Saturday, December 17, 2011

Belle of the Yukon

The voice-over that reads the text on-screen as Belle of the Yukon begins says not to expect a movie filled with violence or one that is like the works of Robert Service.  He is the poet who wrote The Cremation of Sam McGee—see the link below—and it seems to me that the text at the start of this film is trying to imitate the style of that poem.  If that text had also said to expect a movie filled with musical numbers and improbable plot twists acted in overly broad comic fashion, I probably would not have watched it.  Fortunately, this 1944 movie was only 84 minutes long.

In Belle of the Yukon, Randolph Scott stars as Honest John Calhoun, proprietor of a saloon and dance hall in Malamute, Alaska, during the gold rush days.  With a name like Honest John, of course the man is not on the up and up.  The daughter of his manager, named Lettie, is played by Dinah Shore; she is in love with the piano player who has a seemingly shady past.  Gypsy Rose Lee plays Belle, who was John’s love interest in Seattle; she and her troupe of dancers have just arrived to work at the Emporium, as Honest John's place of entertainment is called.  The main plot points revolve around these four characters but there are several secondary plots as well.

The name Honest John reminds me of the name of the character Pete Duel played in The Young Country, Honest John Smith.  The con games played by John Calhoun in this film remind me of those pulled by Oscar Harlingen (played by Severn Darden) in Never Trust an Honest Man and by Heyes himself in Don’t Get Mad, Get Even

Like those ASJ episodes, there are double crosses in this movie as well and the only reason I watched Belle of the Yukon to the end was to see how they were resolved.  At one point, John Calhoun remarked, “You can carry this honesty thing too far”, and I can definitely envision Heyes saying something like that!

What I enjoyed most about Belle of the Yukon were the outrageous hats worn by Belle and her dancers.

Website about Robert Service: