Call of the Wild (1935)

“Well, they wanted gold — now they got it.”

Synopsis:
A prospector (Clark Gable), his buddy (Jack Oakie), and their new dog accompany the rescued wife (Loretta Young) of a missing prospector (Frank Conroy) on a search for a legendary gold mine during the Klondike Gold Rush — but a weaselly rival (Reginald Owen) is determined to get there first, and will stop at nothing to claim the plot for himself.

Genres:

Review:
William Wellman’s very loose adaptation of Jack London’s novel (which “omits all but one of the book’s storylines”, and adds in a romance) is best known as the film during which Clark Gable and Loretta Young had an affair that resulted in a child Young claimed was adopted, but who looked unmistakably like a hybrid of them. Indeed, the obvious chemistry between the on-screen pair (especially when we learn that Young’s presumed-missing husband is still alive) helps drive the narrative forward; that, and the convincing rapport between Gable and the lovable St. Bernard playing “Buck”. As an adventure story, Call of the Wild is pretty standard fare, though Owen is as dastardly as they come, and cold-blooded enough to pose a serious threat to the protagonists. It’s unfortunate that dehumanization of Native Americans bookends the film: in an opening scene, a large Native woman is shown pulling a man on a sled, clearly exhausting herself through heavy manual labor on behalf of white men; and in the final scene, another Native woman is shown toting gear like a sherpa, and is literally referred to by Gable as “it”. Perhaps we should thank Hollywood for preserving evidence of the casual normalcy of racism during this era.

Note: We recently visited a restaurant in Mt. Baker, Washington (where much of the film was shot), and I took some photos of memorabilia scattered across the walls:

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Young and Gable’s obvious romantic chemistry
  • Fine use of outdoor locations at Mt. Baker, Washington

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look for Gable and Young’s chemistry.

Links:

One Response to “Call of the Wild (1935)”

  1. Just rewatched this; I’d seen it once before, years ago. Agreed, not must-see – although it’s a reasonably-ok film if, as stated, pretty standard.

    To be honest, I’d more or less completely forgotten it. Seeing it again, I did feel myself pulled in from the start – say, for about the first twenty minutes or so. But, from there, the ‘standard’ quality seemed to ease in. I had been hoping it might be more gripping than it turned out to be.

    Part of that – I think – had something to do with the predictable nature of the love angle (slow though it is in developing). As well, a certain ‘Hollywood quality’ makes itself known from time to time (esp. in some of the dialogue and in some of the characters’ behavior, which at times seems to run contrary to what the situation calls for).

    Still, it’s mainly put-together well and compelling-enough for a watch, esp. if you like William Wellman films.

    I loved all of the stuff that deals more directly with the St. Bernard – ‘Buck’.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.