1951-1960ComedyHenry HathawayUSAWestern

Henry Hathaway – North to Alaska (1960)

John Wayne is generally credited with having directed only one picture, the 1960 version of The Alamo, but according to several reports, Wayne also “lent a hand” in getting his other 1960 film, the raucous if unfocused and overlong North to Alaska, shot as well. North to Alaska had a rather troubled pre-production history, which in fact included Wayne’s involvement with The Alamo, which delayed production of this film for several months. Those delays may have at least contributed to a rather convoluted revolving door of producers, directors and co-stars, and by many accounts, there was no completed script ready when North to Alaska finally started shooting in mid 1960. The film has serious structure issues, and indeed often seems to have been cobbled together out of set pieces, with no real thought given to through line or that oft-lamented concept of character arc. What remains, therefore, is a haphazard but highly enjoyable farce that has its fair share of laughs, some nice scenery (including then “hot” French starlet Capucine), and a big, gaping void at the center of the film that may leave some viewers wondering what all the noisy fuss in the film is all about. In fact, this is a film that is virtually all MacGuffin (to purloin Alfred Hitchcock’s famous concept of a meaningless idea that sets the plot in motion) without any real substance. A lot of films take their good time getting to “happily ever after”, but North to Alaska seems positively fixated on taking as long as humanly possible, offering a veritable obstacle course of travails before John Wayne and Capucine can finally enjoy a quick clinch before the final credits roll.

In a way, North to Alaska plays like the flip side or at least a companion piece to another recent Fox Blu-ray release, 1935’s Call of the Wild. Both films posit partners out to strike it rich in Alaska, with a female interloper joining them, but in the case of the 1960 film, the men, Sam McCord (John Wayne) and George Pratt (Stewart Granger), have already struck it rich and are simply looking to solidify their claim and move on to greater exploits, while George also wants reclaim something else—the fiancée he left in Seattle while he was in Alaska prospecting for gold.

Sam returns to Seattle to fetch some heavy machinery for their work up north, and he means to also retrieve George’s fiancée, but is momentarily thrown for a loop when he finds out she got sick of waiting for George and has already tied the knot with someone else. At a “saloon” called the Hen House (the name of the establishment may indicate it served more than simply libations), Sam meets a French floozy named Michelle (Capucine), whose nom d’amour is Angel, and decides he’ll take her back to George as a sort of consolation prize. Michelle is more than happy to oblige, especially once Sam indicates she’ll be “marrying money”, but Michelle’s more tender side is soon touched by how decent Sam treats her, something to which she’s been unaccustomed as a “working girl”.

There’s a rather strange set piece that then takes place, at a loggers’ gathering where Sam takes part in a tree climbing race, a sequence that’s visually quite impressive with a bunch of guys using belts wrapped around huge tree trunks to rapidly ascend and then return to ground. This sequence also allows Sam to defend Michelle’s honor, when she’s more or less attacked by a drunken logger. It’s at this point that Michelle begins to obviously have feelings for Sam, though he’s still determined to simply deliver her to George. That actually comes as a shock to Michelle, who had misunderstood Sam’s intentions toward her as being focused on him, not his best friend and business partner.

In the meantime, a comedy subplot has also been brewing involving a conman named Frankie Canon (Ernie Kovacs). Frankie had already conned Sam in a bit of a swindle in Seattle, but once he hears about the Alaska gold, he decides there are even bigger fish to fry, and decides to head off north in pursuit of greater riches. The film finally segues to Alaska, where George and his rambunctious little brother Billy (Fabian, who also sings) are attempting to keep claim jumpers from marauding onto their find, and where Sam attempts to hook George up with Michelle, with a number of complicating factors getting in the way. These include Billy, who develops amorous intentions of his own, as well as even more machinations courtesy of Frankie, who it turns out has a history with Michelle of his own.

North to Alaska is never less than fun, but it’s also too chaotic to ever amount to much. It has a lot of the same spirit as another comedic Wayne entry, McLintock!, without the overt chemistry that Wayne enjoyed with his co-star in that film, Maureen O’Hara. Henry Hathaway, always a dependable director, keeps things moving at a relatively decent pace, and the opening and closing fight sequences are real highlights, but a lot of what comes between them frankly seems like filler, designed to do little more than merely pass the time. Wayne is very good in this role, as he tended to be in these action-comedy hybrids, and Granger makes for an appealing, if awfully low key, co-star. Kovacs is always good for a laugh, and Capucine is certainly fetching, even if her performance amounts to little more than eye candy.

The film is ultimately probably too predictable for its own good, a predictability which is exacerbated by the fact that things could have easily been trimmed by at least twenty to thirty minutes without much being lost in the process. But this is big, glossy entertainment that offers some really appealing scenery and charismatic stars. Getting there may take a bit too much time, but the journey is mostly pleasant.

North to Alaska.1960.576p.BDRip-AVC.ZOINE.mkv

Container:  	Matroska
Runtime: 	2 h 2 min
Size: 	2.75 GiB
Codec: 	x264
Resolution: 	1024x434 
Aspect ratio:  	2.35:1
Frame rate: 	23.976 fps
Bit rate: 	3 000 kb/s
BPP: 	0.282
#1:  	English 2.0ch AC-3 @ 224 kb/s (Original)


Subtitles:English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Russian

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