Winchester ’73 based on a story by Stuart Lake
James Stewart was one of the greatest actors in the world, the titan that blessed audiences with glorious performances in masterpieces like:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Anatomy of a Murder, Vertigo, Rear Window, Harvey (reviewed here: http://realini.blogspot.ro/2017/03/harvey-adapted-by-mary-chase-from-her.html) , Philadelphia Story (talked about here http://realini.blogspot.ro/2017/08/note-on-philadelphia-story-george-cukor.html) and many more.
Perhaps the magnificence of this genius is even more outstanding if we consider he seems to have been a Republican, disputing with his friend Democrat and another deity of the seventh art, Henry Fonda, but this was long before the age of Trump, in which belonging to the same party as this mad man looks like such a foolish thing to do.
Winchester ’73 is not on the same pedestal as the aforementioned motion pictures, but it is still a very good western, with dramatic events, battles with the “Injuns” that are alas, portrayed in the wrong manner, specific to most, if not all, films of that period.
James Stewart plays the role of Lin McAdam, who arrives with his friend High spade in a town that is about to organize a shooting competition that would award to the winner the prized Winchester ’73 and the public is introduced to this legendary rifle that was coveted by all the men in the West…well, nearly all.
Furthermore, the Winchester that will belong to the best shot is special, for this is one rifle in a thousand and it is purported to be invaluable and indeed, throughout the movie it is clear that different men that come into its possession would not trade it for money and some are ready to kill more than one man for it.
Before the shooting begins, Lin meets the female star of the story, Lola Manners aka Shelley Winters, who is sent out of town by a man, provoking the gentlemanly hero to take a stand and tell the individual to let the woman stay, if she does not want to climb the stagecoach.
However, this person tells Lin and High Spade that they need to leave the guns they have at a storage room and Lin is curious to know by what authority is he demanding this and the man is confused and searches in his breast pocket for the…star.
This is the famous Wyatt Earp- indeed, much more popular and better known than Lin McAdam, an unknown entity before this feature- and he has an interesting apparition in this production where his presence is rather benign and cause for merriment.
When the contest is started, it is soon clear that the top prize would be disputed between the protagonist and a man called Dutch Henry Brown- a huge surprise would reveal their connection in the last scenes of the film.
Lin is so angry with this competitor that when they meet in a saloon, he reaches for his pistols, only these had been already left at storage, since Wyatt Earp wants no shootings in his town.
The two men are so good it is hard to establish a winner, even after they push the target further away, they still perforate the middle and then they opt for aiming at coins thrown in the air and they use a small stamp, for their talent is so remarkable and outstanding.
Finally, Lin is the one who wins the coveted rifle, but he does not keep it for long, as an ambush is prepared by his opponent who takes the prize and runs from the town, followed by the hero and his friend, into “unfriendly Injun” territory, where several clashes would ensue between the Native Americans – rightfully trying to defend their land from invaders- and the white people.
One may be surprised- this cinephile was – to find that the leader of the Native Americans, Young Bull, was played by Rock Hudson – hardly recognizable with paint on his face- and leads a warring party that gives chase to Lin and his partner, but also Lola and her partner at that time, the latter showing such cowardice that he runs and leaves the woman behind.
Dutch Henry is planning a robbery and he partners with another lunatic, Waco Johnny Dean, who kidnaps Lola, after killing her lover, over the Winchester rifle, which has had quite a history up to that point- it was stolen, as mentioned, then it was traded for more guns and money, then Young Bull takes it from a crooked trader and after he dies, it lands in the hands of yet another fighter- it was briefly held by the personage played by a young Tony Curtis…
The villains want to attack and take the money in the town of Pensacola – was that the name?- and coincidence or the needs of the script (?) make this the same place where the hero arrives and is overwhelmed to see Lola singing in the bar, without her man, who is…dead.
Lola says that this man, standing at the bar killed her late partner, Lin walks to him and they fight with the result you can anticipate, for we have the final countdown and confrontation between The Good and The Bad, the hero and the Dark Knight, Dutch Henry Brown, two men with a shared past, the same teacher we have heard about during the feature and a common secret.
Winchester ’73 is a much better motion picture than any of the cartoon based mega productions that hit the big screen these days…Transformers, Avengers and all that other paraphernalia.