Northwest Passage (Book I—Rogers’ Rangers). 1940. USA. Directed by King Vidor. 126 min.
Screenplay by Laurence Stallings, Talbot Jennings, based on the novel by Kenneth Roberts. With Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey. Northwest Passage recounts the adventures of Rogers’ Rangers, an 18th-century expeditionary force charged with wiping out an Indian tribe on the American frontier during the Seven Years War. As Major Rogers, a winning Spencer Tracy courageously guides his men through hostile territory and all manner of ambush, famine, whitewater rapids, and bullet wounds. Production on the film was no less daunting—heavy, cumbersome three-strip Technicolor cameras had to be hauled by train and caravan across the Idaho wilderness—but King Vidor and his Academy Award–nominated cinematographers William V. Skall and Sidney Wagner achieved majestic results, photographing the American West with the sublimity of an Albert Bierstadt or Thomas Moran painting. 5mm print from The Museum of Modern Art; courtesy Warner Bros.