SPOILERS, THE(director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: from book by Rex Beach/Lawrence Hazard/Tom Reed; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Clarence Kolster; cast: Marlene Dietrich (Cherry Mallote), Randolph Scott (Alexander McNamara), John Wayne (Roy Glennister), Richard Barthelmess (Bronco Kid Farrell), William Farnum (Wheaton), Harry Carey (Al Dextry), Charles Halton (Struve), Jack Norton (Mr. Skinner), Margaret Lindsay (Helen Chester), Robert W. Service (Poet), Samuel S. Hinds (Judge Stillman), Marietta Canty (Adabelle), George Cleveland (Banty); Runtime: 88; Universal; 1942)
“Marlene couldn’t be sexier, wearing brocades and gowns, changing from one gown to another at the drop of a beer stein.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This B&W film is based on a Rex Beach novel that was filmed three times before (twice as a silent) and once afterwards. It’s a colorful adventure story of saloon brawls, romance, and corruption. The film is set in Nome, Alaska, during the Gold Rush days of 1900. It is most noted for the last five minutes where a classic barroom fight occurs between bad guy Randolph Scott and good guy John Wayne. It was over the sexy owner of the Yukon saloon, Marlene Dietrich — with winner take all. The brawl was unrealistic but marvelous to watch.
The Spoilers is about a group of crooks (the spoilers) who come to Nome with the law on their side to support claim-jumpers, as they plan to gain the biggest mine in the territory. McNamara (Randolph Scott) is the crooked gold commissioner who is teamed up with an equally unscrupulous Judge Stillman (Samuel S. Hinds), his underling Struve (Halton), and a pretty relative of the judge, the highfalutin Helen Chester. She is used as a lure to get the wealthy mine owner they plan to swindle, Roy Glennister (John Wayne), to fall for her and let his guard down about what they’re after.
Roy, through the dealings of the crooked court he foolishly trusts, temporarily loses the mine he jointly owns with old-timer Al Dextry (Harry Carey). His hot romance with saloon owner Cherry Mallote (Marlene Dietrich) is put on hold when she sees him come back to Nome with Helen in his arms, mistaking this gentlemanly gesture for a romance brewing.
William Farnum who played John Wayne’s role in the original 1914 version of The Spoilers, in the remake plays a minor supporting role as the lawyer helping John Wayne sort things out; poet Robert W. Service, of “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” fame, has a cameo.
The stellar cast of stars and noted supporting players keep the action rolling. Marlene couldn’t be sexier, wearing brocades and gowns, changing from one gown to another at the drop of a beer stein. Wayne and Scott are made for action films, and play their parts with fluidity. For comic moments there is the dialogue between Marlene and black maid Marietta Canty, who is yearning for a black dude to appear in the Yukon. Richard Barthelmess plays the sniveling houseman in Marlene’s gambling saloon who wants her for himself, but is put down in one delicious scene as Marlene snaps: “Go down below to your table.” Harry Carey was an old time actor in the silents and a hero of Wayne’s. He plays the rough and tumble honest prospector Dextry, who struck it rich with Wayne and will let no one take what is his without a fight.
REVIEWED ON 3/7/2001 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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