North Woods Drama

 From the teens through the twenties, many movies were set in the north woods, the Northwest, and beyond the trees to the Arctic--snow pictures. Adventures set in a hearty north land, now largely forgotten in favor of Westerns, were immensely popular.

Between 1911-1920 the American Film Institute Catalog sorts films into 27 genres including Northwest drama, Western, and Rural (there were 74 rural pictures). There are 114 "Northwest dramas." The subject index of the same volume lists Forests, Forest fires, Forest rangers. In the 1921-1930 volume Reforestation appears, along with Northwest Mounted Police, French Canadians, Wolves.

A full-page ad in the trade journal Wid's in 1918, for a Port Henry, NY, production facility (see Rough and Ready) gives us a hint of the types of films and their geography: "The best location in America for Northwestern, Lumber Camp, Yukon, Siberian, Lapland, Russian and Eskimo scenes. Truly nature's wonder spot. Mountains, Valleys, Rivers, Lakes, Waterfalls, Chasms, Forests, Logging camps, Log runs, Log jams, etc."

Cultural signifiers here include plaid shirts (and little moustaches) for woodsmen and French Canadians; see The Flaming Forest and The Flower of the North.

This Web exhibition of posters is made possible by Richard C. Allen, a friend of Northeast Historic Film, who says, "as a youngster I was hooked on the Northwest Mounted Police." The majority of the images are from his collection of movie poster transparencies. From them we can grasp the vitality-and stereotyping-of North Woods Dramas. The films were fiction films, nonfiction, and a few in between.

 

1912

Carnegie Alaska-Siberia Expedition  (Frank E. Kleinschmidt, 1912)     A documentary of the Carnegie Expedition to Alaska and Siberia led by Captain Frank E. Kleinschmidt. Shot by Kleinschmidt, the film shows the explorers studying the environment, the Eskimos' habitat, and the arctic wildlife of reindeer, caribou, and polar bears. Kleinschmidt introduced the film and gave a lecture at its premiere in New York.

1914

AN ODYSSEY OF THE NORTH (1914), courtesy Richard C. Allen AN ODYSSEY OF THE NORTH (1914), courtesy Richard C. Allen An Odyssey of the North (1914),
courtesy Richard C. Allen

THE SPOILERS (1914), courtesy Richard C. AllenTHE SPOILERS (1914), courtesy Richard C. AllenThe Spoilers (1914),
courtesy Richard C. Allen

1915

THE LURE OF ALASKA AND THE YUKON TERRITORY (1915), courtesy William O'Farrell
 

1917

THE GREAT WHITE TRAIL (1917), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

1918

ROUGH AND READY (1918), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

1919

THE GIRL ALASKA (1919), courtesy Richard C. Allen THE VALLEY OF THE GIANTS (1919), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 
BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY (1919), courtesy Richard C. Allen WOLVES OF THE NIGHT (1919), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 

1920

THE RIVER'S END (1920), courtesy William O'Farrell
 

1921

FLOWER OF THE NORTH (1921), Richard C. Allen THE HEART OF THE NORTH (1921), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 
O'MALLEY OF THE MOUNTED (1921), courtesy Richard C. Allen TANGLED TRAILS (1921), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 

1922

BRAWN OF THE NORTH (1922), courtesy Richard C. Allen NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922), courtesy Richard C. Allen
   

1923

MCGUIRE OF THE MOUNTED (1923), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

1924

THE SHOOTING OF DAN MCGREW (1924), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

1925

WINDS OF CHANCE (1925), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

1926

THE FLAME OF THE YUKON (1926), courtesy Richard C. AllenTHE FLAME OF THE YUKON (1926), courtesy Richard C. AllenThe Flame of the Yukon (1926),
courtesy Richard C. Allen

THE FLAMING FOREST (1926), courtesy Richard C. Allen THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS (1926), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 
GLENISTER OF THE MOUNTED (1926), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
ROCKING MOON (1926), courtesy Richard C. Allen WINGS OF THE STORM (1926), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 
 

1928

ROSE-MARIE (1928), courtesy Ricard C. Allen
 

1932

IGLOO (1932), courtesy Richard C. Allen
 

Further Reading

Back to Nature, Peter J. Schmitt

Hollywood's Canada: The Americanization of our National Image, Pierre Berton

The War, the West, and the Wilderness, Kevin Brownlow

 

Credits

Images, Richard C. Allen and William O'Farrell

Introductory Text, Karan Sheldon

Scans, Angela Barker