The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)

Genres - Action, Romance, Western  |   Release Date - Oct 14, 1926 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Winning of Barbara Worth would be noteworthy if for no other reason than the fact that it is the first film in which Gary Cooper plays a prominent role, launching what would be one of a long and honored career. But Worth is worth watching for other reasons and is on the whole an exciting action-cum-romance semi-epic. It's not perfect, and modern audiences, especially those not used to silent pictures, will find parts of it a bit rough going; but there's more than enough here to make it worthwhile. Seeing Cooper at this early stage is one of those things: the future star isn't fully formed here. For someone who is known for his laidback persona, there's a bit too much silent picture histrionics here, although his nascent nuanced style is also there, poking through and even dominating in a few sequences. Ronald Colman is quite good as his rival and the true leading man; once talkies came in, he wouldn't really be considered good for something as "Western" as this, but he works fine here, as does Vilma Banky. The plotting is a bit slipshod and melodramatic, and there are some gaping holes, such as why the banker would risk destroying the town that he himself has built up by skimping on the dam materials; but Henry King's excellent direction makes up for this, as does the superior cinematography from Gregg Toland and George Barnes. The climactic flood sequence in particular is excellent.