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Generally regarded as one of Hollywood's most amiable and lovable actors, James Stewart began to choose more unconventional roles after he returned from service in World War II. In direct opposition to the characters he played in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), Stewart actively sought parts that were the opposite of the carefree idealists he portrayed in pre-war films. Starting with It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Stewart's screen persona matured and grew increasingly dark, so much so that it was not too much of a stretch to call him an anti-hero in Alfred Hitchcock pictures like Rope (1948) and Rear Window (1954). It was also partly due to directors Anthony Mann and John Ford that Stewart was able to redirect his film career in the fifties. No longer the sweet-natured young hero, Stewart was more likely in the post-war years to play cynical, morally corrupt protagonists in westerns such as The Naked Spur (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955), and Two Rode Together (1961).
Stewart's initial foray into darker material was in the Anthony Mann-directed western Winchester '73 (1950), followed shortly by Carbine Williams in 1952. In addition to giving Stewart's screen image a harder edge, the studio deal that put Stewart into the role in the first place proved to be far more important for his career. When Stewart was lobbying with Universal Pictures to play the lead role in their upcoming Harvey (1950), Universal agreed as long as he signed on to do another picture under the Universal logo. That second picture turned out to be Winchester '73. But Universal was experiencing some financial troubles at the time and they were unable to pay Stewart's asking price of $200,000 for either film. Therefore, Lew Wasserman, Stewart's agent, negotiated a deal whereby the mega-star would be a partner in the making of Winchester '73, taking no salary but splitting the profits. This deal proved to be enormously profitable for Stewart and it allowed him greater creative control for future pictures. Thus, when he went to MGM to star in the life story of David Marshall Williams, it was not too difficult to accept him as an embittered prisoner, nor was it too much of a financial risk for Stewart or MGM. But more than just a portrayal of a convicted killer, Carbine Williams was the inspiring true story of Williams' efforts to invent the M1 rifle, a successor to the Winchester rifle and the weapon that revolutionized modern warfare. More than 8 million carbines were used by American troops in World War II, thanks to the tenacity and inventiveness of "Carbine" Williams.
Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Armand Deutsch
Screenplay: Art Cohn
Cinematography: William Mellor
Editor: Newell P. Kimlin
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Conrad Salinger
Cast: James Stewart (Marsh Williams), Jean Hagen (Maggie Williams), Wendell Corey (Capt. H.T. Peoples), Carl Benton Reid (Claude Williams), Paul Stewart ('Dutch' Kruger).
BW-94m. Close captioning.
by Scott McGee