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
I’ve just watched the TNT production of The Virginian (2000) on the GMC cable network. This is the first time I’ve watched it for many years. I still find it a melancholy, gloomy and slightly depressing film totally lacking in humor or any sense of camaraderie. For those about to watch this film for the first time place everything you love about The Virginian TV series to one side. As we all know the TV show took liberties with Owen Wister’s original novel. Trampas was transformed from being the villain and the Virginian’s love interest Molly sidelined midway through the first season.
The TNT TV Movie is more faithful to Wister’s novel but is deficient in many areas. Bill Pullman is a pleasing Virginian but lacks any sense of being a Southerner. He comes across as an educated northerner despite telling us he’s from Virginia and had little education. James Drury makes a brief token appearance late into the film as “Rider” but is wasted. John Savage has little to do but is effective as the tragic figure of Steve. Trampas isn’t explored in depth and Colm Feore never comes to grips with the character. Diane Lane as Molly Stark gives the standout performance and is one of the few characters who displays warmth and kindness in the hostile environment she reluctantly finds herself a part of.
Filmed in Canada, the overcast leaden skies and Pacific Northwest landscape doubling for Wyoming fails to convince as an authentic Western setting. I know this film has many fans but I’m not one of them. Mainly because of the inauthentic location work, choppy editing and slow-paced direction by Pullman. Medicine Bow is not the kind of place you’d ever want to visit in Pullman’s vision.