Winchester '73 (1950)

92 mins | Western | 12 July 1950

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HISTORY

The film opens with the following written foreword: "This is a 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..." According to HR news items throughout the late 1940s, Fritz Lang planned to direct this film as an independent production released through Universal. In Dec 1946, the film was placed on Universal's production schedule, and Lang announced he would shoot the film on location at Zion City National Park, UT. According to a Jun 1947 HR news item, Lang then decided to film exterior scenes in Valley of Fire, NV.
       A 1951 LAT news item reported that writer Stuart Lake sued Universal for $400,000 when the studio failed to credit him as writer of the film's original story when that story was published in an unnamed film magazine. After a magistrate ruled that Universal was at fault in the matter, Lake and the studio settled out of court. In 1952, James Stewart was named the winner of the third annual Reno Silver Spurs award as best Western actor of 1951 for his performance in Winchester '73 . According to LAT , the film was also named best Western film and Anthony Mann was named best Western director.
       This was the first of eight films on which Stewart and Mann worked together, the last being the 1955 Columbia film The Man from Laramie . According to modern sources, Stewart made Winchester '73 as part of ... More Less

The film opens with the following written foreword: "This is a 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..." According to HR news items throughout the late 1940s, Fritz Lang planned to direct this film as an independent production released through Universal. In Dec 1946, the film was placed on Universal's production schedule, and Lang announced he would shoot the film on location at Zion City National Park, UT. According to a Jun 1947 HR news item, Lang then decided to film exterior scenes in Valley of Fire, NV.
       A 1951 LAT news item reported that writer Stuart Lake sued Universal for $400,000 when the studio failed to credit him as writer of the film's original story when that story was published in an unnamed film magazine. After a magistrate ruled that Universal was at fault in the matter, Lake and the studio settled out of court. In 1952, James Stewart was named the winner of the third annual Reno Silver Spurs award as best Western actor of 1951 for his performance in Winchester '73 . According to LAT , the film was also named best Western film and Anthony Mann was named best Western director.
       This was the first of eight films on which Stewart and Mann worked together, the last being the 1955 Columbia film The Man from Laramie . According to modern sources, Stewart made Winchester '73 as part of a two-picture agreement with Universal, in which the actor participated in the film's profits, rather than being paid his regular salary or a flat fee. Because of the box-office success of Winchester '73 , some modern sources estimate that Stewart received $500,000. Modern sources also state that Stewart suggested that Anthony Mann replace the departed Fritz Lang as the film's director after the actor saw Mann's work on the 1950 M-G-M film, Devil's Doorway (See Entry). In turn, Mann brought writer Borden Chase onto the project to re-write the existing screenplay by Robert L. Richards, according to modern sources.
       A radio version of Winchester '73 , with James Stewart and Stephen McNally reprising their film roles, was broadcast on the Lux Radio Theatre on 12 Nov 1951. The Robert L. Richards/Borden Chase screenplay was the basis for a 1967 television movie by the same name, starring Tom Tryon and John Saxon, and directed by Herschel Daugherty. Dan Duryea, who played outlaw "Waco Johnny Dean" in the 1950 film, played Saxon's sympathetic father in the 1967 television production. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Jun 1950.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 50
p. 3, 5
Film Daily
8 Jun 50
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 47
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 50
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 50
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
10 May 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Apr 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Jun 50
p. 329.
New York Times
8 Jun 50
p. 38.
Variety
7 Jun 50
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 July 1950
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 June 1950
Production Date:
mid February--late March 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
9 June 1950
Copyright Number:
LP182
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in feet):
8,306
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14646
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1876, cowboy Lin McAdam and his good friend, Frankie "High Spade" Wilson, travel to Dodge City, Kansas to participate in the Centennial Rifle Shoot, which is being held on the Fourth of July. Lin knows that his sharpshooting brother, Dutch Henry Brown, whom he suspects murdered their father, will also be in the contest, as first prize is a rare Winchester '73 rifle. Soon after their mutual arrivals in Dodge City, Lin and Dutch Henry are stopped from killing each other by the town's famous marshal, Wyatt Earp. Later, Lin narrowly defeats his brother in the rifle contest, but Dutch Henry and his friends ambush Lin and steal the Winchester. Two days later, a penniless Dutch Henry loses the rifle in a poker game to Joe Lamont, an Indian trader. Lamont is later killed by Young Bull, an Indian chief whom Lamont had hoped to cheat with defective guns and rifles. Meanwhile, Lin learns from Jack Riker, a saloon keeper, that Dutch Henry is headed for Tascosa to meet up with Waco Johnny Dean, an outlaw. That night on the trail, Lin and High Spade run into a U.S. Cavalry unit, led by Sgt. Wilkes, which has been surrounded by Young Bull's warriors. The Indians attack the next morning, but they are repelled when Lin shoots and kills Young Bull. After Lin and High Spade leave, Wilkes discovers the rare Winchester by the dead Indian chief and gives it to Steve Miller, the cowardly fiancé of Lola Manners, a dance hall girl. Steve and Lola then travel to Tascosa, where they accept the hospitality of the Jameson family. Waco Johnny ... +


In 1876, cowboy Lin McAdam and his good friend, Frankie "High Spade" Wilson, travel to Dodge City, Kansas to participate in the Centennial Rifle Shoot, which is being held on the Fourth of July. Lin knows that his sharpshooting brother, Dutch Henry Brown, whom he suspects murdered their father, will also be in the contest, as first prize is a rare Winchester '73 rifle. Soon after their mutual arrivals in Dodge City, Lin and Dutch Henry are stopped from killing each other by the town's famous marshal, Wyatt Earp. Later, Lin narrowly defeats his brother in the rifle contest, but Dutch Henry and his friends ambush Lin and steal the Winchester. Two days later, a penniless Dutch Henry loses the rifle in a poker game to Joe Lamont, an Indian trader. Lamont is later killed by Young Bull, an Indian chief whom Lamont had hoped to cheat with defective guns and rifles. Meanwhile, Lin learns from Jack Riker, a saloon keeper, that Dutch Henry is headed for Tascosa to meet up with Waco Johnny Dean, an outlaw. That night on the trail, Lin and High Spade run into a U.S. Cavalry unit, led by Sgt. Wilkes, which has been surrounded by Young Bull's warriors. The Indians attack the next morning, but they are repelled when Lin shoots and kills Young Bull. After Lin and High Spade leave, Wilkes discovers the rare Winchester by the dead Indian chief and gives it to Steve Miller, the cowardly fiancé of Lola Manners, a dance hall girl. Steve and Lola then travel to Tascosa, where they accept the hospitality of the Jameson family. Waco Johnny and his men soon arrive at the Jameson home, with a posse in hot pursuit, and the outlaw uses Lola as a hostage when Steve refuses to give him the Winchester. Waco Johnny kills Steve in a gunfight, then escapes from the farmhouse with Lola and the rifle and heads for Dutch Henry's hideout in the nearby mountains. Dutch Henry quickly recognizes the Winchester and demands it back. The outlaws then plan a bank robbery, only to have Lin and High Spade arrive in Tascosa that same day. Lin kills Waco Johnny just as Dutch Henry and his men are leaving the bank, and Lola is shot and wounded in the ensuing gunfight. Lin takes off alone after his brother, who heads back toward his mountain hideout. Though he is trapped below Dutch Henry, Lin torments his brother by calling him by his given name, Matthew McAdam, then manages to sneak behind him as he reloads the Winchester. Lin then shoots and kills Dutch Henry, finally avenging their father's death. Later, Lin returns to Tascosa with the Winchester, where his return is welcomed with open arms by both Lola and High Spade. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.