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The Virginian (1946)

Approved  |   |  Romance, Western  |  5 May 1946 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 633 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 9 critic

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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Complete credited cast:
Barbara Britton ...
Fay Bainter ...
Tom Tully ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Mr. Taylor
Bill Edwards ...
Sam Bennett
Honey Wiggen
Paul Guilfoyle ...
Vince Barnett ...


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 Virginian finds that his old pal Steve is mixed up with black-hatted Trampas and his rustlers...then finds himself at the head of a posse after said rustlers; and Molly hates the violent side of frontier life. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The All-Time Best-Selling Love Story of the West... Now On the Screen In Spectacular Technicolor!


Romance | Western


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 May 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Owen Wister's American Classic: The Virginian  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 Universal ever since. See more »


Joel McCrea is wearing a jacket in the bar when he learns that Brian Dunlevy wants to see him. He wasn't wearing a jacket when he left his fiancée in the hotel lobby. See more »


Virginian: When you call me that, smile.
Trampas: With a gun against my belly, I always smile.
See more »


Version of The Virginian (1923) See more »

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User Reviews

The Prototype of Them All.
28 May 2004 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

This story, originally written by novelist Owen Wister is the granddaddy of the western genre. Western novels before that were usually about real life characters, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp for example: that put them in these two dimensional heroic settings. Those things were nicknamed "Penny dreadfuls" and that they were.

Wister, who spent some time in the west, and was a good friend of cowboy president Theodore Roosevelt, developed his characters out of the people he met in the west. The strong silent hero, the demure schoolmarm, the cold hearted villain, all these appear in The Virginian and they're stock characters in westerns. But these are the original prototypes for thousands to follow. Owen Wister set the standard for folks like Zane Grey, Luke Short, Louis L'Amour,etc. to follow.

Joel McCrea was a fine actor, a combination of the best features of Gary Cooper(who did the role in an earlier version), Jimmy Stewart and a younger John Wayne. Nobody has done a better job in playing this character including Cooper. Brian Donlevy is the villainous Trampas and he never disappoints. Sonny Tufts probably has the best role in his career as Steve, The Virginian's friend who turns to rustling with Trampas. Barbara Britton is properly demure as the schoolmarm.

This novel, the play that Wister wrote based on it and all the versions to follow had the Presidential imprimatur. Teddy Roosevelt loved this book and recommended it to the youth of America. I remember a similar White House imprimatur for a western coming in my teen years. Back around 1965 the folks had CBS decided Gunsmoke had run its course and they were ready to pull the plug on the show. Well, up stepped Lady Bird Johnson to the plate and she declared that Gunsmoke was her favorite television show. That did it, the show ran almost another decade.

The crux of the story centers around the relationship with The Virginian and Steve. After warning him once, The Virginian catches Steve with stolen cattle and since there's no organized law in the territory, proceeds to hang him forthwith. The story then revolves on how The Virginian and others around him view the distasteful, but necessary duty he had to do.

I've often wondered how Theodore Roosevelt felt about that part of the plot and what he might have said to his good friend Wister. There is a famous story from his days in the Dakota Territory about how Roosevelt set out to trail some rustlers and caught up with them. There was no law within miles of where they were. But Roosevelt took them back to where there was a federal marshal and turned them over to the surprise of many including the marshal.

No doubt The Virginian was a great example of the manly virtues of the strenuous life that Roosevelt passionately advocated. But I often wonder what he and Wister might have talked about concerning this aspect of the story.

Remember folks if you see this and complain about clichés, remember the clichés started here.

35 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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