- Directed by Henry Hathaway
- November 10, 1968
During the Alaskan Goldrush, a prospector is sent to Seattle to get his partner’s fiancé but returns with the hostess of a dancehall when he finds out his partner’s fiancé is already married.
North to Alaska is semi-Western romantic comedy. It stars John Wayne and Capucine as a man and woman who fight their feelings until the end of the movie. That happens a lot in these types of movies. Then again romcoms are formulaic to the core.
The story is partially set in Nome, Alaska and part of the plot centers around claim jumping. Truthfully that part is a bit incidental to the central romantic story which is set off when Sam McCord (John Wayne) goes to retrieve his partner George’s (Stewart Granger) fiancé Jenny (Lilyan Chauvin) from Seattle, but it turns out Jenny, having refused to wait, has gone off and married someone.
After learning this Sam goes to have a little fun at a local dancehall and meets another French woman who he calls Angel (Capucine) intends to bring up to Alaska as a way to prevent George from having a broken heart. However she thinks she’s going up to be with Sam. Enter whacky confusion and crossed wires. Somehow I do not see this as a viable development in a story these days. “Your fiancé dumped you. Here’s a replacement!”
Ernie Kovacs is Frankie Canon, the mild villain of this romantic tale. Frankie isn’t too much of a threat to anybody in the scheme of things. He’s just a minor nuisance. He is a conman who’s tricking people into jumping other claims in an effort to get those claims to get some easy money. At least that is the scam he has going by the time Sam returns with Angel.
When it comes to the movie it looks as if Frankie is going to simply try to swindle George out of the claim that the two have but that doesn’t exactly happen. I think that would’ve been a little more logical given the scene they have when Sam leaves to not only get Jenny but some mining equipment as well.
The story is pretty thin but romcoms tend to be like that. If someone knows of a narratively meaty romcom then please let me know. You watch these for the scenarios and silly situations and the two main characters realizing that they were indeed meant to be together. A sophisticated story is not part of the equation.
There is some beautiful cinematography and great costuming in this film. The dialogue is good and occasionally witty with the moments between Wayne and Capucine feeling tender. The fighting is good and comically crafted. Henry Hathaway was a good film director, and he could get some good mileage out of John Wayne.
I do wish Frankie was a bigger threat to things. He did not need to be a maniacal villain, but he should have been a little bit more difficult to deal with. As it was they just kind of stumbled into the answer. The talked to the right person to unravel Frankie’s plot. And in doing so Sam won Angel’s heart.
North to Alaska is a fun old-school romantic comedy starring John Wayne. It is just straight up fun. I would recommend this to John Wayne fans as well as individuals who are into the romcom.