North to Alaska
|North to Alaska|
1960 movie poster
|Directed by||Henry Hathaway|
|Produced by||Henry Hathaway
John Lee Mahin (uncredited)
Charles Feldman (uncredited)
|Written by||John Lee Mahin
Wendell Mayes (uncredited)
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
|Based on||Birthday Gift
by Ladislas Fodor from an idea by John Kafka
|Music by||Lionel Newman|
|Edited by||Dorothy Spencer|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$5 million (US/ Canada rentals) 
1,994,920 admissions (France)
North to Alaska is a 1960 comedic Western/Northern film directed by Henry Hathaway and John Wayne (uncredited). The picture stars Wayne along with Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, and Capucine. The script is based on the play Birthday Gift by Ladislas Fodor and set during the Nome gold rush. The movie featured Johnny Horton's song "North to Alaska", sung during the opening titles. The song is also played at the saloon on the piano when Sam and Angel arrive in Nome.
Finding that George's girl has already married another man, Sam brings back prostitute "Angel" (Capucine) as a substitute. There is a misunderstanding: she thinks Sam wants her for himself and becomes enamored with him on the boat trip to Alaska, during which he treats her like a respectable lady.
An angry George rejects the girl outright, though his younger brother Billy (Fabian) is definitely interested. Meanwhile, conman and saloon owner Frankie Cannon (Ernie Kovacs) tries to steal their gold claim.
In time, George takes a liking to Angel and is willing to marry her. But once he realizes that she has fallen for his partner, he does everything in his power to coax Sam into admitting that he, too, is in love.
Meanwhile, the men discovered Cannon's scam after he cons an illiterate drunk named Peter Boggs, so they try to reclaim their right in the court. The story concludes with an all-out brawl in the town's muddy streets. Angel decides to leave but is convinced to stay once Sam yells out publicly: "Because I love you!"
- John Wayne as Sam McCord
- Stewart Granger as George Pratt
- Ernie Kovacs as Frankie Canon
- Fabian as Billy Pratt
- Capucine as Michelle "Angel"
- Mickey Shaughnessy as Peter Boggs
- Karl Swenson as Lars Nordquist
- Kathleen Freeman as Lena Nordquist
- John Qualen as Logger
- Stanley Adams as Breezy
- Stephen Courtleigh as Duggan
- Lilyan Chauvin as Jenny Lamont
- Douglas Dick as Lieutenant
Alaska became the 49th state in 1959 and was much in the news at the time. In early 1959 it was announced 20th Century Fox would make The Alaskans starring John Wayne and written by Martin Rackin and John Lee Mahin (the three men had just made The Horse Soldiers together).). The film was the first in a three-movie contract for Wayne with 20th Century Fox.
The first choice of director by Wayne was Henry Hathaway. He had a commitment to direct Woman Obsessed and was replaced by Richard Fleischer. However, Fleischer attempted to end his involvement, disliking the script and fearing he would be blamed for a Wayne box office failure. Hathaway became available and his appointment was announced in March 1959. Spyros Skouras wanted the budget of the film reduced; that Hathaway did by reducing location shots.
The movie spent a long time in pre-production (during which it was also known as Go North) and was delayed by the writers strike and Wayne's involvement in making The Alamo (1960), a passion project of his that ended up costing the actor millions of his own money. Shooting on North to Alaska did not start until May 1960.
Most of the film was shot in Point Mugu, California. The Wayne and Granger "honeymoon" cabin scenes were filmed along steaming Hot Creek near volcanic Mammoth Mountain. Mt. Morrison appears in the background of many views.
Production started without a completed script and the movie wound up being heavily improvised. John Wayne said during the shoot:
I went to see Buddy (Buddy Adler, studio head at Fox) and Skouros (Spyros Skouros, president of Fox) and told them we didn't even have a finished script. They're supposed to have been preparing this thing for a year, but Adler tells me he'll whip it into shape personally in a few days. Then he takes off for London and Skouras heads for New York. Henry is a fine director, but he shouldn't have to be making up scenes... Of course Marty Rackin and John Mahin, who were supposed to produce and who worked on the script, left the picture to do television. Then the writers strike came along. I guess the studio thought the strike would be ended before we started the picture. All I know is, I'd go broke if I tried this in an independent production.
"This is great," Ernie Kovacs told a journalist as he lounged by a pool. "I've been here since 9 this morning and we're behind schedule, so I haven't even put on my costume. I didn't do anything during the actors' strike and now I'm back at work and I'm still not doing anything. It's a great way to make a living." Fabian enjoyed working with John Wayne. "What you saw is what you got," recalled the singer. "He was incredible. He was very nice to me.”
The film was popular at the box office.
Fabian's performance won him the "Uncrossed Heart" award for least Promising Actor of 1960 in Harvard Lampoon's Annual Movie awards.
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- Option of $1 Puts Pair in Business: Rackin, Mahdin Parlay It Into $5 Million 'Horse Soldiers' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Feb 1959: C11.
- FOX LISTS 34 FILMS IN RECORD BUDGET: Studio to Invest 66 Million in 1959 -- Musicians Unit Files Unfairness Charge By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 Jan 1959: 27.
- Fleischer, Richard Just Tell Me When to Cry 1993 Carroll and Graf.
- BRITON TO WRITE U. S. MOVIE SCRIPT: Bridget Boland Assigned to 'Devil at Four O'Clock' -Hathaway Gets Job By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Mar 1959: 46.
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- Kovacs Latest Star Due to 'Go North': Mrs. Sessue 'Introduced'; 'Armored Commitand' Alerted Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 May 1960: C11.
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- SCRIPTLESS IN 'NOME', CALIFORNIA: Lack of Scenario Is No Bar to the Shooting of 'Go North' By THOMAS McDONALD. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 19 June 1960: X7.
- Jack Neary, "Interview with Fabian" accessed 18 January 2014
- Harvard Lampoon Calls 'Butterfield 8' the Worst Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Mar 1961: 26.