Do you believe it! I got six film reviews in the works, all half done! I can’t seem to get them finished. So I’ve changed my tracks completely and started this new Western review series. A mule kick with spurs on to get my ass rolling again! The Western genre has been a little neglected in the review department here. I hope to make amends this month. Lets see! Right whip out your Colt six shooter and fire up a dance. Yeeehaa.
What’s going down in Western town?
The title comes from the name of the most prestigious rifle of the time. The Winchester 1873. A repeating shot weapon that is often market as the gun that won the west. Now and again a fabled Winchester would come off the production line as pure perfection. It was called “One of One Thousand“. Rather than sell it, the weapon was placed in a shooting contest that brought much excitement and free advertising. A competition that crack-shot marksmen would battle for the ultimate prize. A rifle that will change hands many times as it makes its way own journey alongside our protagonist who’s tracking down a killer. An villain with more to him than you at first see.
Who’s our righteous hero gunslinger?
That tall and slender man with that distinctive Southern drawl. James “Jimmy” Stewart steps into his spurs to play the honest but tough Lin McAdam. He’s on a mission to bring in, or down if he has too, a murderous fugitive. “If he isn’t here already, that gun’ll bring him.“
Does he have a trusty side kick?
He sure does and his side kick may well be my favourite character in the film. The trusty and loyal High Spade (Millard Mitchell) has our hero gunslinger’s back. He also likes to dish out a few lines of wisdom and little joke here and there. “My names High Spade Frankie Wilson… with a hyphen. That’s what I sit on when I get tired.”
Cowgirl love interest?
There’s only one girl and she so happens to pop up all over town in her frills and hip hugging corset. She’s blond, feisty with a barrow full of curves to go. Lola Manners (Shelley Winters) sings and plays the piano. She’s a dancehall girl. She stands strong in the face of real killers and is happy to make an old man’s day. “Do you mind if I kiss you?“
A collection of low down and dirty bad boy cowboys?
Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally) is the man Lin McAdam’s is after. They are a match for each other in the shoot stakes. Both crack shots. Dutch runs about with two punch ready thugs by his side. Later Waco Johnny Dean (Dan Duryea) appears. A ruthless maverick with a gang of degenerates. He’s used to things going his way. If a few slaps don’t sort you out a belly of lead from his quick draw will and he’d enjoy doing it.
Sheriff in town?
Winchester 73 begins in Dodge City in Kansas. “The Wickedest Little City in the West“. The legend that is Sheriff Wyatt Earp (Will Geer) and his brother Virgil Earp (Guy Wilkerson) are marshaling the town. You gonna feel naked when you arrive if you are carrying your iron’s! Wyatt and Virgil keep a tough law. If you wanna come into Dodge you gotta leave your trusty shooters in the strong room.
Yeah we all know our Native American friends can get a rough time portrayed in Western’s but you can’t really have a good western without Cowboy’s and Indian’s. Here in Winchester 73 we get a strong warrior by the name of Young Bull. He rallies his men ready to fight. Wishing to buy a collection of repeater rifles to help make the fight fairer. He want’s to carry on the success that Crazy Horse had at The Battle of the Little Bighorn. “All white men are thieves. In peace, they steal our land. In war, they steal our women.“
Now I had seen Rock Hudson’s name go up in the beginning credits! There I was looking for him. “He must be in among the soldiers?” I thought to myself! DOH! Haha it wasn’t until the end that his name went up again as…….. Young Bull. I did chuckle.
A rootin and tootin old fella?
No I don’t believe so!! So I’m gonna give it to Sergeant Wilkes (Jay C Flippen). He’s the tough soldier trying to hold their ground as the Indian forces start attacking from all sides. In a rock in a hard place type of situation he keeps things together. But when Lola Manners tells the old man that he’s pretty and can she kiss him, you can see the man soften. Had he had a few whiskeys in him and his guard was down I’m sure he would of spun around on the spot whilst rootin and tootin.
One of best scenes.
I’d say there’s two real stand-out moment’s featuring our Jimmy Stewart. The first time Lin McAdam sets eyes on Dutch Henry Brown playing cards in the saloon and they both go to show why the Earp’s no pistols in Dodge policy is enforced. These two go straight for their weapons and would of blasted holes through each other and a few happy drinking folks at the bar.
The other shocker is seeing our Jimmy Stewart in a whole new light! As he smashes his foes head into the saloon bar with as much anger as he can muster.
The quick-draw question shootout round.
- Shoot-out ratio.
Plenty. You won’t be disappointed. There’s at least four big shoot-out battles.
- Someone has to have the fastest hands?
Yep that goes to Waco Johnny Dean. “Watchout for his left hand!”
- Saloon fight.
Yes. See “One of the best scenes” above.
- A town drunk old codger?
No I don’t believe I saw one this time?
- Hang on a minute is that so-in-so?
Look out for a young Tony Curtis part of the Sergeant Wilkes soldiers stand against the Indian attack.
Implied but not seen. High Spade – “It was such pretty hair. I’ve had it ever since I was a kid. A little thin on top… but I sure would like to keep it.“
- The best little whorehouse in the west?
No not in Dodge City with the Earp’s running the show. Party poopers!
- Bank robbery?
Yes a quick one but not really part of the story.
You know what? Maybe I blinked and missed it but no I don’t think there was! Poor Virgil Earp got so many gun’s in his office “There ain’t enough room to spit!“
- Cactus count?
Goodness! Some of the biggest cactus’s I’ve ever seen! I never knew they got that gigantic! As big as tree’s!
How’s the look of the land?
The landscapes are spectacular. Mostly filmed through-out Arizona. From wide open spaces to mountainous rocky ranges. You surely get a lot of Wild West landscape for your buck in Winchester 73. You can see all the filming locations here. I didn’t know of the Old Tucson film studio that was used in just about every Western film then and now and it also doubles as a theme park. Added to the bucket list.
Winchester 73 is directed by Anthony Mann. He went from making loads of hard hitting Film Noir drama like Raw Deal (1948), T-Men (1947) Side Street (1950) before getting heavy into making Westerns. The only one I’ve seen so far was the excellent The Naked Spur (1953) which saw him join up with James Stewart once again. Actually they paired up on a number of occasions. These are the other western collaboration together Bend Of The River (1952), The Far Country (1954) and The Man from Laramie (1955). I look forward to watching them.
One of the screenwriters is Borden Chase. Who, as is usual, I hadn’t heard of before! But by jove! what a life he had before writing!! Jeez! He was a driver for the prohibition-era gangster Frankie Yale. When Yale was taken out by Al Capone’s gang he got out of that racket and started working on the Holland Tunnel in New York where he took up writing. As a writer he penned many films and TV shows in the western genre.
I enjoyed this film very much. It doesn’t really let up. Horses running through majestic landscapes, gun battles and shoot outs. A take no shit Shelley Winters who’s as tough as the men. You get to see a lighter side to Wyatt Earp. Pinned down cavalry taking on Indian warrior ambushes. Side plots, a great side kick and an all round good time at the home movies. And I really enjoyed the relationship between Lin and High Spade. “He said if a man had one friend, he was rich. I’m rich.” Well worth your time.
Feel free to let me know what you thought of this one? What’s your favorite Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart movie together? And you are welcome to let me know some great action western films which would fit the format.
Thanks as always for popping in for a read. Wishing you well for the weekend.
Keep those eyes square whilst watching great movies.