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HAUNTED GOLD (director: Mack V. Wright; screenwriter: Adele S. Buffington; cinematographer: Nicholas Musuraca; editor: William Clemens; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: John Wayne (John Mason), Sheila Terry (Janet Carter), Harry Woods (Joe Ryan), Erville Alderson (Tom Benedict), Otto Hoffman (Simon, Benedict’s Servant), Martha Mattox (Mrs. Herman), Blue Washington (Clarence Washington Brown); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leon Schlesinger; Warner Brothers; 1932)
“A silly ghost story Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A silly ghost story Western that’s another remake from a Ken Maynard silent (one of six films Warner remade from silents for John Wayne). It’s directed by Mack V. Wright and penned by Adele S. Buffington. It should be upsetting to African-Americans as the one black cast member, Blue Washington, who plays Wayne’s partner and source of comic relief, is in a racial stereotype role. In one instant, it’s said of him that he speaks with a “watermelon accent.” This early Western in Wayne’s career is a good indication of his potential as an actor, as the raw Wayne despite his inexperience has a powerful screen presence.

Both John Mason (John Wayne) and Janet Carter (Sheila Terry) return to the abandoned Sally Ann mine after receiving a mysterious letter inviting them. Mason’s dad left him a half share in the mine while Janet’s father Bill Carter lost his half share to the father of criminal Joe Ryan (Harry Woods), who framed him and had him sent to prison. Also there is Ryan’s son Joe and his gang, as the gang leader believes there’s gold in the mine.

All the parties are spooked by a “Phantom,” who spies on them through slots in the wall. The busy plot line has Janet team up to fight off the villain Ryan. They try to make their way around her father’s old haunted house with the help of the ghost-like elderly servants. The house has secret underground tunnels where there’s possible gold. The surprise comes when the Phantom becomes known. Mason is the heroic figure, with the help of his miracle horse Duke and the loyalty of Blue, who gets Janet back the mine deed that was stolen and in the end wins her love.

The film used footage of Maynard from his silents in many of the long shots, as Wayne was hired mainly because he resembles the silent screen star and that the amiable 25-year-old looks good as a cowboy.

This curio is strictly for fans of the Duke. The acting leaves a lot to be desired; the story leaves even more to be desired.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”