In the fantastic Northwestern North West Mounted Police, Gary Cooper plays Texas Ranger Dusty Rivers, on assignment in Canada, on the trail of the murderer Jacques Corbeau (played by the blunt-faced character actor George Bancroft). As it turns out, Corbeau is one of a trio of Métis (also called half-breeds in the film) revolutionaries, intent on rebelling against the British Empire and starting an independent government. Historically, though the Métis are the descendants of European settlers and aboriginal Canadians, they have no recognised status (unlike relatively pure-blooded natives); in fact, by some definitions, currently half of Canada are Métis, as at least 50% are of mixed blood. At the time in which the film is set it was apparently a clearer distinction, as evidenced by the real-life North-West Rebellion upon which this film was based.
Marshall Rivers reports the the fort where the Canadian Mounties are stationed, just in time for Corbeau to join with the Métis rebel Louis Riel (now a schoolteacher) returning some years after having failed in his first attempt at insurrection (the Red River Uprising, also known as the First Riel Rebellion). There Rivers meets the super-Mountie Sergeant Jim Brett, played by the very cool Preston Foster The situation becomes quite fun when there are sparks between Dusty and Sergeant Brett's love interest, the regional nurse April Logan (played by the majestic Madeleine Carroll). The natural alpha male tension is already highly charged, but here is where the fun really begins! Between this love triangle and the upcoming insurrection, there is plenty of plot to be worked, but it never becomes too much. I was impressed by the level of brutality shown here, as well as by the general humanity of the characters.
Although this is technically Cooper's vehicle, I think the guy that shines best is Preston Foster. He's so amazingly masculine and driven that his uncompromisingly honourable and courageous Sgt. Brett never strikes a wrong note. In fact, it took a guy with Cooper's presence for Foster not to run away with the whole thing!
Of course, like the "regular" western, there are sociopolitical issues inherent to the story that might, for some, make it difficult to watch. Lots of people of many cultural backgrounds died to create modern America and, it seems, Canada, and those stories are filled with conflict and moral ambiguities. The British Empire spawned a lot of those stories and issues, as all empires tend to do. I, for one, don't let myself get involved with those issues; I take the story as it is, and I roll with it. North West Mounted Police is quite an exciting story to roll with!
Learn about the first Riel Rebellion HERE
Learn about the second Riel Rebellion HERE
Here is my (ever-growing) list of Mountie movies and serials! They span from 1914 to modern times, and cover every style and format; silent, talkie, b&w, colour, film, videotape, & DVD! Enjoy!