Cast & Crew
At the turn of the century, French Canadian trapper Jules Vincent canoes to a riverside town and cheerfully adopts a stray cat. In the town saloon, Jules is attracted to a Chippewa Indian girl who sings there. While they are talking, a boorish drunk named Max Brody asks the girl for a hug. Jules knocks Brody out after a scuffle, and later drunkenly promises to take the girl north to her people. The next day, Jules does not remember his promise, but tells her that he will honor it. As the pair and the cat, whom Jules names "Ajidaumo," are leaving, Brody runs after them to apologize, then asks to come along, saying that he is good at navigating the rapids. After Jules agrees, they push off, but when they land in McQuarrie, Brody is not with them. Jules takes the girl back to her village, where they tell the chief that Brody was acting recklessly on the rapids. He was accidentally killed when Jules fired a warning shot that went awry because of the movements of the canoe. While they are in the village, North Western Mounted Police officer Constable Pedley arrives to seize some stolen horses. Although Pedley is only looking for horses, the chief advises Jules to go north into the wilderness.
Back in McQuarrie, Pedley's sergeant tells him that Brody's body was found and Jules is suspected of his murder. After failing to get information from Callahan, the local store owner and a friend of Jules, Pedley goes to Jules's cabin, where he finds the girl and Ajidaumo. The girl denies knowing where Jules is and says that he is innocent of murder, but Pedley says that running away makes him look guilty. Some time later, as Jules is trapping, he sees his old friend, Father Simon, half frozen in the wilderness. He takes the priest into his shack, but Simon dies after telling Jules that he is too good a man not to go back. At the same moment, Pedley appears. Jules tells him that Brody's death was self-defense, and offers him hospitality, even as Pedley places him under arrest. After helping to bury Simon the next morning, Pedley tells Jules that he is a good man, but must face the charges. They then start out on the trail to McQuarrie, with a handcuffed Jules walking ahead of the dogsled. Along the way Jules makes attempts to undermine Pedley's confidence in his ability to get them back to McQuarrie, but Pedley remains firm and the two men grow to respect each other.
One night, two strangers, Ruger and Sloan, approach their campfire after losing their own dog team. Ruger, who recognizes Jules and sees his handcuffs, secretly suggests that they get rid of Pedley. The next morning, Jules tells Pedley about Ruger and Sloan's plan, and when they try to execute it, Jules helps Pedley to overpower them. Ruger and Sloan are then sent away, but given directions to Jules's shack to keep them from starving. Some time later, Pedley leaves Jules at camp while he tries unsuccessfully to get his bearings. On the way back, he catches his leg in a beartrap and Jules comes to his rescue. Pedley must release Jules from his handcuffs to free the leg, prompting Jules to start to leave. He changes his mind, though, and Pedley lets Jules stay without the handcuffs. The next night, wolves attack the campsite. Jules is able to frighten them off with a shotgun, but not before Pedley is badly wounded. Jules cautorizes the wound, but Pedley is so traumatized that he cannot speak or act rationally. Jules takes over and guides him to McQuarrie, then takes him to his own cabin, where the girl and Ajidaumo are waiting. After helping Pedley to bed, the girl chastises Jules for bringing him back, but he tells her that he could not let Pedley die or be disgraced.
A few days later, while the girl is shopping at Callahan's, he tells her that the sergeant has come looking for Jules and that it is just a matter of time before he, like most of the village, deduces that Jules has returned. Jules now realizes that he must do something to help Pedley, a lonely man who earlier said that Jules was lucky to have a home, a girl and a cat. Hoping that facing death once more will snap Pedley out of his malaise, Jules buys an old canoe and takes Pedley to the rapids. As they try to navigate, Jules feigns reckless disregard for their safety, thus bringing Pedley back to life. When Jules fails to be more careful, Pedley fires a warning shot and the two tumble into the water. Onshore, Pedley pulls Jules to safety and thanks him. Later, at a hearing, Pedley testifies that in the rapids he feared for his life and had used his rifle against Jules just as Jules had against Brody. Hearing this, the sergeant lets Jules go free. Jules and the girl walk toward the river, but Jules turns back and gives Ajidaumo to Pedley so that he can build his own home around her.
John War Eagle
J. M. Kerrigan
G. Pat Collins
A. Arnold Gillespie
Alfred E. Spencer
Edwin B. Willis
The Wild North
Here, fitted out with buckskins and a labored French-Canadian accent, Granger stars as Jules Vincent, a notorious trapper who enjoys a layover in a riverside town before heading upstream to his Peace River cabin. He finds a distraction in an attractive Native American beer-hall chanteuse (Cyd Charisse), and wins her immediate friendship by fending off the drunken attentions of the hulking Max Brody (Howard Petrie). When Jules claims his canoe the following morning, he finds the lady holding him to his liquor-born promise to bring her North to her tribe. He's also approached by a now-sober and contrite Brody, who offers his good arm with a paddle in exchange for a lift upriver.
