Virginia City (1940)

  • Max Steiner music. The beginning of the credits had me wondering.
  • Until today, I had no idea that Errol Flynn, Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, and Randolph Scott had made a movie together – but hey, now that I do, I’m pretty jazzed about it!
  • Michael Curtiz directed. (So this is a Curtiz/Bogart pairing 2 years pre-Casablanca. Neat.)
  • Randolph Scott (his character’s name is Vance Irby) just caught Errol & his fellow Union prisoners digging a tunnel out of the Richmond jail. Boo! Apparently Randolph Scott knew about the tunneling from the beginning, but he waited to catch them until they were several hours away from escape, so that they all spent 3 1/2 months digging a tunnel in vain. Mean!

Now Errol’s sworn revenge on Randolph Scott. (Oh, goody! Errol’s revenges always happen, and are filled with much victorious glory when they do. Already looking forward to this one, and I’ve only known these fellows for about 8 minutes!)

  • (Are they going to explain why a British man (Errol, obviously) is rotting away in a Confederate jail? Or just leave it & have us assume that because it’s Errol & he’s valiant, it makes perfect sense for him to be fighting in the American Civil War on the side of the Union?)
  • Do we think Julia (Miriam Hopkins) will end up ditching Randolph Scott for Errol? There’s no answer other than “yes,” right?
  • Julia “wasn’t sure” about “her nearest and dearest friend” Randolph Scott, so she fled to Boston awhile ago to be a singer or dancer or something.

Yup – Randolph is toast. Errol will woo her in no time, what with his accent & being all covered in troublemaking dust.

  • Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Frank McHugh, Alan Hale, & Miriam Hopkins, all in the same stagecoach. Wow…what a party!
  • Bogart is supremely unconvincing as whatever Spanish-accented nationality he’s attempting to portray. The accent is less than 50% there, and it also doesn’t help that his mustache is unnatural & distracting as hell.
  • It’s super fun to see Bogart vs. Errol in a mini-showdown, though. Tee hee. Great stuff.
  • That is some badass stunt work by someone on Guinn Williams (Marblehead)’s behalf. Between the horses, under the carriage, through the wheels – wow!
  • Errol is currently carrying Julia in his arms, across a river. See ya again NEVER, Randolph Scott.
  • The ‘Vance & Errol running into each other’ scene in Virginia City is handled perfectly. I love how the camera pans across the mirror behind the bar, until you see the two of them lock eyes. Great moment.
  • Miriam Hopkins is SHORT. I mean – it’s not like I’m just now noticing this fact – but something about the shots of her standing in between the 6’2″ Errol and 6’2″ Randolph Scott make this point SUPER evident.
  • I have to be honest – I kind of forgot about Murrell (Bogart) there for a minute. He & Randolph Scott just bonded in the doctor’s office, though, & are now a team. This seems exciting.
  • Miriam Hopkins was almost 40 when she made this. Get it, girl!
  • “So I must lead him quietly and unsuspecting, to his death – because I’m a woman, and that’s something only a woman can do.” — Julia, at Vance’s suggestion she ensnare Errol for their cause. I love it.
  • Y’all, there’s no way Julia will ever fully betray Errol for the good of the South. And Vance is a fool for thinking otherwise. This is a man who played both Captain Blood AND Robin Hood…the Confederacy doesn’t stand a chance! Does Jefferson Davis carry Julia across rivers & make out with her on staircases while wearing attractively rugged cowboy outfits & speaking in suave British man-tones? No. I don’t think so.
  • Oh no! They have captured Kerry (Errol)! Let’s see how long this lasts.
  • (Only as long as it took to get to the first military checkpoint. Now Errol’s escaped & has reunited with his two musketeers (Williams & Hale). Hooray!)
  • I feel like this movie could stand to be much shorter. With a little editing, it’d be way more tightly (& more enjoyably) constructed; I’m noticing a lot of scenes that could either be shortened or cut out entirely.
  • Does Murrell know about the gold these people have? I find it hard to believe A) that he’d settle for the couple measly bags of coins Vance paid him off with, if he did – and B) that he wouldn’t question the importance of this wagon train enough to investigate its mission, it he didn’t. If the Union guards could recognize the weight of the gold in the wagons, surely an experienced treasure bandit like Murrell would be able to do the same.
  • Could have EASILY done without the whole “Cobby Gill” subplot. Totally unnecessary character. I’m glad he’s dead.

(Yes, I have just boarded a train bound straight for hell – thanks for asking.)

  • Ah-HA! I knew Murrell would be back! Didn’t forget about him this time, folks!
  • Three-way battles are confusing as fuck.
  • Love the moment when Julia wordlessly hands Errol another gun. The look that Errol gives her is pricelessly adoring, and I enjoyed it immensely.
  • Dying Vance has just put Errol in charge of everything. My, how the tides have turned!
  • Why look for a hiding spot when you can explode a cliff & create your own? That Errol! Always the thinker!
  • America 1, Hispanic (?) Humphrey Bogart 0. Tsk, tsk.
  • Oh, lord. Errol’s scheduled to be executed again. This happens in every Errol movie, I swear. I wonder how he’ll escape this time.
  • Y’all – I shit you not, I was about to make a joke like “Fingers crossed Abraham Lincoln marches down there & saves him himself!” – – – when all of the sudden, who should appear on screen, chatting with a desperate Julia? Abe Fucking Lincoln. And he’s like, “Don’t worry, man – Errol won’t die.” And Julia’s like, “Cool. Thanks, bro.” Then Abe explains the meaning of peace to us all, and the movie ends.

(I’m not joking. Like I said – you can’t make shit like this up.)

  • This makes me wonder – how many movies have I yet to discover that just insert Abraham Lincoln at the end to tidy everything up & leave everyone happy? OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938) did it, and now there’s this one – so I have to imagine that there are at least a few more. It’s like…these writers reach a certain point in the story where they’re like, “Oh, shit – how’re we gonna get the end we want, now that we’ve written ourselves into this story corner & made it impossible? *Pause.* …I know! What if Abe Lincoln was there?!” No one’s gonna complain about an ending that’s too tidy or too contrived, because Abe Lincoln made it happen, and everyone loves Abe! It’s a foolproof plan, and I like I say, I can’t imagine the writers of these two films were the only ones to discover it.

(I just remembered that there’s a similar President Interjection in PRINCESS O’ROURKE (1943)…it’s just FDR, instead of Abe. If I was back in college & a film studies major, I would definitely write a paper on this subject.)

  • BUT…moving on.
  • Altogether, a decent movie – but way too long for me to probably ever watch it again. I liked Miriam Hopkins & Errol Flynn together. Randolph Scott was okay (usually I find him pretty flat & pretty boring – and this was no exception).
  • Last thing: I never really understood any of the characters’ backstories. Who was Vance Irby? How did the timeline of Julia’s life work, exactly? Why was Errol fighting in the Civil War? We don’t know. And we never will.
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