Sunday, June 27, 2010

Winchester '73

One of my favorite westerns is Winchester '73 from 1950 starring Jimmy Stewart.  (Come to think of it, I have a lot of favorite westerns.)  It was a breakout role for Stewart.  He wanted to do something other than the tall, fair-minded, honest bloke he usually played.  He was the good guy in Winchester '73, but there was a fine line separating good and bad in this movie.

According to IMDb, Stewart would receive $200,000 for his salary, but the studio couldn't afford it.  He made a deal to take a portion of the profits, and took home about $600,000.  This was the first such deal after the silent era ended, and is now the way most big stars get paid.

On to the good stuff.  In what truly stands out as miscasting, the small part of the Native American chief, Young Bull, was played by Rock Hudson.  I'm sorry, but he doesn't look like an Indian!  Nonetheless, the part could be considered a bit part in that he had little screen time, but it was important so that the story of this famous rifle could be followed.

Will Geer played Wyatt Earp in the beginning of the film at the sharpshooting contest.  He said that he thought he was miscast in the role.  That may be.  Geer was 48 years old when the film was made, and I thought he looked older than that.  The story takes place in 1876, when Wyatt Earp would have been 28 years old.  But Geer played the part well.  He had an air of authority about him, which I am sure Earp also possessed.  Much later, Geer became Grandpa on TV in "The Waltons."

We also find Tony Curtis in a bit part.  This was three years before he played Harry Houdini.  And another great character actor, John Douchette (1921 - 1994), had a small part.  He had about 286 roles in film and TV and he has one of those faces you never forget.  He was great as General Truscott in Patton (1970), and played in four westerns with Stewart, this one, Broken Arrow the same year, Carbine Williams in 1952, and The Far Country in 1954.

I guess the weekend is the best time for a good western!

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