Filmsite Movie Review
Winchester '73 (1950)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The sound of hoofbeats and gunfire announced the unexpected arrival of desperado 'Waco' Johnny Dean (Dan Duryea) with a large gang including two sidekicks: Mexican Latigo Means (Abner Biberman) and Roan Daley (John Doucette), in flight from a large posse from Hays led by a marshal. The outlaws sought refuge in the Jameson house, and 'Waco' joked with his two major gang members, exclaiming: "What a pair!" As he turned, he spotted Steve's fiancee Lola and immediately leered at her: "Well!"

[Note: The immediate juxtaposition of 'Waco's' exclamation and the sight of Lola made it a disguised sexual joke.]

The sleazy 'Waco' was impressed by Lola's shapely sexiness and told Steve: "But you didn't tell me she was, uh..." as he gestured with his hands about her curvaceous figure.

From outside, Marshal Noonan (Ray Teal) ordered 'Waco' to release the Jameson woman and her two youngsters before they were harmed, and promised 'Waco' an arrest, but with a "fair trial" if he would surrender peacefully. 'Waco' giggled maniacally and shot back: "Come and get 'em!" Lola bravely hurled an insult at 'Waco':

You're about the lowest thing I've ever seen standing in a pair of boots! Why don't you let this woman outta here! She hasn't done anything to you! And these kids. You oughta be ashamed to look at them, you two-bit, four-flushing gunslinger!

Her words prompted 'Waco' to let the Jameson family members escape, but he wouldn't allow Lola to join them. Once 'Waco' saw the Winchester '73 in Steve's hands, his eyes widened covetously and he asked: "Where did you get that gun?" Steve lied: "I won it," and then refused to sell it. The menacing, sneering psychopathic 'Waco' turned his lascivious eyes toward Lola, then politely acquiesed: "Have it your way." He continued to ignore and refuse the Marshal's demands to release Lola ("But she likes it here!"), and then began a series of provocative and intimidating insults to cause pantywaist Steve to enter into armed conflict. He first ordered Steve to make coffee in the kitchen, a woman's typical role, while he forced himself on Lola:

'Waco': Have you, uh, known him long?
Lola: Long enough!
'Waco': (He poked a cigarette toward her mouth) Aw! No bad habits?
Lola: No, just bad company!
'Waco': Well, maybe we can change that! I'm a likable person when you get to know me!
Lola: Are you?
'Waco': And you're a lot of woman! Too much woman for, uh - ...
Lola: I already know about Waco Johnny Dean, the fastest gun in Texas!
'Waco': Texas? Lady, why limit me?

Outside, the Marshal made preparations to set a rig on fire with coal oil and direct it into the center of the house. Inside, 'Waco' again humiliated Steve: "Put an apron on." And then he applied more pressure to have him sell the gun: "You sure you don't want to sell it to me, kitchen boy?" He tripped Steve as he served coffee, then ordered him to clean it up. Foolishly, Steve drew his gun on 'Waco' and was promptly shot dead. His last words to Lola were: "I tried to---." At the same time, the Marshal's posse pushed a flaming wagon to smash into the side of the ranch house, causing the desperados to foolishly follow 'Waco's' orders to flee out the front of the burning structure and face an ambush. Meanwhile, 'Waco' fled from a side window with Lola as his hostage and escaped from the posse, while the rest of the gang was killed.

Still on the trail, McAdam and High-Spade planned to arrive in Tascosa by the following afternoon. McAdam spoke of his father's gun-training: "He taught me to hunt!" High-Spade questioned McAdam's relentless quest to hunt down 'Dutch':

Hunting for food, that's all right. Hunting a man to kill him? You're beginning to like it.

