9 April 2010 | kevinolzak
Crawford vs. Chaney
"North to the Klondike" (1941) was shot before Lon Chaney Jr. started "The Wolf Man," but released after, on Jan 23 1942, from the director of "The Ghost of Frankenstein," "House of Frankenstein," and "House of Dracula," Erle C.Kenton. Chaney had just finished working with brawling buddy Broderick Crawford (both former Lennies on stage in "Of Mice and Men") in the Western "Badlands of Dakota," in which both were villains. In this feature, Crawford is the hero, John Thorn, a mining engineer who journeys to 19th-century Alaska in search of gold, only to be rebuffed by his prospective employer, Nate Carson (Chaney), who offers to pay Thorn's return passage. Carson has already found the gold, and seeks to drive off all the settlers, burning their supplies and killing anyone who stands in his way. Thorn decides to remain and help out, overcomes the initial rejection of his sweetheart, Mary Sloan (Evelyn Ankers), and finally confronts the burly Carson in a genuine, knock-down, drag-out battle that the two actors usually conducted in the privacy of their dressing rooms. While the script is strictly routine, the film comes off as quite entertaining, thanks to beautiful on location shooting at Big Bear Lake, filling in for Alaska. Solid handling from a standout cast, including such dependable actors as Andy Devine, Lloyd Corrigan, Dorothy Granger, Keye Luke, and a young, clean-shaven Jeff Corey providing some comedy relief (he died in 2002). The diminutive Paul Dubov, as Chaney's main confederate, would go on to work with Roger Corman in 1955's "Day the World Ended," among other features (he died in 1979). Better things lay ahead for Chaney and the lovely Evelyn Ankers; while this was their first collaboration, their next would be their finest- "The Wolf Man" (their last together was 1944's "The Frozen Ghost"). Broderick Crawford had originated the role of Lennie Small in the Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men," before Chaney played the part in the Los Angeles version, and again in the feature film (and Crawford admitted that Chaney's was completely different from his). The two would reunite in two further features (4 overall), "Big House, U.S.A." and "Not as a Stranger," both in 1955.