Virginia City (1940)

Virginia City (1940)

“Don’t let him question you — he’s a union spy.”

Near the end of the Civil War, a Union prisoner (Errol Flynn) and his compatriots (Alan Hale and Guinn “Big Boy” Williams) escape from captivity and head by stagecoach to Virginia City, Nevada, where they intend to secretly interrupt the conveyance of silver to the Confederate Army. On their way there, Flynn falls in love with a woman (Miriam Hopkins) who turns out to be not only a dance hall singer, but a Confederate accomplice whose lover (Randolph Scott) is heading the entire silver-transport affair.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan Hale Films
  • Civil War
  • Errol Flynn Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Humphrey Bogart Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Michael Curtiz Films
  • Miriam Hopkins Films
  • Randolph Scott Films
  • Spies

Michael Curtiz and Errol Flynn made no less than 12 films together between 1935 and 1941 — among them Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and this “based on real events” historical drama with fictional characters and an unconvincing plot. New York Times’ reviewer Frank Nugent referred to it somewhat uncharitably as a “two-hour Blitzkrieg upon the human nerves”, which isn’t really fair, given that it’s finely mounted and photographed (by Curtiz’s regular DP Sol Polito). However, it has the dubious distinction of featuring Humphrey Bogart in one of his worst mis-castings ever (as a Mexican bandit):

… and a miserable-looking Hopkins giving a surprisingly subdued and depressed performance.

Thankfully, Scott and Flynn acquit themselves well (despite the fact that Flynn was originally slated to perform Scott’s role).

Watch for an interestingly filmed “cameo” by President Lincoln (Victor Kilian) in the film’s improbable ending.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sol Polito’s atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look by Curtiz fans.


One thought on “Virginia City (1940)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Thin script – nicely produced (as is typical of a Curtiz film) but only mildly interesting, with occasional lulls.

    The love angle seems forced. Small points but Hopkins’ singing is as bad as Bogart’s accent.

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