Winchester 73 (1950) Crack Shot James Stewart Tracks Down Ruthless Killer

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.

Injun’s?
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.
  • Scalping?
    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.
  • Spittoon?
    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.

Production stuff
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.

Verdict
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.

Score
8.5/10

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.

Mikey Wolf

19 thoughts on “Winchester 73 (1950) Crack Shot James Stewart Tracks Down Ruthless Killer

  1. Great review Wolfie 🙂 Anthony Mann made a lot of masterful westerns and regarding his collaborations with star James (Jimmy) Stewart, Winchester ’73 comes off as the cinematic equivalent of “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” to quote an iconic line from Casablanca 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. are you going to buy the Arrow special edition of the 1980 cult classic Flash Gordon? I know you have talked about it on here before and I loved your post honoring the character of Princess Aura – I too love that character 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I do so love that “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” quote. Can’t wait to check out more from the duo.
      Sorry JC forgot to get back to you the Flash. I’ll pop on over to that one now.
      Princess Aura = sweeeeeeeetness with a side order of naughty. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Oh I do so love that “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” quote. Can’t wait to check out more from the duo.
        Sorry JC forgot to get back to you the Flash. I’ll pop on over to that one now.
        Princess Aura = sweeeeeeeetness with a side order of naughty. 😉”

        To Wolfie: I nod in agreement regarding Princess Aura 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this movie…one of my favorite Westerns! As you mention, a lot of neat things going on in this one, and that moment where both guys reach for their empty holsters was great. I’ve had my review page for this film ready to go for a few years now (I just need to watch it again and review it!), but it’s funny I chose the same photo for my review that you did: Jimmy and Millard Mitchell brandishing their rifles…lots of movement in a still photograph!

    And believe it or not, I’ve been to the Old Tucson studio, but it was their non-public one in Mescal (it was used extensively in 1995’s ‘The Quick and the Dead’). My friends and I were going to make a short Western film years ago, and got permission to scout there a couple times…it’s a cool place!

    As for a Western to recommend…how about ‘Red River’? Another Top 5 favorite of mine, with one of the coolest moments I’ve ever seen in a Western, or ANY film (it features Joanne Dru during an Indian attack…an awesome jolt of a moment!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was you that put me on to this one Todd and Red River that I have lined up to watch soon. Just those two hour films are a bit more tricky to fit in on a school night 🙂
      Will be keeping my eyes peeled for the Joanne Dru bit. Cheers for the heads up.

      I see it’s screenplay is by that fella Borden Chase again. Hope to get to it next weekend.
      Yes that picture of Stewart and Mitchell is amazing. You can get a sense of that whole scene from that imagine. I can see why we both picked that picture. Hope you get to finish your review of it bro.
      I watched two other westerns this weekend and hope to post them up this week if I can. One is a classic the other less so but a different take and great two actors working together. I’ll leave the names off for now.

      How cool you got to see the other studio town. And wow a western Cinema Monolith production nearly got made. To think I could of been reviewing that on the new western review format.

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      • Ha, I couldn’t remember if I’d mentioned either of those two Westerns to you in the past…thanks for checking it (and soon the other) out! And just so you know, I’ve been watching your recommendations from the past as well: The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, The Informer…just no reviews yet!

        And I like the new Western format…looking forward to the two reviews coming up. And damn, that would’ve been fun seeing your take on our Western! Too bad that indie mystery thriller I worked on isn’t available on-line…it’s a laugh riot! And it’s not a comedy!

        Liked by 1 person

        • “it’s a laugh riot! And it’s not a comedy!” LOL too funny. Now you got me so wanting to see it hehe. Big respect on working on a film and tackling a mystery thriller. Kudos sir.
          Good to hear you saw The Day the Earth Caught Fire. That film is nonstop talking. But brilliant for it. You can’t help but be transfix by all the banter. Hopefully one day the mighty cinema monolith will arise like a kraken and crunch out some seriously good reviews soon.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Just to let you know I watched Red River at the weekend. Is that the most COWBOY film ever filmed LOL… I’ve never seen so many cows and men being men.
      And you know without doubt that arrow bit with Joanne Dru has to make the “one of the best scenes” section of the review in the next few weeks. That was incredible. I’m gonna re-watch that scene again soon. I certainly would of done the Wilhelm Scream but she so darn cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your coverage continues to intrigue and titillate, especially those I haven’t seen.
    I think I love Jimmy Stewart nostalgically but if I stop and think about his acting, he’s kinda like Jack Nicholson–kinda the same in every role he does…? It must be interesting to see him in a Western. Not typical for him, was it?

