Saskatchewan—Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, Hugh O’Brian, J. Carrol Naish, Jay Silverheels. (1954; Dir: Raoul Walsh)
The very blond Mountie Inspector Thomas O’Rourke (Alan Ladd) has been raised by Cree Indian chief Dark Cloud and is now stationed at Fort Walsh about 20 miles north of the Canadian border with the U.S. Jay Silverheels is Cajou, his Cree foster-brother. The post-Custer Sioux under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are moving into Canada, threatening to overthrow the peace and lead a general Indian uprising. They’ve wiped out the group of which Montanan Grace Markey (Shelley Winters) is part, but she’s rescued by O’Rourke.
It turns out she’s wanted for murder back in Montana. O’Rourke’s troop of Mounties has to get back to Fort Walsh to warn his commanders there about the Sioux, although they don’t believe him and O’Rourke’s in trouble for refusing to obey due authority. Hugh O’Brian plays Carl Smith, a malcontent Montana lawman with the troop, who’s always trying to get them to leave a wounded Mountie behind. It turns out that Smith is (a) a U.S. marshal taking Grace back to Great Falls, (b) the brother of the murdered man, and (c) the actual murderer of his brother. That gets sorted out on the way to Fort Walsh. Banks, the Mountie commander, leads his men into a Sioux ambush, and it looks like Custer’s fate will be repeated north of the border. O’Rourke is able, with the help of the Crees, to save his commanders from the Sioux anyway, despite being locked in the stockade with his men.
J. Carrol Naish is particularly good as a French-Canadian trapper and scout. Problems: There’s very little chemistry between the Ladd and Winters characters, who supposedly are fascinated with each other. Saskatchewan is actually a plains province and doesn’t have mountains like these. Sitting Bull made it to Canada for a couple of years (Crazy Horse never went there), but he had neither the resources nor the disposition to cause much trouble before eventually being forced back to the U.S. The Mounties have very clean red coats, and wear anachronistic Smokey the Bear-style hats that weren’t regulation until after World War I. O’Rourke wears one of the bright red coats while sneaking up to spy on the Sioux without much cover, and surprisingly enough they fail to spot him. Filmed beautifully in color in Banff National Park (in Alberta, not Saskatchewan). Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe were said to be filming The River of No Return (actually located in Idaho) in the same locale at the same time.
For another movie about Mounties, see Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police (1940), with Gary Cooper, or The Wild North (1952), a manhunt in the frozen wastes with Stewart Granger, Wendell Corey and Cyd Charisse.