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Dan Duryea as Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester 73


TomJH
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I watched Winchester 73 (1950) last evening, the first of five generally rugged westerns that collaborated Jimmy Stewart with director Anthony Mann during the early '50s. While some of the indoor scenes were undoubtedly filmed on a set at Universal-International, most of the western benefits from on location shooting in Arizona.

The Mann westerns with Stewart allowed the actor to portray men with dark streaks within the character. That, combined with a sense of vulnerability that Jimmy brought to the roles, rugged as they may have been, make them among the most interesting of western protagonists, in my opinion. Winchester 73 is  a tale of vengeance, one of the oldest motives for any character in the movies, but it's a motive that's repeated so often because it works dramatically. Tellingly, at the end of the film, after Stewart has accomplished his mission his character will not have a sense of triumph but, instead, one of sadness.

Winchester '73 (1950) - Once Upon a Time in a Western   winchester '73 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

Aside from Stewart's strong characterization and the marvelous desert and mountain backdrops of Arizona, Winchester 73 benefits from a superior supporting cast, Shelley Winters, Stephen McNally, John McIntire, Millard Mitchell, Jay C. Flippen, Will Geer (as a folksy Wyatt Earp), Charles Drake, with smaller contributions in pre stardom roles by Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis. No one in that memorable cast, however, has ever made a bigger or more enjoyable impression upon me than Dan Duryea as western bad man, robber, killer and all round louse Waco Johnny Dean.

The delight in viewing Duryea as this egotistical creep, however, is the light heartedness with which the actor plays him. He's always laughing, or laughing much of the time, and, on the surface, at least, doesn't seem take a lot of things seriously. After he provokes and cold bloodedly guns down one character he later refers to that death in an off handedly flippant manner (to his former girlfriend yet!). It's apparent that Waco Johnny regards his killing of that man no more seriously than if he had just squashed a bug.

Duryea's Waco Johnny has an innate ability to get the inner sense of a man and how much he can or can't push him around. With Charles Drake he sees the weakness and knows he can get away with anything. But when he has a confrontation with Stephen McNally's mean spirited character over the title rifle he knows he's up against a hard bitten killer and backs off, allowing him to have the gun. But Waco Johnny is nothing if not crafty and you have the clear impression that he will bid his time to get the gun back from him.

Black Angel: The Dan Duryea Fan Page - Winchester '73 (1950) | Facebook

Duryea has some excellent dialogue in this film, such as the moment in which Shelley Winters, in referring to his character's reputation, calls him "Waco Johnny Dean, the fastest gun in Texas." "Texas?" Duryea responds, "Lady, why limit me?"

For me, without doubt, the highlight scene in the film is when Duryea and Stewart meet for the first time in a saloon. I won't describe the action here for the sake of those reading this who have never seen the film. Let's just say that things quickly get intense, with major contributions to the effectiveness of the scene by the two actors involved.

Winchester '73 (1950) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Probably my single biggest grievance with Winchester 73, however, has always been the relative brevity of Dan Duryea's screen time. He received third billing in the film but the reality is that, aside from star Stewart, Winters and McNally are both in the film more than him. It's a 92 minute western, with Waco Johnny first appearing 62 minutes into the feature and exiting it at 82 minutes. That's exactly twenty minutes only of arguably the most enjoyable performance in the film, certainly one of the two most enjoyable, along with that of Stewart!

Am I the only one to feel that, enjoyable as Winchester 73 is, Mann's western would have been just that much better if it had introduced the flamboyant Waco Johnny Dean far sooner and extended Dan Duryea's screen time?

Winchester '73 – Senses of Cinema

Any other fans of this film, Duryea's performance or the Stewart-Mann westerns in general? Their other four westerns were Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954) and Man From Laramie (1955).

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Odd that this was moved from General Discussion to the Western sub-forum.  

Anyhow;  Winchester-73 is one of my favorite westerns.      The OP covers this fine film very well.