McAdam disagreed: "I don't like it! Some things a man has to do, so he does 'em!", and he declined to think about their future after the hunt was over, when they would be at "the end of the trail." McAdam spoke about his valuable and loyal friendship with High-Spade, who risked his life to accompany him on his quest:

McAdam: You've been real fine people, High-Spade, ridin' along with me!
High-Spade: That's what friends is for, isn't it? Leastways, that's the way your dad always said it!
McAdam: Yeah, he did, didn't he? He said if a man had one friend, he was rich! I'm rich!

In close-up, 'Waco' removed the Winchester '73 rifle from his horse-holster, and fired three shots to alert 'Dutch' and his gang to their arrival in their nearby hideout. As 'Waco' rode up to the cabin in the mountainous, rocky hills, one of Dutch's gang members expressed his opinion: "Sometimes I think he's a little on the crazy side!" Dutch's first words to 'Waco' were: "Where did you get my gun?...It's my gun and I want it!" when he noticed the rifle in 'Waco's' grasp. He used pressure to demand that 'Waco' comply: "Do you want in on this Tascosa deal?" 'Waco' quipped: "I didn't ride out here to pick blueberries!" and then surrendered the prized weapon after a nervous chuckle. 'Dutch' recognized Lola from Dodge City as a piano player "singing" in the saloon, but implicitly knew that she was a prostitute: "That's why Earp ran you out of town!"

The gang was planning an armed bank robbery in Tascosa that day - the same day as McAdam's and High-Spade's arrival. (Other gang members besides 'Waco,' and Dutch with Johnny and Ben, included Long Tom (Chuck Roberson) and Dudeen (Carol Henry).) Dutch began to describe the set-up: "First, John, Ben and I ride down to Trygillo! That's here! And when we get to Trygillo --", but then he became perturbed with Lola sitting on 'Waco's' lap next to him, and he ordered her to take a walk:

Look, Waco, this time tomorrow, you and her can play pat-a-cake all ya want! But when I'm linin' up a deal, I don't want any dance-hall woman listenin' in!

'Dutch' continued with a descriptive plan of the robbery of a stagecoach bringing gold to the Wells Fargo bank in Tascosa - Waco would be positioned across the street in the town's saloon, Jenkins Bar, to provide cover for the gang's escape after the bank robbery:

Dutch: Here's the layout! We pick up the stage at Trygillo! Now, there's four men ridin', guardin' the gold! They'll ride it right into Tascosa! That's here!
'Waco': Where will I be?
Dutch: In Tascosa, with Dudeen and Long Tom! Now, right across the street from the bank, there's a saloon! Dudeen and Long Tom will have the horses tied off in front of Jenkins Bar. Now, after they carry the gold into the bank, the four guards ride on to the livery stable. You stand at the bar, and you'll see the stage when it pulls in!...
'Waco': So I'm in the saloon! What happens then?
Dutch: The stage pulls in, they take the gold into the bank! I go with 'em!
'Waco': You go into the bank and make your play, and if there's any trouble -- I cover you from the saloon, hmm?

As they discussed the plan, Lola noticed a family photograph on a shelf - the final clue that McAdam and 'Dutch' were brothers, and that 'Dutch' had murdered the patriarch of the McAdam family:

  • 'Dutch' and Lin McAdam (l to r: back row)
  • Mr. McAdam, an older gentleman (front row)

'Dutch' noticed Lola tossing the bullet (for a suicidal shot) keepsake in her hand, a reminder of McAdam and her growing affection for him. She admitted to 'Dutch': "It was given to me by your friend in the picture!" 'Dutch' stated that they now had something "in common" - they both knew McAdam, and 'Dutch' knew that he was being hunted down: "He's been trying to give me one of those for a long time!"

