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Hollywood and the Movies

The most famous motion picture about the Klondike is surely Charlie Chaplin's world-acclaimed 1925 classic called "Gold Rush". Yet is it by no means the only Hollywood movie to use the Klondike as a backdrop for stars of the days. Even Mickey Mouse got into the act.

There were at least 16 movies which used the Klondike in the title. Many more play on the words Yukon, gold rush and the days of '98. Klondike Kate's story was told in a 1944 Columbia picture starring Ann Savage. Jack London's stories from the far north were chronicled in many features including "North to the Klondike", "Queen of the Klondike", and, of course, "Call of the Wild". This last was produced in 1932 by 20th Century Fox and starred none other than Clarke Gable. Another version of this famous dog story featured Charleton Heston.

Even Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Heddy Lamour were bitten by Klondike fever. "Road to Utopia" was one of seven 'road' pictures made by the famous trio. All were parodies on life in general, and the film-making business in particular. But the "Road to Utopia" was brutal in its satire about film production. One scene shows an extra walking through a snow-covered set asking for directions to stage 8. A mountain in Alaska is suddenly ringed with floating stars resembling Paramount Pictures logo. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope wear beards which make no attempt to disguise the fact that they are fake. The Klondike outfits are worth the laugh they are meant to generate.

Movie reviews were generally kind to Hope and Crosby for their light-hearted look at the Klondike. They were less so in their review of the 1936 release of Jack London's marvelous story "White Fang", produced by the renowned Darryl F. Zanuch. "White Fang is a sometimes exciting", wrote the New York Screen News. "But mostly it borders on the burlesque. It's a barking picture that has no bite."

In 1932, Walt Disney joined the Klondike movie rush in a cartoon called the "Klondike Kid". The film sets Mickey Mouse as a piano player in a Dawson saloon. Here he comforts poor Minney Mouse, who is then captured by the dastardly villain, Pete. Following a dramatic Charlie Chaplin-like fight scene, Mickey rescues Minney. Apart from its attachments to the Klondike, the real value of "The Klondike Kid" lies in the movie's poster. It ranks in the top ten movie posters of all time in terms of dollar value. Only three are known to exist. If you have one, it's worth US $55,000 to a collector.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin