Arriving at Medicine Bow, eastern schoolteacher Molly Woods meets two cowboys, irresponsible Steve and the "Virginian," who gets off on the wrong foot with her. To add to his troubles, the ... See full summary »
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Barbara Bel Geddes,
Molly Wood arrives in a small western town to be the new schoolmarm. The Virginian, foreman on a local ranch, and Steve, his best fiend, soon become rivals for her affection. Steve falls in with bad guys led by Trampas, and the Virginian catches him cattle rustling. As foreman, he must give the order to hang his friend. Trampas gets away, but returns in time for the obligatory climactic shootout in the streets. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gary Cooper's first all-talking film. He felt that sound would ruin him, believing his voice wasn't adequate to the task. Yet, it was "The Virginian" that turned him from a promising young leading man into a full-fledged star. See more »
Although the story spans the late 1870's through the early 1880's, Molly refers to her grandfather being killed in the Cherry Valley Massacre. As that took place in 1778, at least 100 years earlier, that seems highly unlikely. See more »
I have to admit, the Western genre usually isn't up my alley, but this one grabbed me when I saw it as a teenager on Christmas break in 1973, and so when I saw it was for sale on DVD-R I bought a copy. My memories did not deceive me - it is still a very good Western whose technique is seemingly unencumbered by the youth of sound technology in 1929.
Some things are rather obvious Western clichés, such as the fact that the hero - The Virginian (Gary Cooper) - is always wearing a white hat and generally a light colored shirt. Trampas (Walter Huston), the villain, is always wearing a black hat and black shirt and has a kind of Yosemite Sam black mustache that is so large and cartoonish that Walter Huston is almost unrecognizable underneath it. Steve (Richard Arlen), the Virginian's friend, starts out wearing gray looking clothing. This indicates Steve is no hero but not an outright villain either - he just longs for some easy money. He wears more and more black as Trampas seduces him with the possible big scores of cattle rustling. Then there's the famous line "Smile when you say that" uttered by the Virginian to Trampas. Many people think that line originated here, but it was used in westerns before this. Among those that still exist there's 1925's "Go West" with Buster Keaton being given this command and who would comply if only his facial muscles would let him.
However, Paramount, the studio that in the early talkie era employed Lubitsch, Chevalier, and Dietrich and made so many sophisticated precodes was also capable of making one of the best of the early sound westerns. The emotions here are real - including the hanging of some rustlers, some who meet their end with courage and others who meet it with cowardice. Those hanging them are without malice - it is just something they have to do or else they'd be overrun by the lawless and starve to death.
Civilized America is symbolized by schoolmarm Molly Stark (Mary Brian), imported from Vermont to teach the pioneers' children and increasingly horrified by the savagery of the place. She just doesn't get that you can't expect some imaginary police force to come to your rescue. The romance between her and the Virginian has many parallels in "High Noon" made 23 years later.
Not to say this one is all serious though, there are plenty of laughs to be had especially in the first half of the film. Especially charming and funny is the scene where Molly and the Virginian discuss Romeo and Juliet with the Virginian giving insight into the soul of a pioneer with his interpretation of the story. Then there's Eugene Palette as a cowpoke. Palette like Cooper had been around during the silent era, but the coming of sound increased their value as performers. I'd recommend this to fans of the early talkie whether Westerns are normally of interest to you are not. This is really a good and interesting film.
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