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Western films, from silent to today

Call of the Wild (1935)

Call of the Wild (1935) poster Clark Gable plays Jack Thornton, who loses all his gold gambling in the Alaskan town of Skagway, but also runs into an old acquaintance with a $1 million proposition.

Shorty Hoolihan is just out of jail after serving six months for tampering with other people’s mail. One of the letters he opened included a map to a rich strike far to the north. So he and Thornton set out to find that strike.

It’ll be a race to the mine, because John Blake and his wife Claire (Loretta Young), to whom the letter was addressed, are also searching for it. At least they are until Thornton and Shorty come upon their wrecked camp.

Claire appears to be the only survivor; her husband went off looking for food two days earlier and hasn’t returned. He’s presumed dead. And wolves have killed off their pack of dogs.

Begrudgingly, Claire travels back to the safety of the town of Dawson with the two men; then forms a partnership with them. As the days pass, Thornton is helping her forget that lost husband.

They find the mine. And it’s certainly a rich one. But now a Mr. Smith has learned of the mine as well. And in the Klondike, the spoils go to the person who takes what he wants.

Rating 4 out of 6Review:

This marked the second starring role in a Western for Clark Gable, who was a star by the time this film was released and a much better actor than when he appeared in 1931’s “Painted Desert.”

But the film also benefits from the presence of Jack Oakie as his partner Shorty Hoolihan, Reginald Owen as the villain and Buck, the wonder dog, who at one point pulls a 1,000-pound sled 100 yards to win a bet and finance Thornton’s search for the Blake gold mine.

In the original version of the film, Oakie’s character died. But poor audience response during a screening convinced filmmakers to alter that outcome.

Meanwhile, Gable and Young had a real-life romance during filming, resulting in Young giving birth to an out-of-wedlock daughter. Judy Lewis, supposedly Young’s adopted daughter, revealed that long-kept secret in a 1994 book.

Silent versions of the Jack London story on which this film is based were released in 1908 and 1923, and the film was remade in 1972 with Charlton Heston in the lead role.

Clark Gable as Jack Thornton with Buck in Call of the Wild (1935)Directed by:
William Wellman

Clark Gable … Jack Thornton
Loretta Young … Claire Blake
Jack Oakie … Shorty Hoolihan
Reginald Owen … Mr. Smith
Frank Conroy … John Blake
Katherine DeMille … Marie
Sidney Toler … Joe Groggins
James Burke … Ole
Charles Stevens … Francois
Lalo Encinas … Kali
Thomas E. Jackson … Tex Rickard
Russ Powell … Bartender
Herman Bing … Sam
George MacQuarrie … Mounted policeman

Runtime: 89 min.

Memorable lines:

Groggins about Buck: “He’s on a hunger strike.”
Jack Thornton: “He won’t eat anything.”
Groggins: “Nothing but your hand or your foot or points north.”

Mr. Smith: “Once in a while, people do laugh at me. But very briefly.”

Claire Blake, about her husband: “He isn’t dead. I won’t believe that.”
Jack Thornton; “Listen, lady, in this country, when a guy’s gone for two days, he’s gone.”

Jack Thornton to Claire: “You know, it’s customary up here, Mrs. Blake, for everybody to pitch in and do their share. You’ve been with us for two days and up until now, you haven’t done anything but sit around and look nasty.”

Jack Thornton to Claire: “Want you? We just had an attack of insanity and decided to keep you from committing suicide. A very bad idea, come to think of it.”

Shorty about Claire: “She’s one in a million.”
Jack Thornton: “You think so.”
Shorty: “Yeah, she don’t talk.”

Shorty Hoolihan: “Gee, I wonder what it’s going to be like having things instead of wishing for them.”
Claire Blake: “It’s not nearly as much fun.”
Jack Thornton: “You’re wrong, Claire. Wishing never got anybody anyplace. It’s owning something that counts and taking it when you can’t get it any other way … that’s all right too. It’s the law up here … the law of the Klondike. If there is something you need, grab it. Take it away from the other guy. It’s a good law. It works.”
Claire Blake: “No, it only works when you deserve to have what you take. Otherwise, it’s stealing. Perhaps that particular commandment isn’t respected up here.”
Jack Thornton: “They all get broken. That one gets splintered.”

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