John Wayne's directorial debut The Alamo is set in 1836: Wayne plays Col. Davy Crockett, who, together with Colonels Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark) and William Travis (Laurence Harvey) and 184 hardy Americans and Texicans, defends the Alamo mission against the troops of Mexican general Santa Ana. There's a lot of macho byplay before the actual attack, including the famous "letter" scene in which Wayne craftily rouses the patriotic ire of his subordinates. Also appearing are Richard Boone as Sam Houston, and Chill Wills (whose somewhat tasteless Oscar campaign has since become legendary in the annals of shameless self-promotion) as Beekeeper. Wayne's production crew was compelled to reconstruct the Alamo in Bracketville, Texas, about a hundred miles from the actual site. Dimitri Tiomkin's score, including "The Green Leaves of Summer," received generous airplay on the Top-40 radio outlets of America. Rumors persist that Wayne's old pal John Ford directed most of The Alamo; cut to 161 minutes for its general release, the film was restored to its original, 192-minute length in 1992.Those familiar only with Johnny Horton's song hit North to Alaska might not be aware that the song came equipped with a movie. John Wayne and Stewart Granger star as a couple of lucky miners in Alaska Territory during the '98 gold rush. Since the Duke is the only man he can trust, Granger sends his pal to Seattle to fetch his fiance. Fabian appears in the cast (playing Granger's brother) primarily to attract teenage filmgoers; he gets to sing, of course, but he's better than usual. The film's centerpiece, an outsized brawl in the muddy streets of Nome, was repeated with several variations in Wayne's subsequent McLintock (1963). North to Alaska was based on a considerably more genteel stage play, Laszlo Fodor's Birthday Gift.John Wayne -- showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen -- portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee -- and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life. The sole survivor of the raid is Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn), a young orphan who is unusually handy with a gun for one his age -- and already knows how to channel his grief and horror at what he's seen, as much as Dunson does. Dunson informally adopts Matt as his son, and over the next 14 years he builds up one of the largest ranches in the entire state of Texas. And all of it is worth nothing, a result of the economic ruin wrought on the state in the aftermath of the Civil War. Matthew (Montgomery Clift), now back from the war and doing some of his own adventuring, finds a darker, more taciturn Dunson than he's ever known -- as Groot tells it, he's afraid because he just doesn't know how to fight the threats he now faces. With Matthew now returned, Dunson decides to move his herd, nearly 10,000 head of cattle, to Missouri, where there is a market for beef, over 1000 miles away through territory controlled by border gangs hundreds of men strong that have stopped every cattle drive up to now, and Indians who have picked off what the gangs missed. Dunson drives his men as hard as he does himself, relentlessly, till even some of his best hands break under the strain -- and he's not above killing anyone who challenges his authority on the drive. He's able to hold them in line as long as Matthew backs him up, and he does until Dunson, exhausted and worn down by lack of sleep, finally goes too far. Matthew steps in, backed by laconic, smirking gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland) and most of the rest of the men and takes the herd from Dunson. Leaving his father and mentor behind, he heads the herd toward Kansas, where -- so the men are told -- there's a new railroad. Along the way, he meets Tess Millay (Joanne Dru), a card-dealer who falls in love with the young man. But he has to finish the drive and leaves her behind, much as Dunson left Fen. And they all know that Dunson is coming after Matthew to kill him.