THE TRAIL OF '98
Starring Delores Del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Karl Dane, Harry Carey and Tully Marshall
The historic gold rush of 1898, when Alaska lured adventurous
souls to seek newly discovered treasure in the face of unimagined
hardships, has been brought to the screen with magnificent sweep
and vigor by Clarence Brown, in "The Trail of '98."
It is a thrilling spectacle, broad in scope, touching in detail, and as true a picture of that epochal days as the screen has ever given, or probably will ever give.
Whereas there have been innumerable Alaskan picture, countless melodrama of the dance halls and gold files, there never has been a film which crystallized the spirit of the pioneers, or attempted to show the tremendous adventure which engaged them. "The Trail of '98" does just that, and does it in such good measure that the fate of the lovers does not become an issue until the last two reels are reached. In short, for the most part, it is a great spectacle enlivened by no end of human touches, but is without strong love interest until later than it should be.
Nevertheless, it has a climax completely new to the screen, brought about when hero and villain have ahand-to-0hand battle as violent as can be imagined, the culmination of which is the hurling of a lighted kerosene lamp at the villain. It explodes and covers him with flame. As he staggers out of the room, he falls from the balcony onto the floor of the dance hall, sets fire to the building and Dawson City burns. It is sheer horror and surprise.
But it is for it earlier moments that "The Trail of '98" will be long remembered. These include the sailing from San Francisco of the gold seekers, among whom are Larry, the hero, and the heroine, Berna, and her father; Jack Locasto, a gambler and general bad man; Lars Petersen, a dumb Swede; Samuel Foote, "Salvation Jim," and the other principals all of whom are definitely colorful bits of humanity in the welter of nameless flotsam and jetsam bound for the Far North.
It is when the voyage is ended that the pictorial magnificence of the film begins to awe the spectator, as the gold hunters pit their endurance against the forbidding heights of Chilkoot Pass and gamble their lives against the treacherous peril of White Horse Rapids. The latter episode together with a snow slide, is aided by a device similar to that first used in "Old Ironside," whereby the screen is magnified and the scenes are brought closer to the audience. Thus the snow slide apparently sweeps out over the stage and overwhelms the spectator. The love story, as pointed out above, is naturally of secondary importance to thrills such as this.
When finally Dawson Cit is reached, and the pioneers begin their search for gold in earnest, Locasto pays Foote to decoy Larry far from the scene in order that he, Locasto, may possess Berna. Forlorn and all but starving, she accepts the supposed friendship of Mrs. Bulkey, also in the pay of Locasto, and eventually accepts Locasto because there is no other refuge. She has become the usual dance-hall girl when Larry returns laden with gold, and fondly believes that Berna is his reward. Desperate and heartbroken, she flings the treasure in his face and cries: "Everything's too late!" This precipitates the memorable fight, the death of Locasto and the reconciliation of the lovers.
This small, conventional story gives no inkling of the largeness of the scene surrounding it. N or can it even suggest the effectiveness of the acting of Dolores del Rio and Ralph Forbes. The later easily gives his best performance so far, and offer belated justification for his abandonment of the stage for the screen. Harry Carey is Locasto, as fine a bad man as the camera has ever found in Alaskan melodrama, and Karl Dane reaps laughs galore as the Swede. George Cooper is no less important and skill is seen in all the lesser roles played by Emil Fitzroy, Tully Marshall, Russell Simpson, Doris Lloyd, Polly Moran, Cesare Gravina, and Tenen Holtz, forgetting for not one moment those brief flashes in which the boy, Johnny Downs, significantly appears.
TRAIL OF '98
starring Dolores Del Rio and Ralph Forbes
This is the picture that lifted Clarence Brown into the position of highest paid director in Hollywood. As the result of "The Trail of '98," Brown will get $300,000 a year whether or not he works.
Probably Brown is worth it. He has not made a boxoffice flop in his whole career. This, in particular, is a mighty panorama of the Alaskan gold rush. You will find everything here: greed, love, pathos, humor, famine and wealth.
In a way, "The Trail of '98" has the sweep of "The Covered Wagon." You follow Brown's fortune seekers with breathless interest from the moment their steamboat puffs its way out of the Golden Gate, laden with gold maddened humans from every corner of the globe, until the last fadeout after the burning of Dawson City.
The whole gold rush trail is here - over the snowy perils of Chilkoot Pass and through the river rapids. The big menace is always Old Man Mercury, hovering at forty or so below zero.
"The Trail of '98" is that dream of all megaphone wielders: a purely director's picture. Still, the story of the six principal protagonists - played by Dolores Del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Karl Dane, Harry Carey, Tully Marshall and George Cooper - is never lost. Basically, it is the romance of two adventurers in the Yukon, one a young Scotchman, the other the granddaughter of an old Jew making a last quest for a fortune.
It has tremendous interest as Brown pictures it, this last stand of roystering, hard-fisted pioneer America.
For more information, see "Trail of '98" as our "Feature of the Month"
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