The Spoilers (1942)

The Spoilersthe spoilers poster
Directed by Ray Enright
Written by Lawrence Hazard and Tom Reed from a novel by Rex Beach
Universal Pictures/Frank Lloyd Productions/Charles K. Feldman Group
First viewing/Netflix rental

Cherry Malotte: What you win, you can keep.

This solid, entertaining Western was the most successful of the five movies adopting the novel about the Alaska Gold Rush.

The story is set in 1900 Nome, Alaska.  Cherry Malotte (Marlene Dietrich) runs the local saloon.  We learn early on that outsiders have started to make false claims on the informally organized mines.

Cherry is awaiting the return of her lover, miner Roy Glenniston (John Wayne),  from Seattle and is mightily displeased to see him on the arm of Helen Chester (Margaret Lindsay).  She sets out to make him jealous by cozying up to “Gold Commissioner” Alex McNamara (Randolph Scott).

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Helen has been traveling with her uncle, a judge who has come to adjudicate the claims.  Roy’s partner (Harry Carey) wants to fight but the judge persuades Roy to let the law take its course.  But the law is being administered by a bunch of crooks and Roy is at last forced to save the day, helped in the end by Cherry. With Richard Barthelmess in one of his last appearances.

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It’s not so much the story but the way it is told that makes this so enjoyable.  Dietrich keeps the exposition humming along with plenty of double entendres and it builds nicely to a well-choreographed fight sequence.  It’s interesting to see Randolph Scott as a villain, paving the way for the morally ambiguous Western protagonists he played later in his career.

The Spoilers was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White.


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