Sunday, September 25, 2016

WINCHESTER '73 (1950)

Between 1950 and 1955 James Stewart and director Anthony Mann made five westerns together, this first pairing finds Jimmy Stewart and his buddy Millard Mitchell on the trail of Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally)...a sidewindin', bushwackin', hornswagglin' cracker croaker that really pissed off Stewart, but we don't know why.

In the opening scene they catch up with him in Dodge City, but since there's no guns allowed in the city limits, they can't kill each other.  Instead they compete in a shooting contest judged by Wyatt Earp! Grand prize: a highly-coveted "one-in-a-thousand" Winchester Model 1873 rifle. Stewart wins the gun only to have Brown and his men jump him, steal the rifle and skedaddle it out of town. From here on the story splits in two: one, the story of the rifle (and it's quickly changing owners) and the other, Stewart and Mitchell tracking down Brown.

WINCHESTER '73 is a great western and one of the coolest things about it is it's outstanding cast.  Besides the two leads of Stewart and McNally you have Millard Mitchell, Shelley Winters, Will Geer, Rock Hudson, John McIntire, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally, James Millican, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Drake, John Alexander, Tony Curtis, Abner Biberman, James Best, Steve Brodie and more!  I mean, the whole time you're watching the film you're thinking to yourself "Holy crap!  That's Teddy from ARSENIC AND OLD LACE! Charge!!!" or "Hey, there's Rosco from "The Dukes of Hazzard".  It's a joy seeing so many familiar faces, even if sometimes it's just in the background.

Strong direction, legendary cast, impressive acting (I especially liked Shelley Winters), clever script, quick pace, beautiful scenery and cinematography.  If you're a fan of Jimmy Stewart or just good movies then you can't go wrong with WINCHESTER '73.