Easter Sunday seemed like a good time to catch up with a lighthearted John Wayne-Stewart Granger movie I'd never seen before, NORTH TO ALASKA (1960). The timing seemed especially good as John Wayne's big week as Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies starts tomorrow!
NORTH TO ALASKA is a Wayne film my kids watched regularly when they were growing up, but somehow when they watched this, HATARI! (1962), or McLINTOCK! (1963) I was always working. I've thus seen bits and pieces here and there but decided it was finally time to start catching up with these "later" Wayne films.
NORTH TO ALASKA is overlong, clocking in at 122 minutes, and a little too silly at times, but it's buoyed by an appealing trio of leads, John Wayne, Stewart Granger, and Capucine.
Wayne and Granger play mining partners in Alaska. Sam (Wayne) travels to Seattle on business and also plans to fetch the French-born fiancee of George (Granger), who's been waiting for him to strike it rich.
Alas, the girl gave up waiting and married someone else. Sam meets a French saloon gal, Michele (Capucine), and decides George might consider Michele a good replacement for the fickle fiancee. Michele is attracted to Sam and leaps at the chance for a new life. Sam doesn't count on falling for Michele himself, and he's the last to realize he loves her.
Kovacs' character bored me silly, and the focus on his character early on gets the movie off to such a slow start I was almost ready to reach for my fast-forward button.
The truth is there's a very enjoyable, congenial movie buried inside NORTH TO ALASKA which just focuses on Sam, George, and Michele, and I found that part of the film very entertaining. The rest of it, not so much. An entire subplot with George and Sam defending a neighbor's claim was nothing but excess. This film should have been pared down to a tighter story and been told in maybe an hour and 40 minutes rather than over two hours.
The widescreen location filming is attractive. Point Mugu in Southern California stands in for the Alaska coastline, and Point Mugu Rock can be briefly spotted in the background.
A couple of years ago Deb did a nice piece on the film at Sidewalk Crossings, including a peek at one of the film's locations, Hot Creek, near Mammoth, California.
NORTH TO ALASKA was directed by Henry Hathaway and filmed by Leon Shamroy.
NORTH TO ALASKA is available on a widescreen DVD. It's also been released on VHS and Blu-ray. It can be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.