While three leave, only two disembark ashore at Charisse's tribal village. Vincent explains to the chief (John War Eagle) that Brody's incompetence threatened to scuttle them all upon rapids, and how what was meant to be a warning shot turned fatal instead. Certain that a fair trial won't be forthcoming, Jules presses forward into the most inhospitable of regions. Canadian justice must persevere, however, and an implacable RMCP constable named Pedley (Wendell Corey) is soon snooping around Jules's home base asking questions.
The local priest Father Simon (Morgan Farley) makes the dangerous journey on foot to beg Jules to surrender; the clergyman's efforts prove fatal, and Pedley arrives on the trapper's threshold to hear the father's dying words. Pedley is adamant about making an immediate turnaround, despite Vincent's warnings that the weather is slated to break for the worse. The treacherous trip back and the unlikely bond that forms between the free-spirited outdoorsman and the button-down cop engagingly fill the remainder of the screen time.
Direction was wisely assigned to the Hungarian-born veteran and action specialist Andrew Marton, who shared credit on Granger's rousing American screen debut King Solomon's Mines (1950). Marton's career as editor, second unit director and director spanned from the silent era to '60s TV adventure series such as Flipper and Daktari, and his most enduring professional accomplishment may be his second unit handling of the chariot race from Ben-Hur (1959).
Granger was effective as the scenario's antihero, and the role of the stolid mountie played to Corey's strengths. Charisse's efforts were more thankless, as the scenario didn't bother to give her character a real name, and gave her little opportunity to demonstrate she was more than a pair of million dollar legs. (The one-sheet gave more play to Cyd's stems than did the film's uncredited costume designer; claims of false advertising must have arisen from some corners.)
Producer: Stephen Ames
Director: Andrew Marton
Screenplay: Frank Fenton
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: E. Preston Ames, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Film Editing: John D. Dunning
Cast: Stewart Granger (Jules Vincent), Wendell Corey (Constable Pedley), Cyd Charisse (Indian girl), Morgan Farley (Father Simon), J.M. Kerrigan (Callahan), Howard Petrie (Brody), Houseley Stevenson (Old Man), Lewis Martin (Sergeant), John War Eagle (Indian Chief), Ray Teal (Ruger), Clancy Cooper (Sloan).
C-98m. Closed Captioning.
by Jay S. Steinberg
The Wild North
The film's working titles were The Wild North Country, The North Country and The Constable Pedley Story. Hollywood Reporter news items include Tudor Owen, Terry Wilson, Ed Jauregi, Paul Stader, George Bruggeman, Bert LeBaron, Bob Morgan, Lew Smith, Jack Sterling, Chris Schonberg and Allen Watson in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items, the film's pressbook and a feature article in the November 1952 issue of American Cinematographer reveal the following information about the production: The character of "Constable Pedley" was inspired by a turn-of-the century North West Mounted Police officer named Albert Pedley. The constable was sent to capture a criminal in 1904, a particularly harsh winter in Canada. Despite months of loneliness and cruel weather, and falling victim to the "white madness" of snow country, Pedley carried on and brought his prisoner to justice. Most of the film was shot on location in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming and along the Clearwater River in northern Idado. According to various contemporary sources, backgrounds were shot in February and March 1951 in Sun Valley, as well as along the Hood River and Galena Pass in Idaho. An April 8, 1951 New York Times feature article on the production indicated that filming, which could not take place across the Canadian border due to inclement weather, was scheduled to resume in June at "actual sites" of Pedley's journey near Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, but other sources, including the film's pressbook, indicate that only American locations were used.
The Wild North was the first film to be shot on the newly developed Ansco Color professional film. According to an M-G-M News article on April 2, 1951 and American Cinematographer, John Arnold, M-G-M's executive director of photography, and John Nicholaus, head of the studio's film laboratory, had worked with Ansco for ten years to develop the new process, which had significant improvements over Ansco's earlier reversal 35mm color film. According to press releases and the American Cinematographer articles, advantages to the new Ansco Color over other processes was that it could be used in standard black and white cameras and was "processed in the studio laboratory with essentially the same facility as black and white film...[making] possible many time-saving steps in the handling, development and screening of daily rushes." An additional advantage noted in American Cinematographer was that the film was particularly good for "day for night" shooting, which was used significantly in The Wild North.
According to a news item in The Toledo Blade that was dated 31 Mar, but did not specify a year, Paul Richardson, who was on leave from the U.S. Naval Academy, decided to confess that he had killed a man on 18 May of the previous year after sitting through two showings of The Wild North. The article quoted Richardson as saying that a line in the film, "The world is too wide to run away from sin," prompted his confession. The film's actual line, which was delivered by the dying "Father Simon," was "There's no wilderness wide enough to hide a sin."