The Wild North (1952)
Leading man Stewart Granger continued his association with the splendor of MGM by appearing in this outdoor adventure filmed in color that offered the actor a departure from the swordplay epics he was to be best suited for under the studio banner. Directed by Andrew Marton, Granger and company were off to Canada (at least that’s what the script tells me) where he portrays a French Canadian trapper who runs afoul of Mountie Wendell Corey while securing the love of an Indian girl played by Cyd Charisse.
Coming into a trading post after working alone for six months on the Peace River in Alberta, Granger wants nothing more than to down a barrel of whiskey, the company of a pretty gal and maybe a barroom brawl to unwind and relax. He gets all three. It’s the next morning that trouble is going to set in. While intoxicated he’s promised the lovely Miss Charisse to save her from what we can only surmise is a life of prostitution and return her to her people and secondly agrees to take his sparring partner from the night before with him up river in his canoe now built for three. It’s an uneasy agreement that feels as if it has violence in the near future.
By the time he arrives at the next stop to drop off Charisse, he’s short one passenger and there’s a mystery in the air. Winters coming and Granger heads inland by snowshoe to his secluded cabin and work his traplines.
Enter Wendell Corey in all his full Mountie regalia. A body has been found along the river and he’s being sent out by command to bring in Granger who was the last known companion of the dead man. Him and an Indian girl. Charisse is of little use to Corey and doesn’t divulge any information that may incriminate the man she’s waiting on to return and take her as his own. It’s of little concern to Corey who makes it clear he’ll get his man. And so he follows Granger’s trail north.
Cut to the chase……
Corey finds his man like any respectable Mountie would in record time but it’s finding his way out of the mountains that may prove to be his undoing. From the moment these two meet there’s a respect between them. Checkers and a coffee before heading out into the cold Canadian tundra. Not quite fully trusting Granger, Corey has him handcuffed and takes care of the weapons including the axe. He’ll ride the dogsled while Granger will run point.
And now the skirmishes begin.
Granger figures he’s sure to be hung by a jury of city dwellers after he admits to killing the man in self defense. He’ll now have little choice but to kill the man he respects before arriving at the trading post. Corey for his part is going to have to stay awake as Granger leads him through mountain area he isn’t familiar with. And let’s not forget about the likes of Ray Teal and Clancy Cooper who want nothing better than to shoot Corey in the back and take Granger in for a reward. Might Granger have to step in and save his captor from certain death?
Still to come is the harshness of the cold and the hungry wolves.
The Wild North is a decent effort that utilizes color photography with some great Wyoming and Idaho locations subbing in for Canada. That and a Hollywood backlot I suppose. I suspect there was plenty of second unit work here with actors standing in for Granger and Corey in long distant shots. In the end I’ve always enjoyed this film and that’s probably due to my liking Stewart Granger during this point in his career versus anything the production really has to offer. If one were to get overly critical of this outdoor adventure, the first thing that should be pointed out is these two guys look way too comfortable for minus 38 degree weather. They both should have been frozen stiff by morning or at least suffering terribly from frost bite.
While watching this I’m reminded of two other films that were still yet to come. The Savage Innocents made in 1960 that saw Eskimo Anthony Quinn being hunted down by Mountie Peter O’Toole and their subsequent obstacles and secondly by 1966’s The Trap. In this memorable film, Oliver Reed like Granger played a French Canadian trapper who goes through his own troubles in the mountains with hostile wolves, bandits and the company of Rita Tushingham.
Director Andrew Marton was also behind the camera for Granger’s big screen success in 1950, King Solomon’s Mines, and would again reteam with the leading man as he tempted fate and Grace Kelly in the 1954 film, Green Fire. The Wild North is another worthwhile title that plays TCM on occasion or can be located through the Warner Archive Collection.