The Silver Horde (1930)

Boyd Emerson (Joel McCrea) and Fraser (Raymond Hatton) are traveling through Alaska by dog sled when they land in the small fishing village of Kalvik.


(Image via Happy Otter)

There they meet Cherry Malotte (Evelyn Brent), who is hospitable to them and fills them in on the ruthlessness of the town’s leader, Marsh (Gavin Gordon). Marsh won’t let any outsiders settle in Kalvik… but Boyd and Fraser won’t be stopped that easily, especially when Boyd finds himself falling in love with Cherry.

The Silver Horde was directed by George Archainbaud. This is the second adaptation of Rex Beach’s novel of the same name, the first adaptation having been released in 1920.

I’m a sucker for Alaska as a film setting, and this one was made on location in Ketchikan. Alaska is a gorgeous state, and the film captures that cold, wild, adventurous feeling we associate with “America’s last frontier.”

Appropriate to the setting, salmon account for half of the film’s drama. The other half comes from — what else? — romance! Just as much time is devoted to the salmon migration and the fish industry as to the love triangle, offering an interesting portrait of the industry.

The migration itself is a sight to behold, with magnificent shots of the river crammed with fish from shore to shore, swimming over each other, seeming to fill the water completely. It’s cool to see the step-by-step process of the early 20th century fishery, too, from migration to catching to canning.

I’m a big fan of Joel McCrea, and unless I’m forgetting something, I believe this is the earliest film I’ve seen from his filmography! McCrea is joined by Evelyn Brent, who plays a gun-wielding frontier woman.


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And then, there’s Jean Arthur. Jean and Joel, thirteen years before making The More the Merrier! (They also made Adventure in Manhattan in 1936.) To be honest, I found Arthur a tad obnoxious here. Her voice is especially squeaky, and her character is a one-dimensional society gal.

Still, the assortment of talent is more than enough reason to tune in! There’s a fantastic confrontation scene between polar opposites Arthur and Brent, a tense verbal sparring session with a strongly worded, brief-but-memorable rant delivered by Brent.

I caught The Silver Horde on TCM, but it’s in the public domain, so if you’re interested in watching it’s very easy to find. (I actually realized, after watching it, that I already own it in a cheap adventure classics multipack!) It’s a pretty good watch, for a look at Alaska nearly a century ago, and for an early-ish Joel McCrea performance.