What was left of the old guard @ Warner Bros. bet that this brawny multi-generational Alaskan epic by SHOW BOAT author Edna Ferber would match GIANT/’56, her Texas-set epic. There’s something almost touching in watching them repeat one corny plot-point after another, hoping for the commercial magic to happen all over again. This time around, the two rivals for the girl are Richard Burton & Robert Ryan, with Carolyn Jones (making like a young Bette Davis & getting away with it) as the gal who spends 40 years in a state of indecision. Meantime, babies, industrial empires, marital discord, politics, & personal tragedies ring the changes over three generations. Dramatically, the merits of fishermen vs. fisheries; Statehood vs. territory; marriage-of-convenience vs. tru-love; conservation vs. capitalism; and Eskimo/Caucasian miscegenation ought to have pepped up Vincent Sherman’s mighty stale megging, but a dearth of location shooting narrows the film’s already limited appeal. Still, theater mavens get to spot the young Shirley Knight; STAR TREK fans can watch a young George Takei handle a ‘Coolie’ characterization; and everyone can try to figure out how old Robert Ryan is supposed to be at the end of the story.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Henry Hathaway's SPAWN OF THE NORTH/'38 charts the Alaskan salmon trade w/ George Raft & Henry Fonda vying for Dorothy Lamour (VHS only) and his NORTH TO ALASKA/'60 finds John Wayne & Stewart Granger brawling over Capucine.