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  North to Alaska Boozing, Brawling and Broads
Year: 1960
Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian Forte, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen, Stanley Adams
Genre: Western, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1900 in the small Alaskan town of Nome and it has been a good day for two gold prospectors, Sam McCord (John Wayne) and George Pratt (Stewart Granger) for they have now made their fortune. With a bag full of cash, they head over to the local saloon with George's seventeen-year-old brother Billy (Fabian Forte) and buy a round of drinks, but once the conversation gets round to going and getting George's fiancée, who has been waiting in Seattle for quite some time, a brawl erupts when the other drinkers don't believe Sam will be entirely honorable with her - but he will have bigger problems than that...

By 1960 John Wayne was a national institution and his legions of fans were not interested in seeing him in anything challenging such as The Searchers, they wanted easy entertainment where you knew exactly what you were going to get from the first five minutes - hell, from looking at the poster for all that it mattered. So North to Alaska was a western, of course, and a comedy western to boot with the laughs stemming from as broad a target as possible, which meant that a keen wit was not only unnecessary, but not even called for here.

When the characters are beating each other up within ten minutes of the film beginning, it's apparent that Oscar Wilde had no hand in the script, but reinforcing manly values appears to be its main intent. Those values being that if you can't punch someone in the face, preferably sending them flying across the room in the process, then you might as well take up crochet and give up drinking and women altogether, assuming that you're not a woman in the first place. It all looks very clichéd now, but such were the tenets of the age and if you they don't appeal then you're not missing anything by not watching this.

There has to be love interest, and she is not as you may think the Seattle fiancée, for when Sam arrives there to escort her to Alaska while George builds his cabin for her in the mountains there's a hitch. Unfortunately for their plans, she already has a husband and Sam is forced to beat a hasty retreat, not relishing having to return empty handed, as it were. This woman was French, so when he meets another French woman in a bar - where she's working as a thinly-disguised prostitute - he has a brainwave. This woman, who he calls Angel (Capucine), agrees to go along, but only because she has been captivated by Sam's rugged charms.

Yes, it's love triangle time once more, and it might even be a love square when Billy claps his eyes upon Angel and becomes besotted. Not short of plot is this film, and there's also the business of Ernie Kovacs' conman Frankie Cannon to contend with. Kovacs has been hailed as one of the most innovative comedians of his era, but you'd never know that from his utterly generic role here which gives him very little to work with. In fact, if you tried to get away with a comedy with jokes and set-ups like there are in this nowadays, you'd have a definite underachiever on your hands as there's barely a funny line in the whole thing unless you find people hitting each other over and over again amusing, and to be fair, a lot of people did back then and still do today. It's no Blazing Saddles, that's for sure, but kills a couple of hours without breaking a sweat. Music by Lionel Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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