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  • 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.
  • ... 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.
  • Cowpoke good guy , known as the Virginian, Joel McCrea , and his best colleague called Steve , Sonny Tuffs , both fall for Molly, Barbara Britton , the Eastern Schoolmarm who is come to their Wyoming town . Steve wants to make some quick money and joins up Trampas , Brian Donlevy , and his cattle rustling band .After that , the Virginian leads a posse against the cattle rustlers . Things go wrong when The Virginian must take a hard decission .

    Good Western based on the 1902 classic novel by Owen Lister about a ranch-hand defeating the local bad guys . The main issue of the movie is an interesting premise , as The Virginian is forced to choose between frienship and the code of the west and Molly wonders if she can accept the country's harsh ways . It has fine interpretation from a top-drawer cast , such as Joel McCrea , Brian Donlevy , Barbara Britton . Joel McCrea gives a decent acting as the tough cowboy who is betrayed by his best friend , deciding between bring him to justice and alienating the pretty schoolteacher he is in love with . Donlevy is perfectly cast as the outlaw leader Trampas . And a very good support cast such as : Sonny Tuffs , Fay Bainter, Tom Tully , Bill Edwards , Paul Guilfoyle , Mark Lawrence , among others . The motion picture was well directed by Stuart Gilmore who was one of the best Hollywood editors . Although he also made a few fulms such as Captive man, Half-breed , Target and Hot lead.

    There are several adaptation about this novel : First silent retelling The Virginian 1914 by Cecil B DeMille with Dustin Farnum , Jack Johnston . Classic early talkie 1929 by Victor Fleming with Gary Cooper , Walter Huston , Mary Brian , Richard Arlen . 1962 popular TV series mostly directed by Earl Bellamy with James Drury , Doug McClure , Lee J Cobb , John McIntire , Stewart Granger . TV rendition with Bill Pullman , John Savage , Harris Yulin , Colm Feore , Diane Lane . 2014 by Thomas McKowsky with Trace Adkins , Steve Bacic, Victoria Pratt
  • While this movie is based on only a part of Owen Wister's novel, there is enough of an exciting story even at that. The romance and the tension are intertwined. Barbara Britton, as Molly Stark, must have drawn people to see this western...the very lovely lady she was who was, as well, excellent in acting..., Sonny Tufts, as Steve was a happy-go-lucky man (though he really did little more than simply speak his lines), Henry O'Neill and Fay Bainter made for a nice older pair in this film, Brian Donlevy, as Trampas was as mean as he could be, and Joel McCrae portrayed very convincingly the calm Virginian who, even so, had silent courage: in a bar he was not afraid of Trampas even if the mean man was anxious to kill the Virginian before the sun set. The very beautiful green Wyoming countryside, the very beautiful, deep blue stream, and the blue sky were, in their own right, drawing. The ending was both tense and happy. Personally, I feel it was something of a classic.
  • 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
  • trixie3223 March 2006
    Owen Wister, himself, is fascinating to me. The movie version of his book doesn't include the rather excellent banter between the schoolmarm and the hero, nor does it include the evidence of growth and maturity in the early antics of the hero and his friend, Lin. What great fun they had before falling for the schoolmarm. You have to read to get that.

    Molly appears a bit ditsy in the '46 version and a bit underdeveloped in the book. Thank goodness for the remake with Bill Pullman and Diane Lane. Molly seems to have more depth with Lane playing the role.

    The '46 version is great, the '99 version is great, but I hope you get to see both to fill in the gaps each seems to have.

    Its a great plot, fabulous development of romance, and the ending is intense (more so in the '99 version though).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Having seen recently "The Ox Bow Incident" I wonder what happened in the years between when "The Virginian" was written and Ox Bow came out. I think people realized that even in the old west a man had the right to a trial. The Virginian is the story of teacher who leaves Vermont and goes to Wyoming. There she meets the Virginian (Joel McCrea) who falls in love with her. There are three features in The Virginian that makes it above average: 1) the West seen through the eyes of a woman who comes from a civilized East. 2) the shocking severity in relation to the cattle rustlers, where even friendship does not count. It is hard to agree with it or accept it, but people at the time the book was written used to think of the West as a totally different world. It is interesting because it shows us the way of thinking at that time. 3) The showdown at the end, at the day of the wedding, it has a lot to do with "High Noon", which was made much later.
  • The Virginian is a western is a western that hovers to produce huffs and puffs in its onset, exuding no ideas but gradually developing one as the movie goes on. Joel Mccrea a top leading man from the thirties in dramas, comedies, romances and of course to many, he is Sullivan of "Sullivan's travels" is good in the lead. He has that Matthew Mcconaughey thing, not great movie star glimmer but mid-range star wattage. The story of rustling is pervaded by a story of judging and punishing an old friend giving it some depth. The writing team of Goodrich and Hackett, one of the best screenplay writers ever, deliver great dialogue that director Stuart Gilmore fails to improve on visually and the last eight minutes of this movie is the whole plot and movie of High Noon. Seriously!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is not one of "the GREAT" Westerns, but it's pretty darned good...above average for that genera in that era.

