September 25th, 2009

NORTH TO ALASKA (1960) **

A prospector (John Wayne) hits it big during a gold strike in Alaska.  He then goes to Seattle to bring back the fiancée of his best friend (Stewart Granger).  When The Duke learns that she ran off with another man, he gets a look-alike hooker (Capucine) to come back and marry Granger.  She falls in love with Wayne instead, which leads to some big complications.  Meanwhile a greasy con man (Ernie Kovacs) tries to get his mitts on Wayne’s gold any way he can.  As you can probably guess, The Duke don’t like that too much. 

 

North to Alaska is an uneasy mixture of the usual John Wayne western and a goofy screwball romantic comedy.  The problem is that there is more of an emphasis on the (mostly unfunny) comedy than the normal cowboy shootouts and stuff Wayne is known for.  For example, a potentially entertaining bar fight is hampered by a bunch of unnecessary stupid comic relief sound effects.  (At one point, a cuckoo clock falls on a guy’s head and it goes, “Coo-Koo!  Coo-Koo!”  How dumb can you get?)  The climatic fistfight in a muddy street is OK but it has nothing on the mud pit fight in McLintock.  Like the barroom brawl, it features way too much shtick (there is a gratuitous cutaway to a laughing seal) to be really effective.

 

Wayne’s immensely likable performance keeps you watching.  His patented machismo can only carry this thing so far though.  The Duke does fine in the more action oriented scenes (I liked the part when he poured scalding water on a guy’s Johnson while interrogating him) but he completely flounders at the romantic comedy bullshit.  Although Capucine is hot (especially while taking a bath); she and Wayne don’t have much chemistry together.  And unfortunately teen idol Fabian co-stars and sings a shitty song.

 

The Duke does get at least one laugh-out-loud funny line when he says, “Women.  I never met one yet that was half as reliable as a horse!”