Based on the memoir of Rebecca Yancy Williams, 'The Vanishing Virginian' was seen in the first place for two reasons when it popped up as a recomemndation. One was that it was directed by Frank Borzage, always a sensitive director with many films well worth watching yet is still deserving of more credit. The other was for the cast, with Frank Morgan, Kathryn Grayson and Spring Byington all being great in other things. The idea of the story also intrigued me, despite not knowing an awful lot about it beforehand.
'The Vanishing Virginian' is another Borzage film that is well worth watching and does nothing to waste its cast talent. While it is not my definition of a great film, with a few foibles here and there, it is nonetheless an interesting one with more done right than wrong. Would not go as far to say that it is a must watch, but it is hardly a film to remain obscure. 'The Vanishing Virginian' is also largely successful in making an interesting story engaging and accessible, providing one doesn't mind films that are quite sentimental and sugary. Always a good thing when it's a story that is relatively new to you.
Maybe there could have been less sugar, it does get too much in places, as does occasionally the sentiment. Occasionally, the pace rambles.
Something that could have been solved by having a couple less of the songs. The songs are very pleasant, with "Steal Away" and "Auld Lang Syne" being classics and put to poignant use, and Kathryn Grayson sings her contributions beautifully (am one of those people who does like her voice, though it is a type of voice that's an acquired taste), but not all felt necessary to the storyline.
However, 'The Vanishing Virginian' is beautifully filmed, the production values being expectedly top-notch, and sensitively directed by Borzage. The music is very easy on the ears and doesn't sound syrupy or intrusive. The script is generally appealingly light-hearted with a humorous edge and lots of charm.
A vast majority of the story, while not perfect in execution, is warm, nostalgic and affectionate, making for a relaxing watch. Didn't find myself bored and did think that there was enough bite to the film's content to not make it too overly-idealised. The cast characterise beautifully in likeably written roles, Morgan and Byington are both on sparkling form and newcomer (at the time) Grayson more than holds her own with them.