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
On June 23rd, 1925, four men stood on top of Mount Logan. They had become the first to climb Canada’s highest mountain. The story of the climb began three years earlier. In 1922, the Alpine Club of Canada decided Mt. Logan had to be climbed. It was to be an international event with six mountaineers from Canada, the US and Britain. The leader was A.H. MacCarthy from British Columbia.
MacCarthy scouted three possible routes to get to the mountain including one that began in Whitehorse where the team could travel to Silver City, in the Kluane region, along a wagon road. However, this would need to be followed by a 100-kilometer trek across glaciers that had not been explored. So, instead, MacCarthy chose a route starting from a small mining town in Alaska named, strangely, McCarthy.
On May 2nd, 1925, the team sailed from Seattle to Cordova, Alaska. From there they travelled to McCarthy. On May 12th, the party set off down the Chitina Valley, with a pack train of horses and mules, on an 88-mile journey. On May 17th they arrived at the foot of the Chitina Glacier. From there it was a fifty-mile walk to the Logan massif.
This adventure was of international importance and prompted TIME Magazine, in the fall of 1925, to write a feature story. TIME wrote: that they climbed the steep ascent of Logan, triumphant over gravity, tempests, blizzards, monstrous ice-cliffs and blocks of fantastic shapes with overhanging masses.
Scaling one peak only to find one 600 ft. higher looming beside them, they toiled 1,000 feet down, then hacked footholds up to the true peak. They stood for an hour on a ledge, a yard wide, looking off over a billowing sea of clouds punctured by glacier-streaming peaks.
Having taken photographs and observations, they clambered down, beset by icy hurricanes that blasted from the great peak. Digging into the snow by night, mushing painfully on "moderately" frostbitten feet by day, the climbers wended down as they had wended up, through their advance camp on a ridge at 18,500 ft. down to a bivouac in Windy Camp, on down through the frosted portcullis of McCarthy Gap to the foot of King Col Massif, to Trails End. Tired and sore of foot, they there constructed rafts of logs, planks, boxes, to float down the Chitina River to McCarthy. Four of the six climbers had reached the peak."
Two climbers did not reach the summit. They had to struggle down the mountain early because of frostbitten feet.
Mount Logan was now conquered but remained untouched for the following twenty-five years. In 1950, two parties reached the summit of Mt. Logan via the King Trench route which had been pioneered by MacCarthy’s team.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Mount Logan