Virginia (1941)

  |  Drama, Romance

Virginia (1941) Poster

A New York chorus girl (Madeleine Carroll) comes home to claim her family plantation and must choose between two men (Fred MacMurray, Sterling Hayden), one rich, one not.


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8 July 2019 | boblipton
| Ah, The Good Old Days With Stephen Foster Music
Madeleine Carroll is broke and alone, so she comes back to the Virginia plantation she was born on and now owns, where she meets neighbor Fred MacMurray. His family plantation was repossessed by the bank when he was ten, and now is owned by rich Yankee Sterling Hayden (in his first movie) as a vacation home. As the movie progresses, Miss Carroll learns about the proud tradition of the decayed gentry of Virginia, and she and MacMurray fall in love. He, however, has a wife who fled Virginia five years earlier, leaving him to care for their daughter. Everyone in Virginia and Europe, whither she fled, knows about her and her wild ways, made the worse for never being specified.

The copy I saw was a poor one, derived from what I guess is an old VHS tape, and the undoubtedly once handsome Technicolor colorwork by Bert Glennon and William Skall has faded to blocky wisps. What remains is a typical romantic romantic comedy.

I could not watch this without thinking of the recent controversy over the University of Bowling Green deciding that Lilian Gish's participation in D.W. Griffith THE BIRTH OF A NATION rendered her name unfit to be placed on the Film scholarship and building she endowed when alive and in her will -- although there's been no mention of returning the money; as Vespasian said of the urine tax, "pecunia non olet". This one made my teeth clench, with Louise Beavers saying that freedom meant being alone, while slavery meant people cared; and blind Leigh Whipper creeping back from the prison he had been in for three quarters of a century, for killing a Yankee who was trying to kill Miss Carroll's grandfather, so he could die at home. Even the Civil War gets a calm consideration; when asked about slavery, Mr. MacMurray insists that the Emancipation Proclamation was simply a shrewd move in international politics.

As far as I can tell, everyone involved in this movie is dead, even Carolyn Lee, who played Mr. MacMurray's daughter. Good thing, too, considering what's happened to Miss Gish's name. No one in the movie seems to disapprove of the social situations of Virginia in what is offered as a contemporary portrait in the neighborhood of Manassas, except for Marie Wilson, and she's present as the comic, vulgarly rich Yankee who bought herself an aristocratic southern husband who's drinking himself to death for the shame of it. I suppose that's what happens when your standards are higher than those of an emperor.

It's a highly competently made movie intended to tread in the profitable footsteps of GONE WITH THE WIND. There's little doubt in my mind that it played very well in the Whites-Only downtown movie palaces that Paramount owned throughout the South.

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