• James Stewart in Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River

There’s a terrifying moment near the end of Winchester ’73, which screened last night at the Gene Siskel Film Center, in which James Stewart’s Lin McAdam threatens to strangle a man to death. Dan Duryea’s Waco Johnny Dean may have had it coming to him—he’s a rapist and murder even viler than Dutch Henry Brown, the gunman Stewart’s been tracking for years. But when Stewart chokes Duryea, his eyes glare like those of a violent animal who’s captured his prey. The most sympathetic portrayer in movies of the American everyman taps into a primitive, murderous instinct, and he does it so naturally as to suggest it’s been in him all along.