    The biggest positive of this film is its star -- Joel McCrea as the Virginian. I always preferred McCrea in non-Westerns, but he's very good here.

    Brian Donlevy is here as the "bad guy" Trampas. Donlevy was an interesting actor. Often the bad guy, but not always. He's quite good here, although it's obvious that he's a B actor.

    Sonny Tufts is the Virginian's best friend and competitor in the love department with the new school marm. This characters demise -- hung by his best friend -- is another thing that sets this Western apart from many.

    Barbara Britton is "just okay" as the romantic interest here...the new school marm. Not much depth there in regard to acting.

    The wonderful Fay Bainter is here as the best friend of the school marm, but she is wasted in her role. The equally wonderful Henry O'Neill plays Bainter's wife...but again, his talents are wasted here.

    Long before "I Love Lucy", William Frawley sometimes played in Westerns, and he is along here in a small role.

    Incidentally, some sources indicate that Minor Watson has an uncredited role as "the Judge". I am quite sure that is incorrect. Willard Robertson played the role.

    Production values here are quite good, and the Technicolor photography taken in California is very nice.

    Very good, but not great. Better than the average Western of the era. Worth a least once.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the second film I have viewed where Joel McCrea played the hero and Brian Donlevy played the chief villain. The first was Cecil de Mille's epic "Union Pacific", 7 years earlier. The present film was the second talkie version of the classic 1902 novel by Owen Wister, generally regarded as the first modern western novel, and a hugely popular book with both sexes for years to come. Unfortunately, I haven't read the novel nor seen the '29 pioneer talkie version, starring Gary Cooper. Unlike this former film, the present film was shot in Technicolor. I understand that, unlike this film, the book continued after the marriage with a visit to Molly's home in VT, where the culture shock that she experienced in relocating to frontier WY is reversed somewhat for The Virginian.

    The book appealed to women as well as men, because it pictured a middle-class townie young woman being able to eventually adapt to surviving on the western frontier, marrying a western hero, originally from the east, worthy of her love. Of course, women readers at the turn of the century were likely to be mostly from comfortable middle class families, rather than being poor immigrant women, often used to farm work, who presumably comprised the great majority of actual women who migrated westward in the late 19th century.

    Owen Wister was a life long resident of Philadelphia and a Harvard-trained lawyer. However, his real passion was fictional writing and occasional summer trips to the West. He was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and Fredrick Remington: high profile easterners who also had a passion for the western life at that time. His heroine is clearly modeled on women of his class, and his hero is modeled on men like TR and himself, whom he considered natural aristocrats, whatever their actual station in life. Thus, they were quite atypical westerners, but people that most of his readers could identify with.

    Although not obvious from the screenplay, his story was actually based largely on events of the Johnson County War, which was a conflict between the large and small WY cattle ranchers, precipitated by the major cattle die off from the drought and severe winter of '85-6. The Virginian is associated with one of the big ranchers: Judge Henry, and Trampa(Donlevy) is probably modeled on Nate Champion; leader of the small ranchers, who were rightly or wrongly labeled as rustlers by the big ranchers. In the book, the Virginian eventually becomes a big rancher and important political voice in WY politics, as Wister's imagined ideal destiny if he were to remain in the West. Both Molly and The Virginian say they moved west to escape the boredom of their natal environments. However, as Remington discovered when he tried western ranching, the life of the western cowboy was no varied picnic. My own ancestors moved out to Kansas about this time, but decided the East was more to their liking.

