NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE
(director: William Witney; screenwriter: from a story by Eric Taylor/Eric Taylor; cinematographer: Jack Marta; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: R. Dale Butts; cast: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers), Penny Edwards (Ann Keith, District Nurse), Gordon Jones (Splinters Mcgonagle), Roy Barcroft (Banning), Jack Lambert (Henchman Stagg), Keith Richards (Dacona), Noble Johnson (Nagura, Oseka Chief), Douglas Evans (Mountie Sergeant), Al Bridge (Henry Gates), Holly Bane (Deputy Bill Hartley), Alden ‘Stephen’ Chase (Sheriff Bradley) ; Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward J. White; Republic; 1950)
“Excels in its PC stance that is both pro-Indian and pro-conservation.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran B western filmmaker William Witney (“Sunset in the West”/””The Far Frontier”/”In Old Amarillo”) helms this barely passable in the action department Roy Rogers western; it excels in its PC stance that is both pro-Indian and pro-conservation. It’s written by Eric Taylor. It’s beautifully shot in Trucolor.
It has Roy as a blood brother to the Oseka chief’s son Dacona (Keith Richards), after saving him from a wolf attack. Roy adopts the surviving baby cub and immediately switches jobs from a forester to an Indian agent. It’s set in the Pacific Northwest, on the American-Canadian border.
Things are going fine for the Oseka, who every year celebrate the return of the salmon to spawn. The Indians from this salmon run can be fed all year, as they smoke the fish for the winter. But things rapidly change for the worse when Chief Nagura (Noble Johnson, a black actor playing in his last film after a long career taking bit parts in many different roles) learns of a new cannery in the territory run by the evil Banning (Roy Barcroft) and his ruthless foreman enforcer Stagg (Jack Lambert). They set traps and over-fish, leaving the Indians with not enough salmon to survive. A war breaks out and Roy’s boss, Henry Gates, at the Indian Affairs office, sends him along with indolent co-worker Splinters (Gordon Jones) to settle matters or else he’ll be forced to send the tribe to a reservation. Roy works out a peace agreement that has the untrustworthy Banning release some of his traps, but when a Mountie is found dead in the river the blame is layed on Nogura because his rifle was found nearby. The unbelievable plot has the Mountie sergeant leave Nogura in Roy’s custody, only to have Stagg break into the unguarded jail and take the prisoner back to the cannery. The crooked cannery owner plans to burn down the competing canneries on the Canadian side and blame it on the Indians. But Roy foils their sabotage plans, and has a climactic whip fight with the whip-wielding Stagg. When the dust settles, the bad guys are arrested, the Indians joyfully watch as the salmon return to spawn in the river, and Roy arranges for an international treaty between the Americans, Canadians and Indians that ensures from now on everyone will get their fair share of fish.
Penny Edwards takes the place of Dale Evans, and plays the district nurse for the Indians. Foy Willing and theRiders of the Purple Sage are around as singing cowboys. Gordon Jones replaces Gabby Hayes as Roy’s comic sidekick, but no one can replace that ornery critter.
It’s not much, but I expect little from a Roy Rogers western and got more than what I expected. What I got was Roy having time to sing three songs, get in a few fistfights and act more decent than most modern-day politicians about doing the right thing about the environment and the civil rights of the Indians. Pardner, put that in your peace pipe and smoke it!
REVIEWED ON 10/7/2007 GRADE: B-