During the Alaska gold rush, prospector George sends partner Sam to Seattle to bring his fiancée but when it turns out that she married another man, Sam returns with a pretty substitute, the hostess of the Henhouse dance hall.
Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros.
After the Civil War, ex-Confederate soldiers heading for a new life in Mexico run into ex-Union cavalrymen selling horses to the Mexican government but they must join forces to fight off Mexican bandits and revolutionaries.
Sam and George strike gold in Alaska. George sends Sam to Seattle to bring George's fiancée back to Alaska. Sam finds she is already married, and returns instead with Angel. Sam, after trying to get George and Angel together, finally romances Angel, who, in the meantime, is busy fighting off the advances of George's younger brother, Billy. Frankie is a con man trying to steal the partners' gold claim.
During the scene at the bar, where John Wayne's character is searching for "Frank", there is a song being played in the background while they search. This is "North to Alaska" by Johnny Horton, the song for which the movie is named, being played in a honky-tonk style. See more »
Edison Blue Amberol cylinder records are played in the stateroom scene and honeymoon cabin. The film is set in 1900, but these records were not manufactured until 1912. See more »
Stewart Granger in his memoirs said he was very glad to receive the role of George Pratt when he did and was always grateful to John Wayne who got him cast in the part. He had just left MGM and offers were not piling up. Granger's career was in a transitional stage and he would soon take off for Europe and all kinds of spaghetti westerns. Right at that point he needed a paycheck.
Granger and Fabian play the brothers Pratt, George and Billy and John Wayne is their partner Sam McCord in a gold claim that's just hit it big. He's got to buy mining equipment in Seattle and Pratt's fiancé Jennie is there too. Wayne's to bring back both the equipment and Jennie.
But Jennie has off and got herself married. So Wayne in a moment of alcoholic brilliance spots another girl with a French accent in a pleasure palace called the Birdcage and decided to take her back to Alaska for Granger. She's played by Capucine. But things don't quite work out.
Of course there's another kind of claim jumping going on led by no-good cynical gambler Ernie Kovacs. All kinds of problems for the McCord-Pratt partnership.
If you like your comedy broad and unsophisticated North to Alaska is your kind of film. The Duke has some of his funniest screen moments in this film. There's a whole routine with Granger and Capucine trying to make Wayne jealous and with Fabian serving as a straight man to Wayne, it's a pretty funny bit of business. Wayne's facial expressions are alone worth seeing the movie.
John Wayne was always shrewd in marketing his films and he sought to woo a younger audience by having current teenage idols in his films around that time. He had Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo and Frankie Avalon in The Alamo and now Fabian in North to Alaska.
I saw an interview with Fabian some years ago where he said Wayne was a formidable presence on the set of his film. He was great when you got to know him and he accepted you. But you did things his way or it was the highway, no questions asked.
Fabian has some moments too as a 17 year old whose hormones get going at the sight of Capucine. He sings a song in the film, If You Only Knew. But the real song hit is the title tune sung by Johnny Horton over the title. It was a big hit for Horton in his short and tragic career. Frankie Laine also sold a few platters with this song.
If your taste is sophisticated drawing room comedy, this ain't your film. But fans of the eternal Duke will love it.
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