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Film / The Chechahcos

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The Chechahcos is a 1924 silent film set during the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush. Among the many pilgrims attracted to the Great White North during the gold rush are the Stanlaw family, consisting of Professor Stanlaw, his wife Margaret, and their adorable little daughter Ruth. Also on the boat are Richard Steele, gambler and all-around bad guy, and two prospecting partners, "Horseshoe" Riley and Bob Dexter.

A boiler explosion results in the boat sinking. Professor Stanlaw goes down with the ship. Margaret survives, and, believing her husband and child to be dead, she eventually becomes the kept woman of Steele the gambler. However, Ruth actually survives the sinking as well, rescued by Riley and Dexter. Riley and Dexter find out that Mrs. Stanlaw is alive, but after making some premature conclusions about her and Steele, they elect to raise the child themselves. Years go by as Ruth grows up under the protection of her adopted guardians—but fate eventually brings all the principals together again.

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The Chechahcos was bankrolled by an Alaskan millionaire and was made in Alaska by Alaskans. It is not only the first film to be shot on location in Alaska, it is one of the first feature films to be shot on location anywhere.


Tropes:

  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Steele is pretty good at throwing knives, like when he throws one between Margaret and the scary miner who's about to rape her.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Steele abandons Dexter, assuming he will burn in the fire. Instead Dexter is rescued by Riley.
  • The Chanteuse: Margaret does this for Steele, attracting customers to his bar.
  • Defiled Forever: Apparently Margaret's opinion of herself after living with Steele, refusing to see Ruth even after finding out she's alive, not wanting Ruth to see her "unhappy mother".
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Or maybe a Deus ex Machina, as it eventually allows Dexter to escape from Steele. But just as Steele has Dexter captured, the whole town catches fire.
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  • Disney Villain Death: Steele goes plunging off a glacier when a chunk gives way.
  • Funetik Aksent: Pierre, the Francophone Canadian sent by Steele to kill Dexter.
    "Meester Steele, he hire me to keel you."
  • Gold Fever: The reason all these people are showing up in Alaska, as the opening title cards explain.
  • Happy Ending: Margaret and Ruth are reunited.
  • Has Two Mommies: Two dads, that is, as Riley and Dexter look after Ruth.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Riley "hated two things—women were both of them." This explains why he was so quick to assume the worst about Mrs. Stanlaw.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partner: Ten years after going out prospecting with Ruth in tow, Riley and Dexter are still living together and raising Ruth. If not for one scene where Ruth kisses Dexter, it would be easy to assume that Riley and Dexter are a couple.
  • I Owe You My Life: After Dexter pulls Pierre out of a crevasse, Pierre confesses that Steele hired him to kill Dexter. After this, Pierre considers the debt paid, and continues to work as Steele's Mook.
  • The Mistress: Margaret, with nowhere else to turn in the wilds of Alaska, becomes Steele's kept woman.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Riley has a crisis of conscience after hearing of how hard Margaret looked for little Ruth.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Riley, who already knew that Mrs. Stanlaw was traveling with Steele, gets one look at them embracing and decides not to turn Ruth over. Margaret was only with Steele because she had nowhere else to turn, and she pushed him away, but the damage is done.
  • Prospector: Two of them in Riley and Dexter, who thrive as owners of the "Golden Girl" mine named for Ruth.
  • Scenery Porn: Shot in Alaska! With scenes of ice-choked rivers, glaciers cleaving into the ocean, and Mt. McKinley.
  • Time Skip: 12 years, until Ruth is a grown woman and Margaret is Steele's companion.
  • Title Drop: Supposedly "chechahco" is a Chinook slang word for newbies in the far North.
  • Wife Husbandry: Grown-up Ruth embraces Dexter, says "No longer your little girl, but your—", kisses him, and skips away. Their Inuit maid then offers to take care of any "papoose" Dexter might happen to get.
  • You No Take Candle: "Heap big talk, little do", says the Inuit woman who tends house for Riley and Dexter.
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