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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>
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. 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 »
Although I particularly like the 1946 version of this classic western story with Joel McCrea, this 1929 version of The Virginian has a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is Gary Cooper in the title role.
From the first silent version of the story that Cecil B. DeMille directed until a 2000 made for television film that starred Bill Pullman as the cowboy who's only known by the state he originally hails from, this is the story that set the standard for the western novel that has come down to this day. Owen Wister (1860-1938) was a classmate and close friend of Theodore Roosevelt and when the book came out in 1902 it was dedicated to the new president who was in his second term of office.
Both Wister and Roosevelt were easterners who had gone west at critical portions of their lives and made careful note of the mores and customs of the people living there. Roosevelt went to the Dakota territory and Wister was in the new state of Wyoming just in time to view the famous Johnson County range war. It certainly was a period where certain folks did make up their own version of the law out in Wyoming and in this Wyoming setting of The Virginian as law and order was usually days if not weeks away, lynching lawbreakers was an accepted if not honored practice.
And that's what happens in The Virginian as Gary Cooper catches old friend Steve played by Richard Arlen rustling cattle of the Box H ranch where he is foreman. It's unfortunate that he did not catch gang leader Trampas played by Walter Huston, but the incident sets the scene for the inevitable western showdown.
There was western literature before The Virginian, popularized by writers like Ned Buntline. They were called 'penny dreadfuls' as a commentary of their cost and worth. Usually they took real western characters and made up these fantastic unreal stories about them. Real western historians in fact are still trying to separate truth from myth about all these people because of these stories.
Wister was a careful chronicler of what he saw and what he saw set the standard for later writers like Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Luke Short, etc. All the western clichés we've grown to expect in films got their start right here.
The Virginian set the standard in literature and film for a whole genre of entertainment. Any version of the story should not be missed.
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