North to Alaska
Comedy / Western / Romance
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Cast: John Wayne as Sam McCord
Stewart Granger as George Pratt
Ernie Kovacs as Frankie Canon
Fabian Forte as Billy Pratt
Capucine as Angel [Michelle] Bonet
Mickey Shaughnessy as Peter Boggs
Karl Swenson as Lars Norquist
Joe Sawyer as Commissioner
Kathleen Freeman as Lena Norquist
John Qualen as Lumberjack
Stanley Adams as Breezy
Partners Sam McCord and George Pratt have just seen their hard work in Nome, Alaska, pay off with a rich gold strike. To get supplies Sam is planning a trip back to Seattle, and George is finally ready to bring his French fiancé, Jenny, who George believes has been waiting patiently back in Seattle, north to Alaska to settle with him. George asks Sam if he will bring her up with him. George stays behind with his younger brother Billy to build a honeymoon cabin for Jenny to come home to. Word of the gold strike has spread around the town, and before Sam can leave he is almost swindled by Frankie Canon, a conman. Frankie’s ploy is seen through and he gets a good blow to the chops for trying to pull one over on Sam McCord.
Once he arrives in Seattle, Sam McCord goes looking for Jenny, arriving at an illustrious mansion with his arms full of gifts sent by George. Sam is impressed at first, realizing why George didn't want to bring her to Alaska until he struck it rich, but his understanding quickly fades when he discovers that Jenny is merely the maid. Sam’s temper flares when Jenny also reveals that the butler is her husband. She got tired of waiting and got married without even telling George. Sam tells her that George is now a millionaire with a gold mine, and she missed out by settling on a butler, which causes her to faint. Unsure of what to do now, Sam heads to the local brothel to drown his concerns in women and booze, as he is wont to do. Once there, he is introduced to Michelle, who is known in the establishment as Angel, a beautiful French hostess. Sam realizes he cannot go home to George empty handed, and decides that Michelle would be a great replacement for Jenny, and makes her an offer to come back to Alaska and share half a gold mine. He does a poor job of explaining the situation thoroughly, and Michelle misunderstands, thinking that she is going to Alaska to be with Sam, instead of George. Some loggers where Sam used to work invite him to the logging picnic, and Sam agrees to go and takes Michelle with him. The beer is flowing and rowdy good times are being had by all, when a drunken reveler recognizes Michelle from the brothel and decides to have his way with her. Sam returns and decks the guy for his misbehavior, and Michelle is impressed with this man that would defend her honor. Sam ends up drinking way too much and when he finally wakes up, he finds that he is on the boat heading back to Alaska.
Talking things over with Michelle, the misunderstanding becomes apparent and Michelle is heartbroken that she’s not going to be with this dashingly handsome man that has swept her off her feet. Sam is slowly falling for Michelle as well, although he hates to admit it as he’s doing all of this for his best friend. Sam and Michelle quarrel, and Michelle ends up locking herself in her cabin for part of the trip. However, after considering her circumstances, she opens the door and agrees to do everything she can to make George happy. Sam has second thoughts and comes to the conclusion that it would be better for her to go back to Seattle. Sam is apprehensive about meeting George and having to explain the whole situation, but the reckoning is delayed as George has gone to a neighboring claim to help the owner fending off claim jumpers. Sam puts Michelle up in a hotel and goes to get ready to leave to help George. While Sam was in Seattle, con man Frankie has been busy and has since won the hotel in a card game that he rigged. Frankie and Michelle recognize each other from a life of crime in New Orleans, and when Frankie sees Michelle with Sam, he figures that Michelle has found a way to scam Sam out of his gold mine. He is eager to begin anew with Michelle, even though he spurned her once before. Michelle wants nothing to do with Frankie, however, and rejects him. Michelle looks out the window and sees Sam pause and glance up at her as he is riding out of town. Michelle, thinking fast, fakes being attacked to get Sam’s attention, and he goes tearing through the hotel to save her. Michelle’s plan works and Sam takes her with him to the mine. However, Frankie now believes he is in a battle of the cons with a rival and cooks up a plan to swindle Sam and George out of the gold mine. In Frankie’s employment at the hotel is a drunkard named Peter, who once owned the claim that Sam and George struck it rich on. The claim was sold to Sam and George fair and square, but Frankie bribes Peter to cross file a claim on the land.
Once he arrives at the mine, Sam leaves Michelle alone with George’s younger brother Billy, who is 17 and has hormones raging. Billy decides to attempt to woo Michelle, who has to do everything she can to keep him away from her. Sam meets up with George at the Archie’s mine and helps fend off the claim jumpers. The moment the battle is over, George asks him about Jenny. Before Sam can explain, George takes off in excitement to see his long lost love.
Sam rushes home, and arrives before George. Sam tells Michelle to get dressed as George is on his way home. Michelle asks Sam to help her with a button on her blouse, and George walks in as Sam is doing so. Angered at the sight, George calls her a tramp and storms out. Sam tries to make amends and explain the situation, and George, smitten by her French accent and beauty, states that she can stay. Michelle, on the other hand, demands to be taken back to town to return to Seattle. George is no fool, and after talking to each of them and seeing how they act around each other realizes the attraction between the two. George begins hatching a plan to bring them together that involves making Sam jealous. George and Michelle go into the honeymoon cabin, play loud music and pretend to have a good time, leaving Sam outside to stew. The plan backfires when George underestimates Sam’s feelings and Sam is now convinced that his friend stole Michelle’s affections. Before the situation can resolve itself, soldiers arrive at the claim to inform Sam and George that a cross claim has been filed and their claim and the gold from it are to be held until the matter is sorted out. Sam, still in a rage, attempts to take his gold and leave, and the soldiers are forced to arrest him and bring him to town. Michelle asks the soldiers for a ride back to town, and they agree.
Michelle goes to book passage back to Seattle. Finding that the ship leaves at midnight, she goes to the inn to wait, and encounters Frankie, who tells her that he has been expecting her. It only takes a moment for Michelle to size up her rival, and figures out that he is behind the cross filing on Sam and George’s mine. In the interim, Sam and George have gone before the commissioner to discover that Peter has filed the cross claim. Knowing that Peter works for Frankie, Sam storms over to the inn and finds Frankie and Michelle together. Sam angrily accuses Michelle of working with Frankie, but she informs him of what she has discovered. Michelle, Sam, and George frantically hunt through the inn for Peter, who has been locked in a room with an ample supply of booze to keep him out of the way. Sam drags Peter to the street to take him to the commissioner, when Frankie arrives to stop him. A brawl of epic proportions ensues. After coming out victorious, Sam professes his love for Michelle and asks her to stay.
North to Alaska - Trailer
John Wayne shared the directing duties with Henry Hathaway, although this is uncredited.
North to Alaska is based on the play Birthday Gift written by Ladislas Fodor.
Most of the film was shot at Point Mugu, California, not in Alaska. The mountain scenes were shot at Hot Creek near Mammoth Mountain. This location can also be seen in "True Grit".
The state of Alaska was admitted into the union as the 49th State in 1959, and was very much in the public eye at the time.
Capucine was a French model turned actress that had just recently made her American and English speaking debut in Song Without End. She was a friend of Audrey Hepburn, and had a two year affair with actor William Holden.
Producers of the film have revealed that in the scene where Capucine (Michelle) is trying to laugh, it wasn’t very convincing. To make it more real, her feet were tickled to bring on more convincing laughter.
Richard Fleischer was originally slated to direct, but he didn’t think that Capucine was right for the role. He made a request to producer Charles K. Feldman to replace her; however, as Feldman was living with Capucine at the time, it was Fleischer who was replaced.