Other Wests: Canada, Alaska and Australia

Nicholas Chennault ~ May 6, 2014

Other Wests:  Westerns Set in Canada, Alaska and Australia

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Northern Westerns:

In the early days of the movies, the Alaska and Klondike gold rushes were only twenty years in the past.  Many people remembered them, including those who had only read of them when they were taking place.  The gold rushes had also given rise to popular novels that used the wild northern country as a setting for adventure stories, like the stories of Jack London, James Oliver Curwood and Rex Beach.  The narrative poems of Robert W. Service, about “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, were well known.  In the 1920s, Charlie Chaplin (The Gold Rush) and Buster Keaton (The Frozen North) made movies set in the northern gold rushes, as did Rin Tin Tin.  Some of these stories, like The Call of the Wild and Rex Beach’s 1906 novel The Spoilers have been made as movies multiple times.  Although used less frequently as a setting now, more than a hundred years after the northern gold rushes took place, they still have some interest for modern audiences, as seen in the recent (2014) television miniseries Klondike.

The use of the frozen north as a setting has much in common with westerns—themes of civilization vs. lawlessness, self-reliance in defense of one’s life and property, surviving in an often-hostile nature, ranching and mining, Indians and outlaws.  It just happened there a decade or two later than it did in what we normally think of as the American west.  Indeed, many of the figures in the American west, such as Wyatt Earp, drifted northward with the gold strikes.  If Bill Hickok hadn’t been dead for more than twenty years, he might have been tempted as well.

As usual, there are probably other movies that could be added to these lists.  If you have one, please leave a comment.

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The Silent Era

The Spoilers (1914)

Etienne of the Glad Heart (short, Tom Mix, 1914)

The Man from the Yukon (1916)

The Dawn Maker (1916)

The Flame of the Yukon (1917)

The Savage (1917)

The Girl Alaska (1919)

Back to God’s Country (1919, 1925, 1953)

The Silver Horde (1920)

The Cyclone (Tom Mix, 1920)

Flower of the North (1921)

The Frozen North (Buster Keaton, 1922)

The Spoilers (1923)

Where the North Begins (Rin Tin Tin, 1923)

Shadows of the North (Rin Tin Tin, 1923)

The Alaskan (1924)

North of 36 (1924)

Curses (Al St. John; Dir:  Roscoe Arbuckle, 1925)

The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin 1925)

Call of the Klondike (1926)

A Hero of the Big Snows (Rin Tin Tin, 1926)

Trail of ’98 (1928)

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Poster for Gary Cooper in The Spoilers (1930); Mae West in Klondike Annie (1936).

The Sound Era

The Silver Horde (Joel McCrea, Evelyn Brent, Jean Arthur, 1930)

The Spoilers (Gary Cooper, 1930)

McKenna of the Mounted (Buck Jones, 1932)

Call of the Wild (Clark Gable, 1935)

Northern Frontier (Tyrone Power, 1935)

Klondike Annie (Mae West, 1936)

Call of the Yukon (Richard Arlen, 1938)

Susannah of the Mounties (Shirley Temple, Randolph Scott, 1939)

North of the Yukon (Charles Starrett, 1939)

Queen of the Yukon (Charles Bickford, Irene Rich, 1940)

North West Mounted Police (Gary Cooper, 1940; Dir:  DeMille)

The Spoilers (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Marlene Dietrich, 1942)

Pierre of the Plains (1942)

North to the Klondike (1942)

Northwest Rangers (1942)

Klondike Kate (1943)

Riders of the Northwest Mounted (1943)

Belle of the Yukon (Randolph Scott, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dinah Shore,1944)

Where the North Begins (1947)

Trail of the Yukon (1949)

Canadian Pacific (Randolph Scott, 1949)

Call of the Klondike (1950)

The Cariboo Trail (Randolph Scott, 1950)

Gene Autry and the Mounties (1951)

The Wild North (Stewart Granger, 1952)

Pony Soldier (Tyrone Power, 1952)

Back to God’s Country (Rock Hudson, 1953)

Fort Vengeance (1953)

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The Far Country (James Stewart, Walter Brennan, Ruth Roman, 1954)

Saskatchewan (Alan Ladd, 1954)

Yukon Vengeance (1954)

The Spoilers (five versions on film, most recently 1955)

North to Alaska (John Wayne and Stewart Granger, 1960)

The Klondike Fever (Rod Steiger,1980) 

The Canadians (Robert Ryan, 1961)

Death Hunt (Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, 1981)

The Grey Fox (Richard Farnsworth, 1982)

Getting Married in Buffalo Jump (Wendy Crewson, Paul Gross, 1990)

White Fang (Ethan Hawke, Klaus Maria Brandauer, 1991)

Black Robe (1991)

North Star (James Caan, Christopher Lambert, 1996)

The Call of the Wild (Rutger Hauer, 1997)

Promise the Moon (Henry Czerny, 1997)

Gunless (Paul Gross, 2010)

The Way of the West (The Mountie, 2011)

Gold (German, 2013)

Klondike (MfTV miniseries, 2014)

The Timber (2015)

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Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly (2004); the real Ned Kelly in 1880, the year he was captured.

Westerns in Australia:

The Australian frontier offers many of the same conditions that makes U.S. westerns so compelling:  deserts, ranching and mining, aboriginal inhabitants, lawless conditions, survival stories, and outlaws.  If anything, outlaws are an even stronger element of Australian stories, since Australia was settled by outlaws.  And Australia has its own famous historical outlaws, like Ned Kelly.

The Man from Snowy River (1920, now lost)

The Sundowners (Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, 1960)

Ned Kelly (Mick Jagger, 1970)

Mad Dog Morgan (Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson, 1976)

The Man from Snowy River (Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, 1982)

The Last Frontier (MfTV, 1986; Dir:  Wincer)

Return to Snowy River (Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, 1988)

Wrangler (Minnamurra, Outback, The Fighting Creed, 1989)

Quigley Down Under (Tom Selleck, 1990; Dir:  Wincer)

The Silver Brumby? (1993)

Ned Kelly (Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, 2004; Dir:  Jordan)

The Proposition (Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, 2005)

Australia (Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman,  2008; Dir:  Luhrman)

Dark Frontier (2009)

Tracker (New Zealand; Ray Winstone, Tuemura Morrison, 2010, Dir:  Ian Sharp)

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Poster for The Proposition (2005); Mick Jagger as Ned Kelly, 1970.

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