The town of Tascosa was introduced with a slowly moving camera shot tracking from right to left, swiveling from the entry to the Wells Fargo Bank, to the front of Jenkins Bar across the dusty street. Sounds of a piano tune came from inside the saloon, where Lola was entertaining 'Waco' with her playing. He claimed he had done her a favor by eliminating her cowardly (or "yellow") fiancee Steve: "He wasn't for you! I did you a favor!" A few minutes before the stagecoach with the gold delivery was due at 3:00 pm, McAdam and High-Spade arrived in town, entered the saloon, and reacquainted themselves with Lola at the piano. She explained how Steve was "killed by that gentleman standing at the bar!" - identified as 'Waco' Johnny Dean! McAdam and High-Spade realized they had stumbled upon their quarry: "Riker told us Dutch was riding to meet - 'Waco' Johnny Dean!" Lola warned McAdam: "Watch his left hand!"

McAdam joined 'Waco' at the bar for a whiskey and mentioned that he was looking for 'Dutch' - someone he had known for a long time: "Long enough to tell ya how he got that little scar above his right eye! I gave it to him when he was 10!"

To disarm 'Waco', McAdam suddenly seized his left arm, thrust it behind his back, grabbed him by the jaw, and forced his face into the bar while demanding 'Dutch's' whereabouts: "Where is he?!" As they left the bar, 'Waco' grabbed a gun from the holster of a bystander and fired at McAdam, who ducked and killed him - 'Waco' fell dead in the middle of the street. High-Spade and McAdam then fought off Dudeen and Long Tom on the saloon's front porch, just as the bank robbery was in progress.

In the confusion of 'Waco's' murder and the robbery, the horses awaiting the thieves' escape were not available, and 'Dutch' struggled to find a horse for his escape. Lola was caught in the cross-fire when she attempted to save a young Mexican child, and was shot in the arm and wounded by the retreating, sole-surviving outlaw - 'Dutch.' While High-Spade attended to Lola's wound, McAdam mounted his horse for his final pursuit. As McAdam galloped off, the reason for his dogged and vengeful quest was fully revealed by High-Spade to Lola. 'Dutch' Henry was Lin McAdam's own villainous 'black sheep' brother named Matthew McAdam, who had murdered their father:

Lola: Dutch Henry's a murderer!...
High-Spade: It was Dutch who killed his father, so it's right for him to go! Doubly right, because Dutch Henry is Lin's brother!

The frantic chase led McAdam out of town through desert landscapes marked by towering Saguaro cactus (native to Arizona, not the Texas Panhandle), back towards the gang's hide-out on the side of a rocky hill. They would face each other in a lengthy, climactic shoot-out on the cliff-side, although 'Dutch' had the advantage from a higher rock outcropping ("You're caught below another man's gun!"). 'Dutch' was able to entrap McAdam between the jagged rocks by ricocheting bullets around him.

Lin McAdam tormented his brother by calling out his given name: "Matthew!" He was eventually able to circle around closer and closer to 'Dutch' to confront him (when 'Dutch' paused to reload), as they taunted each other between shots:

'Dutch' (Matthew): First chance I had to thank you for, for winning me my gun! Shoots real pretty, wouldn't you say?
Lin McAdam: I didn't get a chance to use that gun, Matthew! But I intend to! There's something you forgot too! The old man told you never to waste lead! Now you're short!
'Dutch' (Matthew): Not that short!

Finally, McAdam was able to get a clear shot and he hit 'Dutch' (Matthew), who dropped the gun and tumbled off the craggy rock peak to his death.

Back in Tascosa, High-Spade was finishing his explanation to the recuperating Lola of the long-standing hatred between the two brothers (and the reason why 'Dutch' killed his own father):

Well, that's the way it was! The old man sired two sons! One was no good! Never was any good! Robbed a bank, a stagecoach! Then when he came home and wanted to hide out, the old man wouldn't go for it! So Dutch shot him! In the back!

The whinnying of Lin's horse signaled his return to Tascosa from the fatal shootout, with his brother's corpse laid over his horse. Lola joyfully welcomed him, calling out: "Lin!" - the film's final word. The two found comfort and relief in an embrace. The film's final image was a zoom-in closeup to the unengraved plate on the butt-stock of the Winchester '73 rifle - the very desirable, famous gun that had caused a trail of deaths in its wake as it was passed along.

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