review for Virginia City on AllMovie

Virginia City (1940)
by Craig Butler review

Although Virginia City claims that it has a basis in historical fact, that's mostly wishful thinking on the part of its creators. It hardly matters, as Virginia is an entertaining enough little western even with nothing more than a brief nod to historical accuracy. There are, however, a few kinks in its screenplay that do get in the way of it being a better movie. The whole idea of the Confederacy trying to "sneak" an immense load of gold into the South through several hundred miles of open territory is a bit hard to take. Even harder to take is the film's attempt to be "even handed" in dealing with the Civil War; the studio seemed too concerned with possibly insulting viewers in the South and so the real conflict (and potentially resulting drama) is downplayed to a large degree. There also are some casting choices that hurt Virginia a bit. Foremost among these is a ridiculous Humphrey Bogart (complete with a teeny little mustache) playing a Mexican outlaw and convincing absolutely no one that he is from south of any known border. Miriam Hopkins also does not convince as a saloon singer who is also a spy for the South. Errol Flynn is miles ahead of these co-stars, but even Flynn comes across as a mite wooden; he's got style and flair, but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. Fortunately, there are no complaints about Randolph Scott, and the supporting cast does its job well. Michael Curtiz directs with a sure hand and gets the most he can out of the adventure sequences; if his work here is not among his best, it's still more than adequate to the task at hand.