The Virginian

  • 1929
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Western

Gary Cooper's first all-talkie, this film adaptation of Owen Wister's popular novel established Cooper's heroic image in the public eye. As the title character, Cooper is foreman of a Wyoming ranch. He gives a job to an old friend, Richard Arlen, with whom he is vying for the affections of schoolmarm Mary Brian. Cooper wins out and Arlen goes bad, taking...read more

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Gary Cooper's first all-talkie, this film adaptation of Owen Wister's popular novel established Cooper's heroic image in the public eye. As the title character, Cooper is foreman of a Wyoming ranch. He gives a job to an old friend, Richard Arlen, with whom he is vying for the affections

of schoolmarm Mary Brian. Cooper wins out and Arlen goes bad, taking up with local villain Walter Huston to rustle cattle from Cooper's herd. Cooper catches his friend changing brands and warns him, but when Arlen is later caught stealing cattle again, along with two other rustlers, Cooper

oversees the lynching of all three. Plagued by guilt, Cooper swears to get Huston, whom he knows to be the leader of the gang. When Brian finds out what Cooper has done, she rejects him. Later, though, in a skirmish with Huston, Cooper is wounded and Brian takes care of him, eventually agreeing to

marry him. On their wedding day, Huston brings matters to a head, and the two men square off in the street for a showdown. Cooper is faster on the draw and Huston dies in the dust. The bit for which this film is most remembered occurs during a card game, when Huston calls Cooper an insulting name.

Cooper pulls his gun out, lays it on the table and says, "If you want to call me that, smile." The phrase caught on immediately and was used extensively in advertising for the film. Cooper played his role well, and his performance helped him escape the typecasting he had been saddled with. Now he

could play rugged male leads instead of juvenile lovers. Huston is even better, his Trampas the essence of western villainy and the standard to be imitated for years to come. This was the third film of the novel, which had previously been done in 1921 starring Dustin Farnum, and in 1923 starring

Kenneth Harlan. A major box-office success, it was remade in 1946 with Joel McCrea, and became a television series in 1962 starring James Drury in the title role.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Gary Cooper's first all-talkie, this film adaptation of Owen Wister's popular novel established Cooper's heroic image in the public eye. As the title character, Cooper is foreman of a Wyoming ranch. He gives a job to an old friend, Richard Arlen, with whom… (more)

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