The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)

The Winning of Barbara Worth
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)

Run time: 89 min | Drama, Romance, Western
Director: Henry King
Writers: Rupert Hughes, Frances Marion
Stars: Ronald Colman, Vilma Bánky, Gary Cooper
Moments of real beauty, plus the fine talents of Colman and Banky, are somewhat over-shadowed by director King’s filmization, with its superb photography and the fantastic flood scene, which highlights the film’s climax.

4 responses to “The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)”

  1. IMDBReviewer says:

    Thanks to the kindness of an IMDB reader I was able to obtain a video copy of this rare silent and indeed it lives up to its reputation. Briskly told and quite well directed by Henry King, it is both beautiful to look at and excitingly engrossing.

    Barbara (Vilma Banky) is a foundling brought up by Mr. Worth whose vision is to bring water to the desert through irrigation. Enter Ronald Colman as the dashing second in command of an entrepreneur, who intends to make this happen. Barbara is of course enamored of him but her childhood sweetheart, Gary Cooper, is wary.

    The developer fires all of the workers once the work is done and refuses to reinforce the dam – all this foolishness to save money.

    There is a dashing race to prevent a riot when Worth’s payroll cannot be met and the inevitable flash flood which causes the river to rise, break through the dam and flood/destroy the town.

    Cinematography is breathtaking with some exquisitely composed shots and beautiful use of light and shadow. The special effects are amazing for its time.

    This is a special western and a special movie – it should be commercially released on video by a reputable firm using 35 mm nitrate materials which are known to still exist in pristine condition in the Goldwyn archives.

    Seek this one out!

  2. tfsadmin says:

    There is no mention of the source of the music, but Gaylord Carter played his improvised score for a special showing of The Winning of Barbara Worth on January 28, 1971, and it's a recording of that performance which turned up on the DVD. The instrument was a 36-rank Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. Henry King and Frances Goldwyn were in the audience and both spoke after the film. I was there. Mr. King described his search for a desert that looked like a desert, after finding the Mojave in bloom. He also recalled hearing Gaylord Carter play the organ at the Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles in the 1920's, soon after Harold Lloyd recommended Gaylord for the job.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    Beautifully photographed epic silent western following the story of a toddler baby girl caught in a desert sandstorm that kills her mother, the child's only surviving parent on their family's wagon trek along a lonely desert trail. Rescued by a man named Jefferson Worth, soon little orphan Barbara becomes his adopted daughter – cut to fifteen years later, where our Barbara (played by Vilma Banky) is now a young beauty living with papa in the small desert town of Rubio City. Enter new arrival, Willard Holmes, engineer set to help bring water to the desert and turn it into a garden spot. Of course he's handsome (well, he's played by Ronald Colman, after all) – but Barbara already has a local fellow, Abe Lee (Gary Cooper), who is completely smitten over her (and extremely handsome too – how's a girl to choose?!). Holmes actively pursues Barbara while Abe Lee watches from the background – but soon a misunderstanding leaves the whole town believing Holmes is a money hungry bad man!

    This film is a stunning visual masterpiece showcasing images of wagons and people and horses moving against a backdrop of yellow-tinted sun-lit desert that looks absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the exciting flood climax featuring a fast-paced race on foot and wagon between the townspeople and the approaching roar of the Colorado river which is expertly brought to life. The DVD of this features a totally gorgeous tinted print that really makes the cinematography in this pop, plus a well done organ score done before a live audience (who you can sometimes hear laughing in the background). A really excellent film.

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    I cannot tell you how excited I was to find this DVD at my local library. I have the entire collection of Wright's books and recognized the title instantly. Amazingly, the director and screenplay writer took the story as it is in the book and relayed it beautifully. This is supreme acting when you can pretty well tell what's being said even before the words show up on the screen. BRAVO!!!! This would be a great story for the history buffs as well as silent screen aficionados. This is the first of many great films starring Gary Cooper and it is easy to see why he made it in the acting field. His rival for Barbara's hand is Ronald Coleman and what a dashing rival he makes! I was unfamiliar with the heroine but she too was a wonderful actress. This is a part of history I had not been aware of until I read the book. It is a must-see!

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