Four months after the end of the Civil War in 1865, the town of Rosy Ridge, Missouri remains in turmoil. Allegiances are held to both the Union and the Confederacy within the community, and to make matters worse, someone is burning barns in the area.
Gill MacBean (Thomas Mitchell), a man of Confederate loyalty and the victim of the latest barn fire, promises revenge on whoever is causing the fires. His wife (Selena Royle) is able to subdue him, and he turns the other cheek, even going so far as to take in a young wanderer named Henry Carson (Van Johnson).
But when Henry is revealed as a Northerner and Gill’s daughter (Janet Leigh, in her debut role) begins to fall in love with him, will Gill’s temper flare up again?
The Romance of Rosy Ridge was directed by Roy Rowland (Our Vines Have Tender Grapes) for MGM. The script was written by Lester Cole (Blood on the Sun, Born Free) from a story by MacKinlay Kantor (Gun Crazy, The Best Years of Our Lives).
The border states and the turmoil within them around the time of the Civil War haven’t been a frequent subject of films, so I have to applaud The Romance of Rosy Ridge for shedding light on the hatred and violence that could sometimes manifest in these states over the conflicting views of their citizens.
The film isn’t incredibly fast-paced, but films of this type never are. It’s equal parts romance and family saga, in the vein of The Southerner and Our Town. There’s a decent level of drama and a nice collection of characters that keep things interesting to watch.
The cast is truly great. I adore Thomas Mitchell and he’s perfectly cast here. Van Johnson is also likable in his role, though he can be a little “Golly, gee!’-cheesy at times in the beginning. (In the final third of the film, he has a great monologue about why he sides with the Union. His character takes on a more serious edge.) The whole cast has pretty great chemistry together, and the MacBean family truly seems like a family.
Janet Leigh makes an appearance here in her debut role as the MacBean daughter. She has a substantial amount of screen time. Had I not watched this film with Robert Osborne’s introduction, I would never had guessed that it was her first film. She’s totally captivating and holds her own amongst a cast of much more experienced players.
The Romance of Rosy Ridge is a good watch. Recommended for those interested in seeing Janet Leigh in her debut role, or those interested in slightly different takes on the Civil War-era conflicts. The score: 4/5