Belle of the Yukon

You’ve no doubt heard ads that promote films with the line, “nominated for 2 Academy Awards.”  But, that doesn’t mean whole heck of a lot.  I mean, Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit” was nominated for an Academy Award (makeup).  Being nominated does not insure a great movie.  Case in point: the 1944 RKO western musical “Belle of the Yukon,” which somehow managed to get nominations for original song and original score.

I really don’t know where to start with summing up the plot on this one…it had me confused and bored from the start.  The story takes place during the Alaskan Gold Rush.  Belle De Valle (Gypsy Rose Lee) and her dancing girls have just arrived in town to begin their stay as headliners at the local saloon.  This little saloon is like Dr. Who’s TARDIS…bigger on the inside.  Heck, the place would give Caesar’s Palace a run for it’s money.  Pop Candless (Charles Winniger) manages the joint for Honest John Calhoun (Randolph Scott).  Pop’s daughter Lettie (Dinah Shore) sings in the saloon too, as has the hots for piano player Steve Atterbury (William Marshall).

It turns out that Belle and Honest John have a past.  John was once known as Gentleman Jack, a con man…currently wanted by the Seattle police.  From there I just got confused.  There’s something about a con involving a slimy gambler and a ton of gold dust.  Meanwhile, Pop is trying to get rid of Steve…thinking he’s courting his daughter while actually having a wife and kids back in Seattle.  This is reason enough to have him arrested, apparently.  It’s very easy to get lost in this muddled storyline.

But the biggest problem with the film is that almost the entire cast lack any depth or emotion.  Randolph Scott, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Dinah Shore all look like mannequins…incapable of anything remotely resembling an expression.  There is nothing about their performances than invites you into their story…and that’s a huge problem for a movie to have.  The only exception is Bob Burns who has a handful of great comedic moments with Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, playing the local marshal.“Belle of the Yukon” is a western that is completely devoid of action, a comedy that has almost no laughs, and a musical that contains some of the least memorable songs ever.  But hey…nominated for two Academy Awards!

One thought on “Belle of the Yukon

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  1. This really does seem a forgotten, and forgettable, film – I wasn’t aware until I saw it a few years ago that Gypsy Rose Lee had actually made some movies. As you note, the action is confusing and unmemorable, and Scott is wasted. About the only feature that stuck out for me was the flamboyant design for Lee’s costumes (if anything should have gotten a nomination, it should have been for that).

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