TCM have recently released The Virginian (1946) starring Joel McCrea as part of a DVD set. The Paramount film, based on the Owen Wister novel, is a simple tale of romance, friendship, duty and justice. There are few shades of grey. Brian Donlevy, suitably dressed in black, plays the evil Trampas who serves as a bad and ultimately tragic influence on The Virginian’s friend Steve Andrews (Sonny Tufts) who turns to cattle rustling.
Joel McCrea is effective as The Virginian but the film belongs to a very effective Sonny Tufts as Steve and the beautiful Barbara Britton as Molly Wood. She provides the centrepiece of the film and the contrast between East and West. Her disgust at the brutality of the Old West is tempered by her love for The Virginian. The film benefits from excellent technicolor cinematography by Harry Hallenberger and an uplifting, optimistic atmosphere from director Stuart Gilmore. Although it lacks depth in places it is still preferable to the bleak, dismal 2000 TNT production.
Text copyright Paul Green 2012