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Monday, June 22, 2009

VIRGINIA CITY (1940)



This film was something of a sober-sided follow-up Western to the splashy TechniColor fun of DODGE CITY/’39, also starring Errol Flynn & helmed by Michael Curtiz. It has neither the rep nor the fans of the earlier pic, but in spite of its obvious flaws (Humphrey Bogart ‘s Mexican bandito is a particular horror), it holds uncommon dramatic interest not only for its split dramatic loyalties as the Civil War plays its coda, but in how it refracts on an America that viewed WWII either thru a prism of diehard isolationism or as an inevitable responsibility. Miriam Hopkins seems unable to settle on a look (she was still new @ Warners and older than her leading man), but her slight discomfort plays right into her confusion in choosing between Southern gentleman Randolph Scott & Northern spy Errol Flynn. The physical production & location work are outstandingly handsome under Sol Polito’s lens and the stunt work (largely from Yakima Canutt, who else) is jaw-dropping. Curtiz had gotten into so much trouble filming THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE/’36 that the shots are purposefully held until we can see that the horses are alright. And be sure to watch the two Looney Tunes included. The first is one of those goofy travelogues, but the best of its type, with a great ‘sick’ frog joke. While the second manages to almost hide a ‘Darky’ stereotype by zooming in on the objectionable frames. Should we be falsifying history like this?

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