Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Wild North ( 1952 )

"There's no wilderness wide enough to hide a sin"

When a man is separated from civilization and must contend with the forces of Mother Nature way up in the wild, wild north woods of Canada, he may discover savage instincts laying deep within him begin to emerge in his efforts to survive. 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wild North tells the tale of a man who is placed in such circumstances. Jules Vincent, portrayed by Stewart Granger, is a French Canadian fur-trader who comes into a riverside town in Northwest Canada twice a year to purchase supplies, trade his goods, and drink a few beers. On a recent visit to town, he befriends a curvacious Chippewa Indian woman ( Cyd Charisse ) who is working as a singer at the local bar. She would rather return to her tribe then receive the not-too-flattering attention of drunken traders. Gallantly, Jules offers to take her back to her people in his canoe before returning to his cabin in the remote village of McQuarrie. 

Joining them on the river excursion is Max Brody, another fur trader; but by the time they reach McQuarrie we find that Max is strangely missing from the canoe and Jules is now shielding his face from the local priest. Soon, the Northwest Mounted Police, in the form of Constable Pedley ( Wendell Corey ) is hot on the trail....a trail that leads straight into the heart of the wild north, where an avalanche, marauding wolf pack, and below freezing temperatures await them both. 

The Wild North is a brawny adventure film that deftly blends drama with action into a frosty macho milkshake. It is a tale straight out of "Man's Life" magazine - only it's better because it is filmed in glorious Ansco Color! The movie boasts some stunning location scenery with the mountainous landscapes of Wyoming and Idaho admirably filling in for Northwest Canada. Frank Fenton penned the story for the screen, basing his tale upon an incident that befell an NWMP officer named Albert Pedley in 1904. During a particularly harsh winter in Canada, Pedley bore months of loneliness, cruel weather, and "white madness" to bring his prisoner to justice. 

Andrew Morton, who had co-directed Granger in MGM's King Solomon's Mines two years earlier, does a great job at helming the action, not leaving any room in the film for boredom to brew. The wolf attack is particularly harrowing and brutally realistic. 

The character of Jules is a bit of an anomaly for Stewart Granger, who is often given the role of the white-armored hero. Jules' nature, like most humans, isn't clearly defined as good or evil. He is a kind-hearted man who leads the simple and lonely life of a backwoods trapper but in a situation where his life is in jeopardy, he is prepared to murder....and, as Ellen Creed so aptly put it in Ladies in Retirement ( 1941 ) "Once you sell your soul to the Devil, it is easy to kill again." The thought of murdering Pedley on the journey back to McQuarrie becomes very tempting to Jules, until he recognizes the beast within him beginning to emerge. 

The normally wooden-faced Wendell Corey does a first-rate job of portraying the Dudley-Doright-like Mountie. "Man against Man - and Man Against Nature" was the tagline for The Wild North but Corey and Granger each made their characters so likable that you want to see both survive in their fight against the cruel elements in the "Wild North". 

Cyd Charisse is lovely as the Indian girl who falls in love with Jules, and rounding out the rather small cast is Morgan Farley, Howard Petrie, Ray Teal, and J.M. Kerrigan. 

This post is our contribution to the annual O Canada Blogathon being hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Be sure to check out all the great entries profiling famous Canadians and films made in or about Canada. 

11 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to see this film ever since I read about the real Constable Pedley, who sounded like a truly remarkable person. Judging by the images you posted, the Wyoming and Idaho landscapes look just as beautiful as Canadian landscapes.

    I had to laugh when you talked about the adventure in this film coming from "Man's Life" magazine. Indeed! No country for sissies, hey?

    Thank you so much for joining the O Canada blogathon. I'll check back to your review when I finally see this film. :)

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    1. Ruth, I'm surprised that you read about Constable Pedley, I was not even aware of his story until after watching the movie. How fascinating! He deserves to have a new biographical movie made about his encounter. Thank you for hosting the O Canada blogathon, I always enjoy reading all the posts!

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  2. Oh, those movies where two opposing characters make you root for them! I saw this once a while back and you are right, it doesn't give you time to get bored.

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    1. Yes, aren't those films great? I love it when enemies unite and then fight on the same side...in this case, they were fighting the beastly weather of Northern Canada, a formidable enemy!

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  3. Sounds like a neat little adventure tale...and it would be interesting to see Cyd Charisse play an Indian woman. I only know her as the hot number who danced with Fred Astaire in Singin' in the Rain! And I'm just curious; do both of you take part in writing each and every review, or are they all rotating solo efforts?

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    1. Oh, you'll have to watch more Cyd Charisse films if you've only seen just one! She's marvelous, both as an actress and as an expressive dancer. As for the reviews, I ( Connie ) write them, my sister Diana then edits them, rewords some sentences or tells me which parts need re-writing, and together we pick out the pictures to feature. So I guess you could say it's a joint effort for every post. :-)

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  4. I also enjoyed this movie -- and enjoyed seeing Cyd Charisse in an atypical role. It was fun to revisit it in my mind's eye via your post.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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    1. I'm glad that you saw it, it's rarely shown on television and hard to come by on DVD ( at least, at libraries it's hard to find! )

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  5. Awesome review. I haven't seen this film but should. The beautiful landscape and that realistic bear attack you're mentionning make it sound worthy! But Stewart Granger as a French-Canadian?? Haha I guess I'll have to see it before judging :)

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  7. I've always liked Stewart Granger (real name James Stewart!) and have never quite understood why he hasn't achieved the lasting stardom of some of his contemporaries. He was certainly a big star in the 1950s and gave fine performances in this film and, particularly SCARAMOUCHE.

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