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Thursday, September 30, 2010

THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926)

Sam Goldwyn didn’t make a lot of Westerns, but this large-scaled modern one about taming the mighty Colorado River for irrigating the SouthWest desert was turned into a solid drama for his big romantic stars, Vilma Banky & Ronald Colman. With spectacular location lensing from George Barnes & his asst Gregg Toland; jaw-dropping special effects for the climactic flood scenes; and solid helming from Henry King (just off the superb silent version of STELLA DALLAS; Goldwyn couldn’t miss. (Top scripter Francis Marion does miss some big ‘story beats’ in her adaptation, but it’s possible that the physically stunningly, beautifully preserved 9-reel version we have was cut down from a longer ‘roadshow’ presentation.) But what really makes this one stand out is the all but accidental casting of young Gary Cooper as the second guy in the romantic triangle. It’s hard to believe that anyone could steal a film from Colman, but Coop’s got the better role and the camera just eats him up. You will too. The superb image on the M-G-M DVD edition has no Extras and only comes with a Gaylord Carter organ score. But since it was recorded at a live screening, you can occasionally hear the audience response. That’s special, too, since Sam Goldwyn’s widow Francis and director King were both in attendance.

CONTEST: Gary Cooper wasn't the only performer to break thru to stardom in a 1926 film that ends with a spectacular flood. Name the other film and budding star to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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