Saturday, November 7, 2009

Winchester '73

Now I know why I like Jimmy Stewart so much--he had the same birthday as me! I found that out after watching this movie, because after listening to the interview he did as a bonus feature, I wanted to learn more about him. In Winchester '73, he stars as a man who wins a special rifle, the eponymous Winchester 1873, in a shooting contest, the end of which brought to mind the scene in the Pilot where Kid shoots two bullets at once.

While Stewart's character, Lin McAdam, doesn't quite do that, he does demonstrate an equally impressive feat of shooting. The referee for the contest is Will Geer (Seth in Smiler with a Gun, another episode with a shooting contest), playing Marshal Wyatt Earp when he was a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas. But this Earp is very different from the one portrayed in Which Way to the O.K. Corral?, played by Cameron Mitchell.

However, things go downhill for Lin when the rifle is stolen. He and his sidekick spend the rest of the movie trying to recover the weapon, which passes through several hands in a series of adventures. One person who acquires the rifle for a brief time is Rock Hudson, playing an Indian! Another actor is a US Cavalry sergeant who was at Gettysburg (as mentioned in Stagecoach 7 by LQ Jones).

There is an on-going conflict between Lin and a man named Dutch Henry Brown which is finally explained and resolved at the end of Winchester '73. Shelley Winters plays a sort-of love interest. One aspect of the movie that I especially appreciated was the lack of continual background music; only at certain points was music heard and that made it very effective.

A few other notes: There is a high stakes poker game, but I do not think Heyes would ever be caught playing for the stakes in this game. There is also a remuda in Winchester '73, just like in 21 Days to Tenstrike, but it was only after watching this film that I learned that the word refers to the string of horses a cowboy uses and not the place where they are corralled for the night.

And, when not riding horses, people are shown using stagecoaches for transportation, in particular, Butterfield stagecoaches. Since their stages are frequently seen in ASJ, I looked up the company and included a couple links for further information below. This is a Universal picture and I kept trying to find locations in the movie that were also used in ASJ, until I heard in the interview that it was filmed mostly in Arizona.

In his interview, Stewart is asked about working with Will Geer and his response is interesting. He also has some very interesting comments about the advantages of working under contract for a movie studio, which contrasted with what I've read of Pete's thoughts on the subject. Although it is not my favorite Jimmy Stewart Western, I enjoyed Winchester '73. The bonus feature, the only one Stewart ever did, makes it all the more worth watching.

Information about Butterfield's, with many first-hand descriptions from passengers: