The annual return of the salmon each year gives the Indians of the Northwest enough food to last until the next year. This way of live is threatened by Banning who puts in a cannery on the ... See full summary »
The annual return of the salmon each year gives the Indians of the Northwest enough food to last until the next year. This way of live is threatened by Banning who puts in a cannery on the river to harvest the fish for sale. With the Canadian cannery on the other side, the Indians find no fish in the river for them. But Banning wants all the fish for his business and he plans to burn the Canadian cannery and put the blame on Chief Nagora. But Indian Agent Roy knows that Nagora is being framed and starts looking for the people responsible with the help of his blood brother Dakota. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Roy Rogers helps the Northwest Indians in Trucolor western
NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE (1950) is a late Roy Rogers Trucolor western directed by Republic action specialist William Witney. It has a fairly strong social issue at its core, which makes for a more serious Rogers entry with less comic relief and singing than usual. It also has less action than it needs, although it remains a must-see for fans of Rogers, Trucolor and pro-Indian themes.
The film is set in the Pacific Northwest near the Canadian border and deals with a tribe of Oseka Indians that suffers a loss of their food supply when Banning, a corrupt cannery owner on the U.S. side (played by Roy Barcroft), puts up traps that keep the salmon from reaching the Indian fishing waters. Rogers plays an Indian agent assigned to solve the problem and works closely with Chief Nagura (Noble Johnson) and his son, Tacona (Keith Richards). Rogers gets caught up in an international incident when a Canadian Mountie is killed and the Canadian cannery sabotaged and Nagura is charged with the crimes. Under pressure to turn Nagura over to the Mounties, Rogers goes up against Banning when he tries to get evidence of his duplicity.
It's not clear when the film is set. Everybody rides horses and carries six-shooters. The Mounties are stationed in an old log cabin fort from the frontier era. In a typically Hollywood bit of cross-cultural confusion, the Pacific Northwest Indians look and live like Plains Indians, complete with buckskin, feather headdresses and tepees, with totem poles planted incongruously about. The film mixes a good deal of Trucolor location photography (employing real Indians) with extensive studio work and bits of stock footage of cannery operations and salmon swimming upstream. The three different modes of filming don't always blend well.
Two great western heavies, Roy Barcroft as Banning and Jack Lambert as his whip-wielding henchman, Skagg, make suitably nasty villains. Penny Edwards, looking quite fetching in buckskin, is the leading lady (giving Dale Evans a break) and plays a field nurse assigned to help Roy. Unfortunately, fan fave Penny is given little to do here. The lack of a strong female presence throws the Rogers formula slightly off balance.
Famed Indian actor Iron Eyes Cody is on hand to give his blessings to the proceedings but has no real role. Top acting honors go to Noble Johnson as Nagura, seen here in his final film credit after a 35-year film career. Johnson, a black American actor (and one-time schoolmate of Lon Chaney Sr.) appeared in hundreds of Hollywood films in all kinds of ethnic roles-Egyptian, Russian, Mexican, Polynesian, South Asian, Chinese and, most frequently, American Indian. He is probably best known as the native chief on Skull Island in KING KONG (1933). Interestingly, the role of Nagura may have been the biggest speaking part in Johnson's entire career.
The Trucolor photography is not seen to best advantage in the tape available for review, the initial VHS release from NTA, the corporate predecessor of Republic Pictures Home Video. Republic has since released a new edition, which hopefully improves on the earlier release and looks as good as some of Republic's other Trucolor Roy Rogers VHS releases (e.g. THE GOLDEN STALLION, TRIGGER, JR.). Overall, this is a worthy later Rogers entry, better than some, but not as good as THE GOLDEN STALLION (1949), Rogers' near-masterpiece. It deserves note for its serious intent and social issue theme but is not as rousing or packed with humor and action as a more typical Rogers vehicle of the time.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?