Muni gives another fascinating character performance in a talky production about the 17th century fur trade in Canada. Radisson, a flamboyant adventurer in real life (Muni), and his sidekick Cregar encounter Sutton, a British nobleman who has been sent to Canada as an exile for
transgressions at court. He is taught trapping and trading by the colorful frontiersmen who then return with him to the court of King Charles (Price). Muni proposes establishing the Hudson's Bay Trading Company. At first Price declines, but, when he listens to Muni's promise of great riches from
such a trading post, he changes his mind and funds the enterprise. Muni returns to Canada in 1667 with Cregar, Sutton, Sutton's fiancee Tierney, and her snobbish brother, Lowry. With the trading post built, the enterprise flourishes, but Lowry brings it to a dangerous halt when he gets drunk and
kills an Indian. The local chief demands that Lowry be brought to justice and punished, or the fort will be leveled and all of its occupants killed. Muni, to save lives, orders Lowry executed and averts a war. Sutton's objection to the execution is ignored; he will not forget Muni's actions. When
Muni, Cregar, and Sutton return to report the progress of the trading post to Price, the Canadian trappers are arrested for killing Lowry and thrown into prison. Muni, however, is able to convince Price at the last moment that the lucrative trading post in Canada will collapse without his
leadership to keep it going. He and Cregar are freed by the greedy monarch and leave the court, heading back to Hudson's Bay. Pichel's direction is lame, even though Fox put $800,000 behind the production to make it a super epic. There is very little action, even though the cameras dwell on
splendid scenery in the northern wilds of Idaho where much of the on-location shooting was done. Muni, an independent and powerful actor, simply overwhelmed Pichel, and, given his head, he overplayed his part lavishly, relishing the long windy speeches that often turn into diatribes. Cregar, who
later became hammy in many roles when not curbed by a strong directorial hand, appears here in his second film and is surprisingly effective as he renders the understated role of Muni's sidekick. Sutton and Tierney enact some very syrupy love scenes, and Price, too, is allowed to gnaw on the sets
as the bewigged King Charles II. Field is good in her brief role as the celebrated mistress Nell Gwyn. On the whole, HUDSON'S BAY is entertaining if not historically accurate.
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