    In spite of the assets of this film, I will say that I found de Mille's "Union Pacific" more interesting. Actually, the main plot has some similarities. In both films, there is a character who is a friend of the hero and a rival for the affections of the leading lady, but who joins the chief villain's group for a spell. In "Union Pacific", this character eventually sees the error of his ways and saves the hero's life from Donlevy's villain. In the present film, this man(Steve) is not given a chance to redeem himself, being hung as a cattle thief, with the Virginian's reluctant approval. Steve puts up no resistance against this vigilante action, with a nonchalant fatalistic attitude toward death.

    As usual, Brian Donlevy makes a charismatic and believable oily leader of the bad guys. Joel McCrea wasn't the most charismatic leading man. I would have much preferred Randy Scott, who had a natural aristocratic bearing and was a bred southerner, befitting The Virginian. Gary Cooper would have been fine too in revisiting his prior role. Fay Banter was excellent as Molly's new mother, in effect. She gets to articulate the necessity of "The Code of the West" clearly to Molly after Steve's hanging. At first, Molly doesn't accept this , as it relates to Steve, and nearly leaves for VT, but for the stage driver who convinces her she doesn't really want to leave, in her heart. Barbara Britton, as Molly, is characterized as perhaps having more difficulty adjusting to western culture than Wister intended. His Molly was no frail flower.

    Where did Wister come up with the unusual name Trampa for his villain, dressed all in black and riding a black horse? Trampa means trap, in French. Trampa set traps. Perhaps Wister hoped it would also connote a tramp: a low class shiftless man. Near the end, Trampa, having failed to fatally wound the Virginian as a sniper, tells him he must leave this area by sundown or else, even though the Virginian is planning to marry Molly soon. There follows a "High Noon"-like scene, where the Virginian is saved from a Trampa ambush by a quirk and wins the shootout. Destiny was on his side.
  • The best thing about THE VIRGINIAN is the pretty school teacher played by Barbara Britton, and very convincingly too. Shortly upon her arrival in town she's met by two cowboy friends, Sonny Tufts and Joel McCrea. As is standard for many a western, at first she and The Virginian (Joel McCrea) don't get on--sort of like an earlier screen western starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland ("Dodge City") where they meet and fall out immediately before winding up in love before the final reel.

    But, as is usual in these westerns, although she eventually falls for McCrea, she struggles against losing him in a fight with villainous Trampas (Brian Donlevy), always attired in black so we get the picture. But before the finish, she and the hero ride horseback into the setting sunset. The story has the flavor of a Zane Grey western novel, although penned by Owen Wister.

    The simple tale has some nice performances from the star trio (McCrea, Britton and Tufts), but it's Fay Bainter and Henry O'Neill who give it a warm touch as a couple of homesteaders who take the schoolmarm in.

    Nothing about the tale suggests why it is such a classic by Owen Wister, especially in this rather humdrum version where the most striking asset is the beautiful Technicolor scenery. The plot is slight, to say the least, and there's little punch to the predictable ending.

    The only real surprise is the fact that McCrea's code of honor permits him to let his old friend hang for a rustling crime. It's the only original and surprising touch in the story.
  • dglink26 October 2020
    Molly, an Eastern school marm, travels west to Montana to teach a semester and immediately becomes the romantic focus of two handsome cowpokes, Steve and the Virginian. Long on talk and spooning and short on action, unless a cattle stampede qualifies, "The Virginian" was based on a 1902 novel by Owen Wister. The popular book was adapted for the stage, filmed four times as a theatrical movie, made once as a TV movie, and became the basis for a television series. The romantic triangle at the story's core takes place against a backdrop of cattle rustling and the harsh realities of maintaining order on the frontier.

    Not the most expressive actor, Joel McCrea is amiable as the titular Virginian opposite the ever- smiling Sonny Tufts as Steve, his competition for Barbara Britton's affections. McCrea seems too mild and gentlemanly for the deeds he ostensibly does, and Tufts appears a bit simple minded and assured that his grin and charm will always get him off the hook. Garbed head to foot in inky black, complete with black hat and black gloves, Brian Donlevy as Trampas, the head rustler, shouts "villain" before his first sneer or mustache twirl. Britton has little more expression than McCrea, and the romance lacks credibility. Despite good looks, little in either Steve's or the Virginian's character or personalities justifies any interest an educated school teacher might have in the two unpolished cowboys. Evidently, Britton was misinformed about the wild west, because she packed her finest to teach on the frontier; her Edith-Head-designed wardrobe dazzles, even when she goes riding in the wilderness. Despite the incongruity, her costumes, coiffures, and complexion are stunningly captured by Harry Hallenberger's Technicolor cinematography.

    This 1946 version of "The Virginian" is more an adult romance on the range than a matinee oater. McCrea has appeared to better effect in other westerns, and director Stuart Gilmore was likely more suited to film editing, for which he received three Oscar nominations, than he was for directing. Despite the flaws, the film is pleasant enough with sumptuous color and attractive stars. However, western fans seeking action-filled entertainment need look elsewhere.
  • eneely-119 December 2002
    This is Western pulp, full of the usual cliches. There is one interesting situation between The Virginian and his friend Tom that I won't reveal, but the ball is dropped, and in such a way that the viewer is left unconvinced. It was the only thing about this movie that would have set it apart from hundreds of other Westerns, and they blew it. What a disappointment.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The fourth big-screen adaptation of author Owen Wister classic novel "The Virginian" stars Joel McCrea as the eponymous hero and Brian Donlevy as the villainous Trampas. McCrea looks a bit long in the tooth to be cast as the title character. Director Stuart Gilmore's "The Virginian" concerns a transplanted Easterner on horseback who serves as foreman at Judge Henry's ranch in Wyoming. Barbara Britton co-stars as 'a wisdom-bringer" from Vermont who gets off on the wrong foot with McCrea. This is a traditional western lensed beautifully but primarily against studio backdrops and Hollywood backlot towns is comparatively dull. This morality play draws its gravity from a superlative performance from Sonny Turfs as Steve Andrews, a never-do-well, cloven-hoofed cowboy who prefers to rustler rather than earn his living the legal way. Steve wanders back and forth from the wrong end of the trail to work briefly for The Virginian. Steve and the Virginian are close, old friends. Brian Donlevy is dressed from Stetson to boots in black and plays Trampas as a thorough-going bastard. He ambushes our hero after Steve and the other rustles are strung up by the neck. The romance between the hero and heroine is complicated somewhat because she doesn't like the Virginian standing up for her. Molly Stark Wood resents the fact that everybody in the cattle town of Medicine Bow has her attached to the Virginian. The finale between the Virginian and Trampas in the streets of Medicine Bow could hardly be termed suspenseful. A tame oater at best with a straight-up, honest McCrea, with the sympathetic but doomed Tufts taking top honors. The target practice that Trampas and Steve have in the bar is amusing. Trampas blasts three whiskey shot glasses out of the air. When Trampas slings one shot glass aloft, he fires at it and we hear the intact glass strike the floorboards. Barbara Britton makes a pretty heroine.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The typical western of the 1940s and 1950s is shown here where a woman seeks adventure from a dull life in 1885's Vermont to go out west and teach. There she finds Joel McCrea, a rancher, involved in trying to prove that Brian Donlevy, dressed in black to depict evil, is the cattle rustler.

    Faye Bainter must have been gunning for another supporting actress nomination in one scene where she tells our heroine about frontier justice. She was quite effective there. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for McCrea's performance. He was rather dull in a role which would have been perfect for Gary Cooper.

    Our schoolteacher is never shown in the classroom but can lecture McRea on transitive and intransitive verbs. That was ridiculous for this period peace.

    Naturally, the two get off on the wrong foot and there are complications during their courtship due to frontier justice. Remember cattle rustlers were automatically hung.
  • Cowboy Joel McCrea pals around with pretty eastern-bred schoolteacher Barbara Britton and squares off against black-clad cattle rustler Brian Donlevy and McCrea's amiable pal, who threw in with the rustlers in order to make some easy cash.

    This version of the popular novel takes way too much time to get moving, spending a majority of the first fifty-or-so minutes on the uninteresting wooing of Britton by McCrea. The last thirty-five minutes are okay, with decent action and suspense scenes, though never quite as good or plentiful as you'd like them to be. However, the hanging scene does pack a wallop.

    The best thing this has going for it is the old-fashioned Technicolor and that old Hollywood sheen.
  • I thought this an excellent picture with a magnificent score but was sad to see the score has vanished now to be replaced with guitar music when recently played on television. I then purchased the dvd from USA to get the original score only to find it too had been replaced. Why?