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Film: Winchester 73
This is the story of the Winchester Rifle Model 1873, "The gun that won the West." To cowman, outlaw, peace officer or soldier, the Winchester '73 was a treasured possession. An Indian would sell his soul to own one.
Opening title card

Winchester '73 is a Western Film from 1950 directed by Anthony Mann and starring Jimmy Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally and Millard Mitchell.

Lin McAdam, a former Texas ranger, is riding with his partner High-Spade Frankie Wilson to track down a man. When they reach Dodge City, they run into Dutch Henry Brown, the man they're looking for (though that's not his real name. As Wyatt Earp, the sheriff in town, is keeping a close eye on both of them and has taken everyone's gun, Lin and Dutch Henry confine their bad blood to a shooting contest that's in town; the winner gets the rifle of the title, which is supposed to be the best gun around. Lin ends up winning the contest, but before he can leave town, Dutch Henry and his gang ambush him and steal the gun. At this point, the film follows both Lin's attempt to catch up to Dutch Henry, as well as the path of the gun, as it ends up with a trader, a Sioux Indian chief, Steve Miller, a man trying to settle down with his girlfriend Lola Manners, and Waco Johnny Dean, a cocky gunman, among others.

The film was notable for being the first film to team up Stewart and Mann (they went on to make seven more films together), the first of Stewart's Darker and Edgier roles, and most important, the first film where a star (Stewart) agreed to take a lesser salary up front in exchange for a percentage of the profits, which helped change business practices in the movies.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Waco Johnny Dean.
  • And This Is for...: A nicer version of this trope: when the army rescues Lola and Steve from the Sioux, Lola kisses Sgt. Wilkes, the head officer for saving their lives; he jokes, "Now you disappoint me; I thought it was 'cause I'm pretty." Later, when Steve and Lola are about to leave, she kisses Wilkes again, and says, "This is 'cause you're pretty."
  • Cain and Abel: Dutch Henry is really Matthew, Lin's brother, who shot their father in the back.
  • Deadpan Snarker: High Spade Frankie.
  • The Determinator: Lin, all the way.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Wyatt Earp; or, at least, he doesn't like anyone carrying them in his town.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Rock Hudson plays a Sioux chief.
    • Sidney Falco started out as a U.S. cavalry soldier.
    • R.F. is High Spade Frankie.
  • Historical-Domain Character: In addition to Wyatt Earp, there's also reference to Custer getting massacred.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lola. She gets run out of Dodge City for it.
  • I Have Many Names: The reason why Lin initially doesn't realize Dutch Henry Brown is his estranged brother Matthew.
    Wyatt Earp: I thought you said you didn't know him.
    Lin: I said I didn't recall the name.
  • MacGuffin: The gun of the title, though in an interesting subversion, not only do only a few of the characters really want the gun (or know how valuable it is), it's used more as a way to tie the characters together than as a goal the characters are after.
  • Playing Against Type: As noted above, Stewart had up to that point been best known for playing Capra-esque characters and heroic ones. While he's still the hero here, he's driven mostly by revenge and obsession, and this was the beginning of the Darker and Edgier roles Stewart played in the 50's for Mann and Alfred Hitchcock.
    • Also applies to director Mann; to this point, he was best known for his crime dramas, but starting with this film, he switched gears to directing mostly Westerns in the 50's.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Steve.
  • Smug Snake: Waco Johnny Dean. Lin pretty much cures him of that in a hurry, though.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lola never really forgives Steve for going for help and abandoning her when the Sioux come riding down on them.
Wild Wild WestIndex of Film WesternsWinnetou
Sunset BoulevardFilms of the 1950sAce in the Hole

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