Available on demand from Warner Archive is The Vanishing Virginian, the last film directed by spiritual sentimentalist Frank Borzage for MGM. It belongs to a thriving strand of nostalgic small-town Americana that sprang up in Hollywood during WWII, and whose apotheosis was Meet Me in St. Louis. Other prominent examples include The Human Comedy, One Foot in Heaven and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.
Whether set in the past or the present, all are driven by tension between yearning for a supposedly simpler time and a subtle awareness of upheaval and loss spurred by war, which is sometimes mentioned explicitly and sometimes suppressed. They seem like pleasant escapism on the surface but roil with tensions and uncertainties. The contemporary context of this film is evoked in the opening of the New York Times review: “Despite the strict rationing law on sugar, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has gone far beyond the two-lump limit in The Vanishing Virginian”.