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Year: 1950
Studio: Universal
Running time: 92 minutes
Process: Black & White / mono
Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: James Stewart as Lin McAdam
Shelley Winters as Lola Manners
Dan Duryea as Waco Johnnie Dean
Steven McNally as Dutch Henry Brown

Anthony Mann was a director who may have been better known for film noir, but he did direct 11 Westerns, five of them starring James Stewart, and Winchester ’73 is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. The story is unique in that it centers around a highly coveted Winchester ’73 rifle that is the prize at a Fourth of July shooting contest. Lin McAdam (Stewart) barely beats out Dutch Henry Brown (Steven McNally), to win the rifle, but Dutch is in fact an outlaw, and he and Lin have a history that goes way back. Dutch jumps Lin and steals the Rifle.

Interestingly, Dutch loses the rifle in a poker game, and then the new owner promptly gets scalped by a Comanche chief who takes possession. As you can probably guess, the rifle changes hands quite a few times before Lin is finally able to get it back

Shelley Winters (in the glamorous stage of her career)  is an ex-saloon girl who is engaged to be married to a man who is in cahoots with Dutch and his gang. She discovers her fiance’s true colors too late, and then is trapped by the outlaws. It all ends in a showdown with Lin and Dutch in a shootout among some rocky bluffs.

      

(Above left) Rock Hudson, in a very early role, is almost unrecognizable as the Comanche chief. (Above right) Tony Curtis also has a small part as a young Cavalry soldier.

It’s interesting to note that like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart also had a clearly identifiable screen persona in his Western roles. Whereas John Wayne was tough, a bit ornery, and always bigger-than-life, Stewart was usually subdued and meek. Jimmy usually played a quiet man with a troubled past.

Next week I’ll profile the TV series, Gunsmoke, seasons 1 through 6.

     

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