Talkie of the Week: Alaska Passage
USA 1959, 71 minutes, black & white, 20th Century Fox. Director: Edward Bernds, Written by: Edward Bernds. Cast: Bill Williams, Naura Hayden (as Nora Hayden), Lyn Thomas, Leslie Bradley, Nick Dennis, Raymond Hatton, Fred Sherman, Court Shepard, Gregg Martell, Gene Roth, Jess Kirkpatrick, Jorie Wyler, Tommy Cook, Al Baffert
Plot summary: Al Graham runs a trucking business in Alaska, America’s final frontier which confronts him with washed out bridges, female hitchhikers and mayhem concerning his partner Gerard Mason and his scheming wife.
Review: Alaska Passage is a short little film for an audience who appreciates a decent cast of experienced actors who do their best to support a charmingly simple storyline. Forced to return to his home base, trucker Al Graham picks up hitchhiker Tina Boyd who is on her way to Fairbanks to land a job. Attracted to Al early on, she decides to take him up on his offer to stay in the little trucker town where he runs his business. The local diner always needs a helping hand. Finding available lodging not far from Al’s, she soon hooks up with him on an intimate level until his partner Gerard Mason comes to town with his wife Janet. Al Graham has a personal history with Mrs Mason which leads to all sorts of trouble for him and his business.
What may sound a little too dramatic or predictable on paper does work on screen. The movie, although not exactly a blockbuster, has a good pace and a convincing cast led by Bill Williams and Nora Hayden. They make it work, the roughness of the story so beautifully accentuated by the Alaskan setting, as well as the romance. Supported by Lyn Thomas and Leslie Bradley as Mr. and Mrs Mason, they keep you entertained for the entirety of seventy-one minutes, making you wish for more to come after the rather abrupt ending.
Alaska, still a frontier myth long after this movie was made and released, is what makes this movie special. The peculiar characters seem to be outcasts in a world like ours but fit right in where they choose to live. They cope with nature, unpredictable and vile at times, but also overwhelming and breathtaking. They get lonely in the wilderness, cut off civilization if a bridge washes out or a plane crashes, leaving them depending on no one but themselves. It is that atmosphere the film delivers, nicely translated into action by TV’s former Kit Carson and his surrounding cast of performers. A movie well done and diverting. A perfect treat for a foul weather weekend morning.