The Winning of Barbara Worth

The Winning of Barbara Worth is a 1926 American silent Western film directed by Henry King, and starring Ronald Colman, Vilma Bánky and Gary Cooper (who replaced Monte Blue). Based on Harold Bell Wright's novel The Winning of Barbara Worth, the film is remembered for the climactic flood sequence, depicting the 1905 formation of the Salton Sea.


As a child, Barbara is orphaned when her settler parents perish trying to cross a California desert. She is rescued and raised by Jefferson Worth, who dreams of irrigating the desert. Fifteen years later, Willard Holmes, the chief engineer of a company intent on diverting the Colorado River to do just that, arrives and is smitten with Barbara. However, he has a rival for her affections: local cowboy Abe Lee, who realizes, toward the end of the picture, that Barbara's love for him will never be anything more than the love a sister feels for a brother. Willard Holmes's greedy employer, meanwhile, refuses to spend the money to reinforce his gigantic water project. This results in a catastrophic flood, the visual and dramatic highlight of the film. Barbara is impressed by Willard's heroism, and he promises to return to marry her after he has conquered the Colorado River and turned the desert into a bountiful paradise.