NORTH TO ALASKA. 20th Century Fox, 1960. John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen. Director: Henry Hathaway.

   Watching Henry Hathaway’s North to Alaska, a comedic Western starring John Wayne, one cannot help but compare it to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). Both movies feature a contemporary young musical star (Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo and Fabio in North to Alaska) and a young beautiful actress to portray John Wayne’s love interest (Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo and French actress Capucine in North to Alaska).

   Similarly, both films are buddy movies, in which the theme of male friendship and loyalty is explored, and battle of the sexes romantic comedies, thematically similar to the British and Italian sex comedies from the same time period.

   Yet despite all the similarities and the fact that North to Alaska is a truly beautifully filmed Cinemascope production, it is not nearly as captivating as Hawks’ masterpiece. That’s not to say that North to Alaska doesn’t have some truly hilarious moments and that Wayne doesn’t give a solid performance. It’s just that there are too many weak, bland scenes in the movie for one to equate it as being remotely on par with Rio Bravo.

   Even so, this enjoyable, if at times bawdy, feature about love in the time of the Alaskan gold rush is still a much better Western than many that came out in the early 1960s. It’s good movie, just not one for the ages.