As for if the film would have been better if Dan Duryea's  Johnny Waco character was introduced sooner and thus had more overall screen time:   Hard call for me to make.  That first hour set-ups the entrance for the character of Johnny Waco very well.      I recall the first time I saw the film and after that hour I felt I knew where this film was going to go; to the showdown between the brothers.    Of course it does go there,  but all of a sudden Johnny Waco comes on the scene.   This really changes the dynamics of the film and,  as noted,  Duryea dominates all of the scenes  he in.  So out of the blue here comes this crazed,  but charming (as Duryea could be),  fast talking killer.      If Waco had been introduced earlier (say as someone in town for the contest for the Winchester),    it might have reduced the impact of his entrance.      

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On 4/27/2022 at 10:43 AM, JamesJazGuitar said:

Odd that this was moved from General Discussion to the Western sub-forum . . .

What's odd about it?

Winchester 73 is a western, and therefore rightly belongs in the Westerns forum.

What's odd to me is why so many TCM Message Board members prefer to, and persist in, posting about genre movies in the General Discussions forum.

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2 hours ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

What's odd to me is why so many TCM Message Board members prefer to, and persist in, posting about genre movies in the General Discussions forum.

Nothing odd about that if you're looking for feedback. How many go to the genre forums as opposed to General Discussions?

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3 hours ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

What's odd about it?

Winchester 73 is a western, and therefore rightly belongs in the Westerns forum.

What's odd to me is why so many TCM Message Board members prefer to, and persist in, posting about genre movies in the General Discussions forum.

I wasn't clear;  I meant that it was odd (as in unusual) that the moderator moved the thread;   While I agree this thread belongs in the Western sub-forum,   typically the moderator doesn't move a thread about a movie from General Discussion to the genre sub-forum.   

 I just checked out General Discussion and there are at least 3 other threads about movies (e.g. The Window),   on the first or second 'page',   that weren't moved.   

As for your last point;  while I agree with you the proof that most users only check-out General Discussion is the fact that I was the only one that responded to this thread (until you);       My guess is that if it would have remained under GD,  it would have more clicks.   

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21 hours ago, TomJH said:

Nothing odd about that if you're looking for feedback. How many go to the genre forums as opposed to General Discussions?

What the heck are the genre forums for then?

Okay, I get it: Folks who are looking for "likes" and "feedback" post in the General Discussions watering hole.

But, to me, the situation becomes a circular, self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating phenomenon . . .

Folks who want "likes" and "feedback" post genre film topics in GD because that's where the majority of board members post messages. They don't post in genre forums because posts in genre film forums don't get many responses.

Posts in genre forums don't get many responses because the majority of board members hang out in GD.

The majority of board members hang out in GD because that's where the majority of board members post messages . . .

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21 minutes ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

What the heck are the genre forums for then?

Okay, I get it: Folks who are looking for "likes" and "feedback" post in the General Discussions watering hole.

But, to me, the situation becomes a circular, self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating phenomenon . . .

Folks who want "likes" and "feedback" post genre film topics in GD because that's where the majority of board members post messages. They don't post in genre forums because posts in genre film forums don't get many responses.

Posts in genre forums don't get many responses because the majority of board members hang out in GD.

The majority of board members hang out in GD because that's where the majority of board members post messages . . .

Right. I never start a thread in the genre section. It's the Siberia of the message boards.

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To date, your review of Winchester 73 has 97 views. Discounting the responses from James, You, and Yours Truly, it has been seen by over 90 folks (or maybe by one person over 90 times).

But, it's feedback you want.

Cue the adage "you can lead a horse to water . . ."

You ask, "Am I the only one to feel that, enjoyable as Winchester 73 is, Mann's western would have been just that much better if it had introduced the flamboyant Waco Johnny Dean far sooner and extended Dan Duryea's screen time?"

What if you are the only one who feels that way? Is that a problem? Would it affect your enjoyment and appreciation of Winchester 73?

It's been awhile since I've watched Winchester 73 (which is a part of my movie collection, as are the other Anthony Mann oaters you listed, with the exception of The Far Country). I dig Dan Duryea, and therefore am inclined to agree with you. I'm not a James Stewart fan (I don't dislike him, I just don't care about him), but I do cotton to his performances in Mann's westerns.

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