Cast & Crew
In Northwestern Canada, in the late nineteenth century, little Frank "Blackie" Marshall and James Kevin Gardiner, whose fathers are both in the North West Mounted Police, are playing in the woods when Indians attack their cabins and kill their families. Sgt. Duncan Frazier offers to rear the two boys as his own, and they agree. "Dad" Frazier is a good father and the boys are devoted to him, but the strong-willed Blackie always manages to get into trouble. After Blackie loses a valuable silver fox pelt by betting its value on one turn of a crooked roulette wheel at the Topaz, a gambling house owned by Martin Caswell, he and Dad quarrel and Blackie runs away. Many years later, Jim has realized his youthful ambition to be a Mountie, while Blackie has become a professional gambler. Blackie returns to town to visit Dad and Jim, but because it is a law that transients must be employed or leave town, Blackie goes to the Topaz and, with the aid of his advance man, "Slip" O'Marra, exposes Caswell's dishonesty and wins the casino. That same night, singer Jean Avery comes to town and gets a job at the Topaz, which Blackie promises will be an honest house. Some time later, Blackie and Jean have become romantically involved, but one evening, when Blackie asks Jim to keep Jean company, they fall in love. Jean goes to Blackie to ask him to marry her, but when he says that he isn't the marrying kind, she tells him that she loves Jim. Blackie wishes her well, and after she leaves, he finds a silk scarf and Mountie pin that Jim had loaned to her. Two weeks later, Fowler, a miner who was thrown out of the Topaz for cheating and warned by Blackie to pay what he owes, is confronted by Blackie at his mine. Fowler, who is a cohort of Caswell, has no intention of paying, and in a struggle, falls down the mine shaft, pulling the silk scarf, but not the Mountie pin, off Blackie's neck. After Fowler's body is discovered, a Mountie goes to Jim, who has just been promoted to sergeant, and shows him the torn scarf. Knowing that Jean left the scarf at the Topaz, Jim confronts Blackie, who denies being involved and produces an exact duplicate, with the pin attached. Although Jim believes Blackie, Caswell knows where Blackie got the duplicate scarf and blackmails him into playing roulette. If Caswell wins, he gets the Topaz, but if Blackie wins, Caswell will leave town. Because Blackie's luck has turned, he loses the Topaz. Then, as Blackie is leaving, Caswell tells him that he will blackmail Jim by threatening to tell the authorities that Jim let Blackie go in exchange for Jean. Knowing that he must save Jim, Blackie kills Caswell and runs away. Soon a Mountie goes to Jim's house to give him a warrant for Blackie's arrest, but Dad takes the warrant without Jim's knowledge, dons his old uniform and rides after Blackie. A short time later, Slip, who secretly witnessed the killing, goes to Jim and begs him to save Blackie. When Jim sees that Dad's uniform is gone, he knows what has happened and goes after them. Dad has meanwhile found Blackie and orders him to go back for trial. Blackie refuses and, as Jim arrives, slugs Dad and starts to ride off. Left with no other choice, Jim shoots Blackie in the back, then goes to him. As he dies, Blackie smiles and tells Jim that he is proud of him.
Philip Van Zandt
Ivan "dusty" Miller
Frank E. Hull
Edwin B. Willis
The working title of the film was Gambler's Choice. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Charles Lawton was originally set to photograph the film and John Carroll was at one time cast in the role of "Blackie." Other news items indicate that portions of the film were shot in Idyllwild, CA and that the film was going to be shown as a "unit show" with Whistling in the Dark (see below). Northwest Rangers was one of several late 1942 M-G-M films that were backlogged and May not have been released throughout the country until early 1943. According to press information contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, the story was to end after "Blackie" was brought back to trial and sent to the gallows, a conclusion similar to Manhattan Melodrama, the 1934 M-G-M film on which Northwest Rangers was based. Arthur Caesar, who wrote the original story of the 1934 film, is given onscreen credit for the story of Northwest Rangers. Manhattan Melodrama was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starred Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2734).
Reviews indicate that all versions of Northwest Rangers, even those shown at press previews, had the ending as stated in the above summary. The CBCS lists a number of actors and roles for a courtroom and execution sequence, but they were not in the viewed print. Those sequences were apparently shot, but removed prior to the first press previews. Actors listed but not seen in the viewed print were: George Carleton (Bailiff), Howard Hickman (Judge), Emmett Vogan (Jury foreman), William Tannen, Roy Barcroft, Herbert Heyes, Pat McVey and Leigh Sterling (Guards), James Millican (Warden), Russell Hicks (High Commissioner) and Hooper Atchley, Howard Mitchell, Dick Rush and Murdock MacQuarrie (Jury). According to a July 14, 1942 M-G-M press release, the North West Mounted Police did not like the picture and objected to the frequent use of the word "Mountie" in the story.