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WINCHESTER ’73 (1950)

icon-dots ESSENTIALS

Along with Henry King’s The Gunfighter (also 1950), this film ushered in a new era of the Western. Gone was the squeaky clean, white-hatted hero; in his place was a flawed, very human protagonist as driven by violence as the outlaws he hunts down. The casting of James Stewart in that role was a revolution in itself. No one at the time expected him to get down and dirty, and preview audiences gasped when he brutally beat up Dan Duryea in a barroom brawl. Stewart had worked with director Anthony Mann in 1930s theater and admired his earlier films. When Fritz Lang pulled out as director, Stewart recommended Mann, who turned this tale of a prized Winchester rifle, “the gun that won the West,” into a big hit that led to seven other films for Stewart and Mann, most of them Westerns. This was also revolutionary because it was the first film for which the star received a percentage of the profits. Universal couldn’t afford to pay Stewart’s $200,000 fee at the time, so they gave him a 50-percent interest in the production. It ended up making him about $600,000, leading to a new era of actor-producers. The beautifully shot film (by MGM veteran William Daniels) looks better than ever in this U.S. premiere restoration. (d. Anthony Mann, 92m, DCP)

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