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The Virginian (1946), shot in glowing Technicolor by Paramount, was one of several screen versions of Owen Wister's 1902 Western novel, which was first dramatized for the Broadway stage by Wister himself in 1904. Dustin Farnum, who had played the title role onstage, repeated his part for a Cecil B. DeMille movie version in 1914. Another silent version, with Kenneth Harlan as the otherwise nameless title character, was released in 1923. Gary Cooper memorably played the role in the initial talkie version in 1929, marking the first time the famous line, "If you want to call me that -- smile," was heard from the screen. In 1962, a TV version starring James Drury began a nine-season run.
Joel McCrea, almost as well cast as Cooper, takes on the role in the 1946 The Virginian. Sonny Tufts plays his best friend, Steve, who competes with the laconic cowboy for the affections of an Eastern-bred schoolteacher (Barbara Britton) who hates the violence of the West. Brian Donlevy, also ideally cast, is the black-hatted cattle rustler who lures Steve into a life of crime, with much bloodshed in the offing. In this edition, the famous Cooper line was changed slightly, as spoken by McCrea, to "When you call me that -- smile."
The Virginian, set in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, was shot on California locations including picturesque Placerita Canyon and the Paramount ranch at Agoura. The film marked a turning point in the careers of both Stuart Gilmore and McCrea. Gilmore, who had begun his career at Paramount at age 15 as an assistant cutter and became director Preston Sturges' favorite film editor, was directing his first feature. McCrea was winding up a five-year contract with Paramount, where he had made his first Western, Wells Fargo, in 1937. After The Virginian, he appeared almost exclusively in Westerns through the rest of his film career, which ended in the mid-1970s.
Producer: Paul Jones
Director: Stuart Gilmore
Screenplay: Howard Estabrook, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Edward Paramore, from novel and play by Owen Wister
Cinematography: Harry Hallenberger
Original Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, John Meehan
Editing: Everett Douglas
Principal Cast: Joel McCrea (The Virginian), Brian Donlevy (Trampas), Sonny Tufts (Steve Andrews), Barbara Britton (Molly Wood), Fay Bainter (Mrs. Taylor), Henry O'Neill (Mr. Taylor), William Frawley (Honey Wiggen).
C-87m. Closed Captioning.
by Roger Fristoe