The silent film THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926) is one of the latest releases in the Warner Archive's line of Samuel Goldwyn Classics.
While many of the Goldwyn Classics are being released on DVD for the first time, THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH is a reissue of a title which was included in a 2007 Gary Cooper collection which is now out of print.
Longtime readers know I've never been much of a fan of silent movies, finding the narrative cards tedious, but over the last couple of years I've developed a real fondness for Harold Lloyd and have felt more open to trying other silent films. I'm very glad of that, as THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH was an absolute treat, a visual masterpiece with scene after scene of stunning beauty. I felt at times as though I were watching a series of gorgeous paintings. It was filmed by Gregg Toland and George Barnes with striking amber, blue, and red tints.
Years pass and Barbara becomes a young lady (Vilma Banky). Engineer Willard Holmes (Ronald Colman) comes to the desert with a plan to build a dam and irrigate the area. He falls head over heels for Barbara, who is also loved by Abe (Gary Cooper), a young man she's grown up with.
A moving three-way romance develops alongside an action-packed story. The film builds to quite a spectacular flood sequence with impressive special effects.
I really loved this film, which has not one but two gorgeous leading men who are also superb actors, sound or no sound. Colman was so effective, I felt I could almost hear his wonderful voice saying his lines as I watched the film. (Vilma Banky, incidentally, apparently had a thick Hungarian accent which meant an early end to her film career when sound came in.) And then there's that tall drink of water, Gary Cooper -- wow. Those eyes! The camera loves him.
It's a testament to Colman's acting and appeal that although I was initially rooting for the lovestruck Cooper, Colman eventually won me over, just like Barbara. Their last scenes at movie's end are quite charming.
This well-paced, exciting film runs 89 minutes. It was directed by Henry King, whose later films included fine Americana such as MARGIE (1946), DEEP WATERS (1948), and I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951).
Carmencita Johnson, who played Barbara as a child, was one of a family of child actors. She appeared in many other films including MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH (1934) and THESE THREE (1936). According to her obituary, she later served as a double for Lana Turner and swam in Esther Williams movies. She passed away in 2000 as a result of a car accident. She was 77.
Internet sources indicate that the organ score on the DVD was a live 1971 recording of a performance by Gaylord Carter.
The Warner Archive release of THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH is highly recommended. I'm delighted the Archive has made this treasure accessible again to a wide audience.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.