Saturday, September 21, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Spoilers (1942) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne star in the rip-roaring Alaskan adventure film THE SPOILERS (1942), which was just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The movie is also known as REX BEACH'S THE SPOILERS; the screenplay by Lawrence Hazard and Tom Reed was based on Beach's 1906 novel. This is, in fact, one of multiple film versions of the story; a fascinating bit of trivia is that William Farnum, who plays Wayne's lawyer, had played Wayne's character in a 1914 film version, nearly three decades before!

Wayne is billed third, under both Dietrich and Scott, but proves to be the true leading man, starring as Roy Glennister. It's 1900, and Roy's return to the rough and rowdy mining town of Nome, Alaska, is anxiously awaited by saloon owner Cherry Malotte (Dietrich).

Cherry, who's head over heels for Roy, has an unpleasant surprise when Roy gets off the boat with lovely Helen Chester (Margaret Lindsay), whose uncle (Samuel S. Hinds) is a judge arriving to adjudicate mine claims.

Cherry fears that the "respectable" Helen will steal Roy away, but while Roy isn't above exchanging a kiss or two with Helen, Cherry is the woman he's serious about.

Moreover, unbeknownst to everyone, Helen isn't the nice girl she appears to be; she and her uncle are part of a gang of crooks -- the "spoilers" of the title -- in cahoots with mining commissioner Alex McNamara (Scott) and Attorney Stuve (Charles Halton) to rob the miners. Their biggest target: The rich mine owned by Roy and his partner Dextry (Harry Carey Sr.).

The battle for the mine is played out alongside a three-way battle for Cherry's affections between Roy, Alex, and Cherry's right-hand man Bronco (Richard Barthelmess). It all comes to a head in an exciting slam-bang fistfight between Roy and Alex.

I love Wayne and Scott but somehow had never seen this film before, nor any other version of the story. I found the movie quite engaging, with well-delineated characters, a good story and dialogue, and an interesting setting. Most of all, it has the star power of its three leads; they're all good but for my money it's Wayne who lights up the screen every time he walks in the room. I found both Wayne and the movie quite a treat.

If the name Cherry Malotte sounds familiar, it was also the name of the woman of "ill repute" in another movie I recently reviewed, THE SILVER HORDE (1930). It too was based on a Beach novel and set in Alaska; in that one Cherry, played by Evelyn Brent, ended up with Boyd Emerson (Joel McCrea). It seems to be a case of the same character being used by the author in two completely different stories.

Dietrich, as Cherry, is all one would expect; this may be the wild north, but Dietrich is dressed to the nines in glamorous gowns and fancy hairstyles, beautifully filmed by Milton Krasner. She's quite good, whether she's trading barbed dialogue with Scott or mooning over whether Wayne has found himself a more respectable gal. A scene where she quietly wipes away a tear over Roy is quite moving.

The excellent supporting cast includes the always-delightful Marietta Canty as Cherry's maid, with Russell Simpson, George Cleveland, and Forrest Taylor among the large cast.

THE SPOILERS was released by Universal Pictures in June 1942; