Molly Woods makes her way to Medicine Bow to become the new schoolmarm, after meeting two cowboys (and great friends) called Steve and The Virginian it becomes evident that both men are quite smitten with Molly. After a series of events surrounding Molly, Steve takes up with the no good Trampas and his group of rustlers, thus bringing the honest Virginian into conflict with his friend and the quick on the draw Trampas.
This story courtesy of writer Owen Wister has been done a number of times, adapted into film form in 1921, 1923 and of course here in this version, it was also made into a television series in 1962. Having not seen any of the other versions I have no frame of reference, but I would wager my last pound sterling that this is not the best adaptation because it fails to live up to its early promise. Joel McCrea takes up lead duties as The Virginian and as decent as an actor as he was in such films like Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story and the majestic Ride The High Country, here he looks bored and struggling to feed off what little energy is in the picture. Sonny Tufts as Steve is badly cast, while Barbara Britton as Molly may well make me wish that all my lady teachers at school had looked like her (if they had of been I would have gone more often!), but she comes across as a fish out of water.
The one bright spot is Brian Donlevy as the baddie Trampas, resplendent in black (of course), he does a nice line in convincing as a bad guy of worth (something he was excellent at in his career), but even he is not given enough screen time to not only flesh the part out, but to also probably bring out the best of McCrea. The shoot out at the finale is weak and it really cements the deal that this was a badly wasted chance to make a Western of some worth. Maybe it's just one of those pieces of literature that can't fully translate to the screen? Maybe the simply plotted story just isn't up to much anyway? Either way this is a misfire and not one to revisit outside of the always watchable Donlevy. 4/10
9 out of 21 found this helpful