The Virginian (1929) Director: Victor Fleming
The Virginian is a classic Gary Cooper western, an adaptation of Owen Wister’s 1902 western play and novel of the same name. An important film in Cooper’s career, he plays the titular role of a man from Virginia who becomes a Wyoming foreman (though the movie was actually filmed in California). He gets into a scuffle with a cattle rustler named Trampas (Walter Huston) who routinely tries to thwart him. A new schoolteacher moves to town, Molly, and they fall in love. On their wedding day, Trampas returns for a shoot-out, but the Virginian outdraws him and shoots him dead.
Gary Cooper later called The Virginian his favorite film, though it is unfortunately less than memorable in my view, despite the capable direction of Victor Fleming. I’m not really sure why it made it onto my list. Through no fault of its own the sound quality has been terribly preserved (though there have been enormous efforts undertaken in the 1990s) and it makes the film often difficult to follow. Gary Cooper is entertaining despite the script’s many cliches. I would not recommend this film to any but true devotees of historically important western films. Perhaps I will revisit this one in coming years and come to a different opinion.