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Northwest Outpost

Northwest Outpost

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Northwest Outpost  The daughter of a Russian general arrives at Fort Ross American outpost with a slightly credible motive, hiding her true reasons which have to do with treason and blackmail. Yet she can not but fall in love with Captain Lawrence, right hand to the governor and an apparently incorruptible man.

Somewhat a re-working of the lovers with antagonistic goals

Northwest Outpost  Nelson Eddy’s last feature (or penultimate).Still in very good voice as a 46 y.o. baritone whose renderings of “Raindrops on a Drum”,” Nearer and Dearer”,written by Rudolf Friml (“Rose Marie”),back from retirement for this work,are still a delight. Very much a repeat of the theme of “Rose Marie” i.e. Mountie,policeman,ranger,guard,soldier pursues beautiful suspect who has assignment to rescue fugitive lover,brother etc. The music by Friml rescues the story from the formula and there is some historic merit in the the settings in Fort Ross in California;the earlier scenes have incidental music evocative of P.Tchaikowski and reminiscent of “Balalaika” in which the two juvenile leads also starred.(They are also on opposite sides ). Ilona Massey (from Hungary)has a pleasant contralto voice and the film has a number of practiced or well known supporters:Joseph Shildkraut,Elsa Lanchester,Hugo Haas plus the talented director, Alan Dwan. Despite the fact that the two stars have aged by this time, this is pleasant entertainment with empathic background orchestral music.Forget the story,listen to the singing and also the newly formed “G.I.Chorus”. The final scene,both on horseback is just like the last in “Naughty Marietta”. Although done on the Republic lot, certainly not the “horse-opera” described by some critics.

Nelson and the Russians

In his last effort on the big screen Nelson Eddy turned to a familiar Russian theme that he previously used in Balalaika and in The Chocalate Soldier. Unfortunately Rudolf Friml did not provide him with any particularly memorable songs, in fact the best number is Weary, sung by the prisoners during their labor.

After Jeanette MacDonald, Ilona Massey was his best known co-star and both are ably supported by Elsa Lanchester and Joseph Schildkraut.

The plot is a bit hard to take. I think Martin Van Buren was one far thinking president to send Nelson Eddy out to ingratiate himself with the Russian colonists at Fort Ross. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing in the history books about this mission.

It would have been better to just make Nelson a Russian. Not like he hadn’t played one before.

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