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O'Rourke and his Cree half brother Cajou are returning from a northern Canadian trapping trip when they encoutner a burned wagon train and sole surivor Grace. Naive Mountie commander Benton believes it to be a Cree attack. The Sioux from across the border are trying to force the Cree into being allies in their struggle with the U.S. seventh cavalry. O'Rourke must mutiny to save the men. He must also aid Grace, in whom Marshal Smith has both official and unprovoked amorous interests. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
I would have to agree with most of the other posters, who give this film mixed reviews. The scenery is fantastic, the action is compelling, and there are a number of good actors on hand. But the historical inaccuracies, concerning things like the Mounties' costumes, and the actions of the post-Custer (Last Stand) Sioux, do detract from the film. Raoul Walsh is one of my favorite old-time directors, but he made his share of films which deviate from the truth. After all, he did direct the Errol Flynn version of Custer, "They Died With Their Boots On," which must be one of the most fanciful historical films ever. Walsh wasn't (and isn't) alone in this casual disregard for the truth, by any means. Everyone knows that there is history, and there is movie history. And plenty of other directors took as many liberties with the truth. The great John Ford, for instance. For example, the shoot-out at the OK Corral was nothing like that portrayed in "My Darling Clementine" (great film though it is). And the fact that Monument Valley creeps into so many of his westerns, some of which are taking place far from that photogenic area, isn't accuracy at work. Artistic license, and making a good movie, have often taken precedence in this regard.
One Walsh movie which does seem more true-to-life is "The Big Trail," his ground-breaking 1930 film with John Wayne. Historians could no doubt find some mistakes in the film, but it seems fairly realistic as regards a covered wagon trek. Maybe the lesson is that historical fiction is often best, as inconvenient facts can't get in your way. And classic Hollywood directors had no monopoly on putting myth before truth. Look at contemporary directors like Oliver Stone and Michael Bay, who put the older Hollywood folks to shame. Stone, in particular, takes almost psychedelic flights of fancy in his films, and any relation to true events seems very tenuous. As many have pointed out, John Ford addressed this issue of myth-making versus truth-telling, in his film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." It should come as no surprise that the myth often wins out. And even when true stories are told fairly accurately, as in "Glory," small liberties are taken with things like contemporary language, and events are often compressed or moved around. A classic movie like "The Great Escape," while basically telling a true story, fictionalized large aspects of it (not many, or any, Americans involved; it's the wrong season, etc.), something that no doubt irritated the men who were really there. Another great prison camp movie, "The Bridge on the River Kwai," was guilty of the same things.
Anyway, Raoul wasn't immune to any of that, as this film clearly shows. If one looks at it as pure fiction, and if one buys the scenes of Mounties trying to be inconspicuous, in the woods, while wearing bright red uniforms, it's a pretty entertaining movie. Those more knowledgeable than I can point out the geographical and historical errors in this film. I'm sure that anyone with proximity to Saskatchewan can find many things to chuckle over.
In 1945, Alan Ladd played the title role in a film called "Salty O'Rourke," directed by Raoul Walsh. Ladd's character's name in this film is O'Rourke, too. An in-joke, perhaps? It does seem like more than coincidence, considering that the two men didn't work together often. Also, does the plot remind anyone of other Walsh "chase" films, like "Objective Burma," and "Distant Drums," where army units are being pursued through hostile terrain, often by an unseen enemy (in this film, the pursuers are shown very clearly)? A nail-biting plot, but one which does get repetitive. Also, what's with the jungle bird sounds that the Sioux make? Not your usual Canadian bird calls.
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