Monday, April 18, 2011

North to Alaska

North to Alaska has the some of the characteristics of a Howard Hawks film but nothing resembling the same execution. In the hands of Henry Hathaway, everything gets swept away in an avalanche of clich├ęs. Sam McCord (John Wayne), a misogynist gold-miner, is sent by his friend (Stewart Granger) to pick up his French-speaking bride-to-be and bring her to Alaska. When McCord finds her, however, she’s already married to someone else. This is hardly a roadblock in a film whose view of sexual politics is about as subtle as a rabbit in heat. McCord can simply go to the whorehouse, pick out another “Frenchie” and bring her back as a substitute.

That unfortunate role is played by the French actress Capucine, and it’s to her credit that she manages to salvage some dignity despite her character being treated like a piece of meat, handed back and forth by Wayne and Granger. She looks so poised and lovely (there’s a bit of Jeanne Moreau in her features) that it’s not difficult to imagine men making fools of themselves over her in a much better movie. Here, though, she must make do with one sorry quartet: Granger, smarmy villain Ernie Kovacs, pop star Fabian (terrible in a bit role as Granger’s kid brother) and ultimately the Duke himself, reluctance written all over his face and muttering lines like “Women…I never met one yet that was half as reliable as a horse.”

A version of this review appeared in Time Out Delhi.

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