker game in the movie, Dutch refers to a "Dead Man's Hand". The "Dead Man's Hand" refers to the hand Wild Bill Hickock was holding when he was shot in the back by Jack McCall on 2 August 1876 - less than a month later. It was too soon for the "Dead Man's Hand" to be a famous phrase. See more »
My favorite movie genre is the western, it's really the only movie genre that is of American origin. And despite Sergio Leone, no one does them quite like Americans.
Right at the top of my list of ten favorites westerns is Winchester 73. It was the first pairing and only black and white film of the partnership of director Anthony Mann and actor James Stewart. It was also a landmark film in which Stewart opted for a percentage of the profits instead of a straight salary from Universal. Many such deals followed for players, making them as rich as the moguls who employed them.
Anthony Mann up to this point had done mostly B pictures, noir type stuff with no real budgets. Just before Winchester 73 Mann had done a fine western with Robert Taylor, Devil's Doorway, that never gets enough praise. I'm sure James Stewart must have seen it and decided Mann was the person he decided to partner with.
In this film Mann also developed a mini stock company the way John Ford was legendary for. Besides Stewart others in the cast like Millard Mitchell, Steve Brodie, Dan Duryea, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen and Rock Hudson would appear in future Mann films.
It's a simple plot, James Stewart is obsessed with finding a man named Dutch Henry Brown and killing him. Why I won't say, but up to this point we had never seen such cold fury out of James Stewart on screen. Anthony Mann reached into Jimmy Stewart's soul and dragged out some demons all of us are afraid we have.
The hate is aptly demonstrated in a great moment towards the beginning of the film. After Stewart and sidekick Millard Mitchell are disarmed by Wyatt Earp played by Will Geer because guns aren't carried in Earp's Dodge City. There's a shooting contest for a Winchester rifle in Dodge City and the betting favorite is Dutch Henry Brown, played with menace by Stephen McNally. Stewart, Mitchell and Geer go into the saloon and Stewart and McNally spot each other at the same instant and reach to draw for weapons that aren't there. Look at the closeups of Stewart and McNally, they say more than 10 pages of dialog.
Another character Stewart runs into in the film is Waco Johnny Dean played by Dan Duryea who almost steals the film. This may have been Duryea's finest moment on screen. He's a psychopathic outlaw killer who's deadly as a left handed draw even though he sports two six guns.
Another person Stewart meets is Shelley Winters who's fiancé is goaded into a showdown by Duryea and killed. Her best scenes are with Duryea who's taken a fancy to her. She plays for time until she can safely get away from him. Guess who she ultimately winds up with?
There are some wonderful performances in some small roles, there ain't a sour note in the cast. John McIntire as a shifty Indian trader, Jay C. Flippen as the grizzled army sergeant and Rock Hudson got his first real notice as a young Indian chief. Even John Alexander, best known as 'Theodore Roosevelt' in Arsenic and Old Lace has a brief, but impressive role as the owner of a trading post where both McNally and Stewart stop at different times.
Mann and Stewart did eight films together, five of them westerns, and were ready to do a sixth western, Night Passage when they quarreled and Mann walked off the set. The end of a beautiful partnership that produced some quality films.
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