Review

  • ... and the comparison is made more interesting because this film is almost a word for word remake of the 1929 version starring Gary Cooper. Most remakes of early sound films had to make huge changes in the plot just to please the production code. Just take a look at the mess that the 1941 version of the "The Trial of Mary Dugan" is versus the 1929 version, which had its plot completely changed due to production code issues. Here, there is no such issue.

    Joel McCrea, always overly humble when discussing his own acting ability, said that he'd get a script and after reading it, often know that the studio wanted Cooper and couldn't get him, and he was their second choice. I doubt that, but here we get to judge the two actors in the same role as "The Virginian" 17 years apart. The two films are practically the same even down to the visual and audio cues - Trampas dressed in all black, the bird call that is synonymous with affable but ultimately tragically lazy Steve, etc. The one thing they didn't do that would have looked just plain silly by 1946 standards is dress McCrea in all white as the good guy, which they did with Cooper as the hero in 1929.

    I think I prefer Mary Brian as Molly in the 1929 version versus Barbara Britton in this version. Mary Brian played Molly as a strong smart woman, but a woman of New England, unfamiliar and puzzled by the ways of the west. Here Ms. Britton plays Molly as a bit of a befuddled weakling, easily evoked to tears. No befuddled weakling would travel across the continent to teach school in a wilderness.

    If you've never seen the 1929 version, you'll probably like this one. If you like Joel McCrea I'm almost sure you'll like it, but if you've seen the early sound version the ghost of that early sound marvel is likely to raise its specter more than a couple of times as you watch it.