    The fact that they cast Rock Hudson as a Native American is *almost* forgiven by the line about white men stealing land and women. Almost. But I know that was still big back then, not finding ethnic actors to fill those roles. He looks pretty ridiculous in that wig, though, lol.

    Can you imagine how much people must have smelled back then? Authors who write good time travel books always bring those things up–unusual odors, lack of noise. And then the characters get used to all of it pretty fast. I guess everyone was used to everyone else’s bodily odors. No biggie. I got a book called “The History of Dirt” a long time ago and never read it. It talks about the different stages of cleanliness/dirtiness people have gone through and I think it ends with the fact that we’re so super clean to the point of sterilization today that we’re kinda crazy about it.

    The only action western I can think of right now is The Wild Bunch. I think it had good action throughout, but the massacre at the end must have shocked audiences. I’m a little bit shell-shocked right now and unable to think clearly since Robert Stone, one of our president’s cronies, just made some kind of announcement that if Trump loses the election, he should seize power and declare martial law. So, like, it’ll probably be EXACTLY like a Western movie all over this country when November comes. One with a super violent ending like The Wild Bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know exactly what you mean on our Jimmy. He’s in so many films. Many I watch over and over. Rear Window and of course It’s A Wonderful Life. When you think about it yes he is just Jimmy Stewart every film. Not a bad thing at all but yeah it’s just as you imagine he would be in real life. He does get to slam the baddies head into the saloon bar. His face filled with as much anger as he could muster.

      There a good little bit in the trivia about it.
      “At the time of filming, James Stewart was anxious to appear in more challenging roles, as he was worried that the general perception was of him as a limited actor. He found director Anthony Mann very helpful in breaking that perception.”

      Yeah I can’t believe I was looking for Rock but still didn’t see him. Proper face palm moment I’ll tell yah. Hehe yeah that wig is bad! Like you say those lines save him a little and to be fair they do treat the Native Americans with respect in the film I think.

      HAHA you know what that is so funny. I often think about silly stuff like that. “Can you imagine how much people must have smelled back then? ” LOL… So true though. Good gosh obviously you would get used to the pungent odours and have to trick yourself that some smells are sexy as you try and have a relationship! LOL I guess they managed it as we are all here now bathing 247. I’ll put my hand up to needing a shower every day or I can’t function. Can you imagine me as a cowboy all clean and smelling of roses? Jimmy would smash my head into the saloon bar. LOL

      Oh gosh yes that ending of The Wild Bunch is well wild! It’s such a shocker. Wow what a crazy statement from that guy. Sounds like he’s only just been out of “jail” and he’s still rallying up hatred in the form of ridiculous comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If we all got shot back into the 1500s or caveman times or even just 200 years ago, we’d probably all immediately die of heart failure once we realized there was no deodorant and it was considered passe to bathe more than once in a while !!!

        Liked by 1 person

    • HAHA “I’m glad you also gave those super-cactuses their due”
      That made me laugh bro.
      BUT dude I’d never knew they got so freaking big!!
      Will I be cactus cursed! I’m looking for them in every western now. hehe

      Like

  4. Love the new format and all the Stewart, Mann films are fresh in my mind after binging on the with Kirk over the last while. Seeing this early on cemented my love of rascal Dan Duryea. Funny that I’m now reading a book on Stewart and pal Henry Fonda. It relates coming home from WW2 and Stewart’s need to change his soft image after the horrors of reality. And what, no love for Tony Curtis?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your father and son time working through the westerns inspired me to get on with Winchester 73 and I managed to get my boy Kofi to sit and watch High Noon with me.
      That book sounds most excellent reading.
      I had spotted Tony Curtis and saw his name go up. Just you get to the point that you have to stop somewhere! This new western format was meant to get me to write less and be quick. High Noon just hit 1800 plus words! I can’t win. hehe
      I just added a new question “Hang on a minute is that so-in-so?” Tony has been added 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy to note you just got your ass rolling on Westerns! You could not have chosen a better one ie Winchester 73, a perennial favourite and one of the best from Mann/Stewart collaborations. Best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Chris. It was such a great watch. I’d seen The Naked Spur a few years back and that was top class too. Now I need to finish up the Mann/Stewart collection. Thanks for comment and I hope to have a few other western reviews soon. All the best……….. Mikey

      Like

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