Northwest Mounted Police (1940)

“Blood – you won’t notice it much; those Northwest mounted police wear red coats.”

Synopsis:
A Texas ranger (Gary Cooper) hoping to arrest a murderous trapper (George Bancroft) travels to the northwest prairies of Canada, where he encounters a band of mounted police about to fight a rebellion by native peoples and “half-breed” locals led by Louis Riel (Francis McDonald). Loyalties become complicated when Cooper falls for a beautiful nurse (Madeleine Carroll) whose brother (Robert Preston) is enamored with Bancroft’s manipulative daughter (Paulette Goddard); meanwhile, Goddard will stop at nothing to defend both her people and the man she’s obsessively in love with (Preston), and a Mountie (Preston Foster) hoping to marry Carroll resents Cooper’s presence.

Genres:

Review:
Cecil B. DeMille directed this Technicolor blockbuster by Paramount Studios, based on a real-life rebellion taking place in Saskatchewan, Canada in the late 1880s. It was soundly lambasted by Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss in their book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (and How They Got That Way) (1978), and while it doesn’t quite merit that label, it is pretty lame — thanks primarily to Goddard’s god-awful performance as a “half-breed” femme fatale, but also to Cooper’s aw-shucks western presence in a film depicting a momentous Canadian event; the “comic relief” of a red-headed Scotsman (Lynne Overman) wearing a tam-o-shanter that plays a critical role in a later scene; and “immortal dialogue” such as the following:

Preston: “You’re the sweetest poison that ever got into a man’s blood!”

Goddard: “I love you so terrible bad I feel good.”

Carroll: “Oh, Dusty — you’re an angel in leather!”
Cooper: “Heh… I’d look funny with leather wings.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine Technicolor cinematography and sets

Must See?
Nope; you can skip this one.

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One Response to “Northwest Mounted Police (1940)”

  1. First viewing – yes, please, skip it.

    ‘NMP’ is full of the kind of bland earnestness that is the trademark of most DeMille movies. There are times we mind it less – say, ‘The Ten Commandments’ and ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – because the blandness is on such a grand scale (bland and grand simultaneously is quite an accomplishment!). But, in a case like ‘NMP’, it can start working on you like a sleeping pill.

    Some actors who are generally fine elsewhere tend, in DeMille’s hands, to give way to their least interesting work. This is most likely because DeMille had a tendency to latch onto writers who specialized in a fascinating (if also bland) mix of melodrama and cornball. Such scripts can be very difficult to act (with a straight face).

    Goddard is particularly abysmal. Cooper is so unobtrusive that he might as well have been part of the sound-stage sets. Carroll, Foster, Preston and Akim Tamiroff all try to maintain a bit of dignity (even though they have all been encouraged to be one-note).

    Coming on the heels of ‘Gone With the Wind’, DeMille may have been ‘inspired’ to do some kind of war epic but ‘NMP’ is not epic-like in war film terms (though he does try to squeeze in his own rough equivalent of the burning of Atlanta).

    Overall, the cast seems grateful to have jobs (while likely looking forward to the picture being finished).

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