Virginian, The (1929)

Virginian, The (1929)

“Out here, stealin’s about the lowest, the meanest thing a man can do.”

A cowboy (Gary Cooper) engaged to a local school marm (Mary Brian) must decide how to handle the fact that his good friend (Richard Arlen) is a cattle rustler working in cahoots with a leader named Trampas (Walter Huston).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cowboys
  • Gary Cooper Films
  • Victor Fleming Films
  • Walter Huston Films
  • Westerns

It’s always interesting reading reviews of the first talkies to emerge on screen — in this case, Victor Fleming’s adaptation of Owen Wister’s 1902 novel. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times starts off his review by noting that “the voices are nicely modulated and the acting pleasingly restrained”, and later adds that “it is evident that the calling upon players to deliver lines causes them to give firm, understanding interpretations of their respective roles, far more so than they ordinarily would do in a silent film.” These days, The Virginian comes across as creaky but reasonably effective (other than concluding with an unsatisfying resolution). Cooper is fine in his breakthrough role, and Brian — once dubbed “The Sweetest Girl in Pictures”, and perhaps best known for her role in The Front Page (1931) — is appropriately plaintive yet feisty as his love interest.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gary Cooper in an early role

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious to see Cooper in his first talkie. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Virginian, The (1929)

  1. First viewing. Skip it.

    While I was watching this, I gave some thought (to a degree, because my mind was wandering) to the overall ethos (if you will) of Peary’s book.

    I believe Peary makes the statement that not all of the titles he lists will be titles that all film fanatics will agree on as ‘must-sees’; however, for one reason or another, what he lists (he seems to feel) are titles that people should probably be familiar with (otherwise, why would he have bothered to list them?).

    Even if a film fanatic has a fairly eclectic taste in film (as most film fanatics should), people will still differ on the value of particular films. We all know what we like and prefer. But what we like and prefer is not necessarily the same as what has (even a certain kind of) quality.

    ~ which brings me to my overall ‘issue’ with Peary’s book (esp. now that I’m a fairly long way through it). On the one hand – I am immensely grateful to Peary for the many films he lists that I may not have watched had it not been for the fact that he lists them. I happened upon a lot of really good – quality – stuff.

    But I wish that, as a curator, Peary had been somewhat more discerning in a large number of his decisions. As a film fanatic himself, he has certain faves: westerns, baseball films, horror films, war films, Bob Hope / Bing Crosby films, Jerry Lewis films, the filmographies of certain young women, etc. A lot of these are just either terrible or tiresome films (while, simultaneously, there are quite a few worthy films that Peary has overlooked). I do wish he had had a more far-reaching focus on quality.

    ~ so we wouldn’t have to sit through ‘recommendations’ such as the (mainly) hopelessly bland ‘The Virginian’. True, no one is forcing me to watch everything Peary lists (and I will excuse myself from some) – but I would have appreciated a tougher approach to what ‘made the cut’.

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