Film4: Wednesday 21 October, 5.5pm
On the trail of his father’s killer, James Stewart wins a priceless 1873 model Winchester rifle in Dodge City during the centennial holiday weekend. The Winchester ’73 – the gun that won the West. Not a single shot, like the Springfield, but a repeater. And his back-stabbing brother Stephen McNally makes off with it.
A vintahe episodic western adventure, entertainingly staged. Grinning villain Dan Duryea is Waco Johnny Dean, the fastest gun in Texas – “Texas? Lady, why limit me?” – and Will Geer is Dodge City’s avuncular marshal, Wyatt Earp. There are also early supporting roles for a couple of Universal’s young contract players, Rock Hudson (hiding behind braided hair, face paint and a prosthetic hook-nose as a boy named Sioux, Young Bull to be precise) and Tony Curtis – billed here as Anthony – as a campfire soldier musing on dancehall gal Shelley Winters’ yellow hair.
The laconic Stewart, always at home on the range, went on to make five more fondly remembered 1950s westerns with director Anthony Mann, and they also found time to make the memorable Glenn Miller Story. This unpretentious trek along the vengeance trail just might be the best of the lot.