Watching Westerns like a Girl

My copy of Warner Brothers' newly released
Errol Flynn Westerns having arrived yesterday afternoon, I watched, last night, the earliest film in the collection, 1940's Virginia City. Well, I found the picture rather entertaining – if a bit convoluted. I've grown quite fond of Westerns in these last few years; I never paid any attention to them before – which is odd, really, as when I was a tot, I adored playing cowboys and Indians. I suppose that at some point I realized that a little girl's conception of the world of cowboys is quite different from that world itself, or even from '30's and '40's Hollywood's version of it. However ill-suited I have come to see that I am for a life on the open range, though,I can't watch a Western without thinking that I hope that, before I die (naturally), I have an opportunity to ride in a covered wagon.

Well, I shan't launch into a plot description of Virginia City. Lacking the gift of conciseness, I have never been terribly adept at writing synopses. Besides, I've lost all taste for trying to write them. Too, fond as I am of what I term "Golden Age" movies, I crave no identification with the fraternity of the so-called "classic film blog." ... I will, though, say something about Virginia City.

When the credits were rolling, I was surprised by Randolph Scott's name. I've always thought him awfully handsome; I like his boyish haircut as well as the fact that it appears that he used little or no pomade. For some reason, once I learned that he was in Virginia City, I wasn't prepared to find him playing antagonist to Flynn; I didn't think about The Spoilers, with Scott and John Wayne, which I saw a few years ago. Well, Randy, as Confederate officer Vance Irby in this one, is an honourable, if desperate, adversary to Union man Flynn.

Bogie I was expecting to see. My goodness – that mustache ... ugh! And the Mexican accent – horrible, phony as a three-dollar bill. How Warner Brothers abused that poor guy. At this point in his career, his fine and, it later became apparent, iconic turn in The Petrified Forest – a film in which star Leslie Howard had insisted that Bogie be cast in the part of Duke Mantee, as he had been in the Broadway play – had proven a false breakthrough. The powers that be (or were) just didn't recognize his gifts or potential. He'd been curly-haired, riding-booted, Irish Michael O'Leary in Dark Victory in '39, and now, in '40, he was a half-breed outlaw, opponent to both Flynn and, as things turn out, Scott. And it appeared that big Flynn or big Scott could have flattened slightly-built Bogie with one punch. Well, a gun compensates. ... Thank goodness that High Sierra came along for the one-and-only Humphrey Bogart.

... And Mr. Errol Flynn. Well, he was just excruciatingly beautiful. I don't mean that he was pretty – I don't like pretty men; he was very masculine-looking. I just mean that he was so exquisitely put together. My gosh – the eyes, the profile, the jaw, the (naturally streaked) hair, the physique. In Virginia City, he delivers another thoroughly convincing, heroic performance. I'm glad to see that critics are beginning to acknowledge what a fine actor he was. As was the case with Gable, Flynn's larger-than-life quality became the preoccupation and his talent was unjustly neglected.

I don't want to sound catty, but I'm not sure that Miriam Hopkins, excellent actress though she be, was just the girl for Virginia City's Julia Hayne, barroom chanteuse/Confederate spy, role. Then again, I'm not sure that frequent Flynn co-star Livvy de Havilland (who, at this time, sagely understood that she had to get away from Errol and period pictures) would have been right. Whom would I have cast? Well, let's see, who was at Warners then: Well, Queen Bette – she was out. ... Ann Sheridan maybe? Or was she too sexy – perfect for the saloon singer bit but not quite so for the determined Rebel agent aspect. This is a tough one. Anyway, Miriam was far from bad ... and she did have a number of costumes that I found to die for. Also, she had a marvelous line:

Once in the titular town, Flynn's Kerry Bradford goes into the local watering hole and is disillusioned to discover that Julia, whom he thought a proper lady, is a common entertainer. Julia, becoming torn between patriotic duty and love, wistfully tells him:

[B]ut, you see, Kerry, no matter how much a man's in love, he really wonders whether the woman's quite ... good enough for him or not. But when a woman's in love, well ... she's just in love and ... that's the end.

I share this point of view. 'Course, I'm a girl.

Well, though, after she says this, Bradford responds with, "Uh-huh." So he evidently agrees ... and he's a guy. Is this, Julia's statement, so? I can speak only from a girl's perspective.