Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Virginian (1946)

Fourth version of the oft-filmed Owen Wister tale, this time with Joel McCrea in the title role. Feels claustrophobic and studio-bound, with too many scenes taken in front of process screens or on too-obvious sound stages, thereby lacking the expansiveness found in the best Westerns, where the environment is just as much a character in its own right. The supporting cast is largely forgettable, and even Brian Donlevy's turn as the cattle-rustling heavy feels underplayed. McCrea himself is a bland hero.

The screenplay by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich is rather stiff and contains so much exposition that it frequently feels rushed and underdeveloped, reducing much of the mythos of the story to ordinary melodrama. Stuart Gilmore's direction is uninspired and the Technicolor photography feels flat and inhibited by the restrictions of the sound stages. An average effort that is neither particularly bad nor particularly distinctive.

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