Northwest Rangers (1942) Poster

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Clark Gable manqué
boblipton22 December 2004
This B movie remake of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA set in the Yukon was the one of the salvos that MGM fired in its attempt to use James Craig as a replacement for Gable while the King of Hollywood was at war. Craig is pretty good at the Gable role and there is a pretty good supporting cast, including Keenan Wynn, Jack Holt and particularly John Carradine as a crooked gambler.

The problem is that Patricia Dane in the female lead is pretty stiff trying to play her role like Myrna Loy and William Lundigan, although competent, brings not a hint of the sparkle that William Powell did to his performance. Nor does director Joseph Newman take advantage of the nominally outdoor nature of the big finale. Everyone moves as if they are on a sound stage and the ending is abrupt. Perhaps it comes down to the fact that Newman did not serve the material as well as might be hoped.
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Programmer merely passes the time...trite script, poor performances...
Neil Doyle11 January 2007
Trivia note: Darryl Hickman turning into James Craig as an adult??? I don't think so.

JAMES CRAIG and WILLIAM LUNDIGAN co-star as two orphans who are reunited years later when Lundigan is a Mountie and Craig is a big gambler who started his gambling career in JOHN CARRADINE's gambling joint as a kid. PATRICIA DANE is a self-confident singer from Frisco who catches the eye of Craig when she makes the mistake of applying for a job from Carradine. KEENAN WYNN has a supporting role as Carradine's sidekick.

Strictly a third-rate B-picture from MGM, reminiscent of many another programmer about a woman who comes between two friends. Production values are on the low-budget or modest side. PATRICIA DANE is stiff and unconvincing as the girl both brothers love.

Lundigan looks good in his Mountie uniform but both he and Craig are on the bland side as far as screen charisma is concerned. Craig's role as "Blackie Morton" seems like a poor imitation of Gable's "Blackie Norton" role in SAN FRANCISCO.

The plot hinges on Carradine losing his gambling place and then gambling Craig to win it back. A showdown of a fight between Craig and GRANT WITHERS over a gambling debt, at a mine, has Withers falling to his death down a mine shaft. When Lundigan announces he's going to marry Dane, the rest of the plot has to do with how Craig's murderous ways will be discovered, including the truth about the mine shaft murder, and how the love interest will be resolved.

Of course, good wins over evil. When the chips are down, it's up to Lundigan to play the hero and solve the problem his way in the tradition of the Mounties "always getting their man".

Sorry to say that handsome JAMES CRAIG is totally unconvincing as the black-hearted gambler in this poorly directed and scripted programmer and Lundigan's role is so underwritten he can do little with it.

It merely passes the time quickly with a short running time.
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John Carradine steals another one
kevin olzak18 March 2014
1942's "Northwest Rangers" was MGM's streamlined 'B' remake of their own "Manhattan Melodrama," with James Craig suitably cast as Clark Gable's Blackie, but William Lundigan a woeful replacement in the William Powell good guy part. The 1934 original ran a full 93 minutes, this programmer a meager 64, but its predictability is really an asset, the boyhood friends Jim and Blackie orphaned by an Indian attack, subsequently reared by dedicated Mountie Duncan Frazier (Jack Holt), who proves unable to curb Blackie's gambling ways, while inspiring Jim to follow in his law abiding footsteps. Best of all is John Carradine, cast in typical villainous mode as Martin Caswell, owner of notorious gambling den The Topaz, who makes the mistake of humiliating the young Blackie at the roulette wheel, only to have the adult Blackie return years later to claim The Topaz for his own by denying Caswell his cheating ways. Carradine's scene stealing work keep things from getting dull, though they do slow to a crawl whenever he's offscreen (the best 'honest' hand wins!). In only his third feature film, Keenan Wynn does very well as Blackie's fast talking accomplice, but leading lady Patricia Dane proves to be no match for Myrna Loy, quickly returning to obscurity after Abbott and Costello's "Rio Rita." Among the unbilled extras are several faces familiar on television decades later- Jim Davis (as a Mountie sharing a scene with Jack Holt), Hugh (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) Beaumont (a Mountie opposite William Lundigan), and perennial Jewish mother Kay Medford, unaccountably young and pretty as the showgirl that first greets Blackie upon his return to The Topaz (she calls him 'Cookie!'). Carradine would later star opposite James Craig in 1969's "Bigfoot," and with Darryl Hickman, former co-star in "The Grapes of Wrath" (as the youngest Joad, Winfield), in a 1959 GUNSMOKE, "Target," cast as father and son.
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A remake of Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
jacobs-greenwood6 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
As I was watching this, I knew I'd seen something very similar to it before, but the setting was so different that it took me a while to think of it. It was Manhattan Melodrama (1934) with Clark Gable and William Powell in lieu of James Craig and William Lundigan. That one also had Myrna Loy instead of Patricia Dane, and a less prominent actor as the villain (the Assistant DA) than John Carradine. Plus, Jack Holt figures more prominently as the father figure in this one than Leo Carrillo did in the previous one, as does Keenan Wynn as Blackie's "flunkie" vs. Nat Pendleton in the first. Of course, the earlier version did have Mickey Rooney;-) Also in contrast to the other film, this one uses a silk scarf as the plot device where an overcoat was used previously.

Boyhood pals Jim & Blackie play junior ranger games, with Blackie always getting the better of Jim. As they return home from one of their games, they witness their families under attack from Indians on the frontier. They run to get the Mounties but return to find that they are orphans. Sergeant Frazier (Holt) adopts them. However, after a short time, it is clear that while Jim wants to become a ranger like his adoptive father, Blackie is not living up to Frazier's expectations. For example, Blackie gambles and loses a valuable pelt in "The Topaz", the local club owned by Martin Caswell (Carradine). So, one night, Blackie packs up and leaves after telling Jim hat he expects great things from him.

Years later, Jim (Lundigan) is a full fledged ranger in the same community when Blackie (Craig), a successful gambler, returns home. After a happy homecoming including their now retired "father", Jim informs Blackie that he must find something to do and somewhere to live else he'll officially be a vagrant and Jim will have to "deal" with him. But Blackie works quickly. He heads to "The Topaz", still being run by Caswell, and wins it from him in a series of escalating roulette wheel bets, on black as always. Caswell would have won, but Blackie, with help from his friend "Slip" (Wynn), who'd been scouting & working in the place, was wise to his cheating method. During this process, Blackie meets Jean Avery (Dane), who's left San Francisco and is looking for a job as a singer. Whereas Caswell wasn't going to hire her, the smitten Blackie does.

Jim is happy to learn that Blackie is taking up residence, and equally happy to meet Jean. Some time later, Blackie discharges a local miner Tom Fowler (Grant Withers) from his club for unpaid debts. The act is witnessed by Caswell, at the same table, and others in the establishment at the time. Later, when Fowler is found dead (by Hugh Beaumont, uncredited), Blackie is suspect.

However, like in Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Jim is convinced of his friend's innocence when Blackie's flunkie (in this case, Slip), unbeknownst to Jim, produces a duplicate (the aforementioned silk scarf) of the object found on the body ... and Jim knew about the item through Blackie's girlfriend. Jim then warns Blackie that he'd better stay clean else he'll have to arrest him. To which Blackie replies, he'd be disappointed in Jim if he didn't.

Much like the first film, Jean leaves Blackie for Jim and Blackie gets in trouble again. In this one, however, Frazier plays a role that the priest did not in the other one. And, justice is realized more suitably (and quickly;-) to the wilderness environment, than that in the urban setting of the other.
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