The Shooting of Dan McGrew
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The tale takes place in a Yukon saloon during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 1890s. It tells of three characters: Dan McGrew, a rough-neck prospector; McGrew's sweetheart "Lou", a formidable pioneer woman; and a mysterious, weather-worn stranger who wanders into the saloon where the former are among a crowd of drinkers. The stranger buys drinks for the crowd, and then proceeds to the piano, where he plays a song that is alternately robust and then plaintively sad. He appears to have had a past with both McGrew and Lou, and has come to settle a grudge. Gunshots break out, with both McGrew and the stranger killing each other, while "the Lady that's known as Lou" ends up with the stranger's "poke of gold".
The poet was a Scotsman who came to Canada as a young adult, and was fascinated with the lives and landscapes of the Canadian Northwest where he went to work. Along with "The Cremation of Sam McGee", this poem was arguably his best known. It was the basis of a 1998 novel, The Man from the Creeks, by Robert Kroetsch, a longtime admirer of Service's works. It was also the inspiration for the 1949 song "Dangerous Dan McGrew" by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Also it has been recalled in the fourth strophe of the song "Put the Blame on Mame", sung by Rita Hayworth in the 1946 film Gilda; the text claims that rather than being shot and killed, Dan McGrew was slain by Mame's "hoochy-coo" dance. Also, the poem was recited by Miss Marple in the 1964 film Murder Most Foul, as her audition to join a theatrical troupe.
The character of Dan McGrew was based on William Nelson McGrew (1883-1960), who was born and raised in Guinda, California to Isaac and Nellie Ophelia (Thomas) McGrew and whose nickname was "Dangerous Dan". William McGrew had gone to the Yukon seeking his fortune during the Yukon Gold Rush. William McGrew and Robert Service were mutually antagonistic toward each other, and after one argument Robert Service is reputed to have said: "McGrew, some day I'll kill you." Service achieved his goal by killing Dan McGrew in this poem.
The poem's unique history as a spoken word piece was highlighted when US President Ronald Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did their own alternating recital of the poem both in private meetings and in public.
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1915 film)
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924 film)
- Charlotte MacLeod, writing as Alisa Craig, had one of her characters write a play based on The Shooting of Dan McGrew in her 1988 mystery novel, The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke. The poem is quoted at the beginning of the book.
- Dangerous Dan McFoo, 1939 cartoon directed by Tex Avery.
- The Shooting of Dan McGoo, 1945 cartoon directed by Tex Avery.
- Bluto is named "Dangerous Dan McBluto" in the 1946 Popeye cartoon Klondike Casanova.
- "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" text from Genius.com Miss Marple recites this in the 1964 British movie Murder Most Foul, based on an Agatha Christie story