Wednesday, April 15, 2015

North to Alaska review

North to Alaska (1960)

Dir. Henry Hathaway
Starring: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Capucine, Ernie Kovacs

After spending 3 years mining for gold in Alaska, George (Granger) sends his partner Sam McCord (Wayne) to Seattle to retrieve the French girl he had arranged to marry. Once in Seattle, Sam learns that George’s fiancée has already married someone else, and after a chance encounter with a prostitute named Angel (Capucine), he decides to bring her back to Alaska as a replacement for George. Once back in Alaska they also have to deal with claim jumpers and a sleazy con man named Frankie (Kovacs)

This is a surprisingly light hearted film, with some fun performances. The movie seems slower in the first half, which covers Sam’s trip to Alaska and his meeting Angel, and much livelier in the last half which deals mostly with Sam, George, and George’s brother Billy (Fabian*) falling for Angel in different ways, with a plot line about Frankie Canon trying to scam them out of their claim being somewhat in the background. I would of rather the film have cut some of the Seattle stuff and spent more time with them back in Alaska, but as it is the film is fun but a bit long, but at the same time I am not sure that it would have benefited from being shorter. Cutting out chunks from the first half of the movie would hurt the relationship between the characters of Sam and Angel, and the scenes between these characters is a big reason of why the film works.

The movie was made as a family film, but it’s odd that it features a womanizer as the main character boozing it up in brothels and hanging out with prostitutes, but especially with how films gender politics are. John Wayne’s character essentially swaps out one French girl for another, which seems odd. But my favorite bit about the movie is that after he gets Angel on the boat back to Nome, he decides against his plan of swapping out the French girls and admits that it is a crazy plan. The film is pretty funny though, and it features a couple of well-done slapstick fight scenes that are amusing. Some of the dialogue is pretty funny, and John Wayne has some great bits of humor from his facial reactions and from physical comedy in a scene where George and Angel attempt to make him jealous.

In terms of acting, no one really comes across as bad here. John Wayne was settled into the Duke routine that he had been doing for years at that point, and it works well in a comedic setting. Ernie Kovacs is a bit disappointing in the film mainly because even though he is good in the film, he is sidelined for most of the time and not given much to do other than be sleazy and scowl. Capucine is the most impressive thing about the movie. She has some great chemistry with Wayne, and their scenes are really fun and sweet and end up giving the end of the film it’s (predictable) emotional payoff.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s very predictable, in a good way. The movie is pretty fun regardless and it’s a good example of the more humorous films that Wayne began to make in the Sixties, but it isn’t the best one of those of of the Hathaway/Wayne collaborations. But it is funny and entertaining, and sometimes that is all that matters.

*Fabian is definitely the teen idol brought in for the kids ala Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo, but not as good or not as interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment