Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Spoilers (1942)

I mentioned over the weekend that I watched the 1942 movie The Spoilers Since it's available on DVD, it's worth doing a full-length post on.

The plot is the sort of thing that's been done in a bunch of movies. It's about 1900, in Nome, Alaska, which as you'll know from my recent review of Klondike Annie, was an era when there was a gold rush going on, so everybody was trying to get to Alaska to strike it rich. Roy Glennister (John Wayne) has been there for a while, to the point that he and is partner Dextry (Harry Carey) have a gold claim that they've been prospecting for some time. However, since the law hasn't quite reached this remote part of the Alaska Territory yet, claim jumpers abound, and people who don't have the means that Glennister and Dextry have had are seeing their claims fraudulently questioned.

That's about to happen to Glennister and Dextry too. Their operation has been financed in part by saloonkeeper Cherry Malotte (Marlene Dietrich), who has been looking forward to Glennister's return from Seattle. Also on the boat from Seattle is the new Judge Stillman (Samuel S. Hinds), who is supposed to bring law to this part of Alaska. But he's accompanied by his niece Helen (Margaret Lindsay), to whom Glennister has taken a shine, much to Cherry's consternation. Rounding out the leads is new claims commissioner Alex McNamara (Randolph Scott). He sees Cherry trying to get Glennister's claim from the current records office; she's worried that the new claim jumpers are going to try to destroy the evidence.

Cherry has good reason to be fearful, as soon enough, there are people trying to dispute Glennister and Dextry's claim. They know they're in the right because they've been mining for years when there was almost nobody prospecting in Alaska, but good luck proving that to the judge. Dextry, for his part, isn't so certain he wants to trust the judge. And for once, his judgment and not Glennister's is more on the mark here. We eventually discover that Glennister and McNamara are in cahoots, perverting the course of justice to try to take Glennister and Dextry's claim away from them.

This sort of thing has been done before both in the guise of a gold rush -- indeed, this is the fourth version of The Spoilers and there was still one more to come in the mid-1950s -- as well as other sorts of westerns. But it's done quite entertainingly here. Wayne is suitably studly; Scott is suitably ambiguous as to whose side he's ultimately on; Dietrich is suitably feisty and sexually charged. There's also Richard Barthelmess at the end of his career as Cherry's second-in-command at the saloon. The romantic story line and the mining story line mesh well, and the movie climaxes with a big extended fight scene between Wayne and Scott.

Even though The Spoilers is treading really old ground, it's still an enormously fun movie, and one that is more than worth the watch.

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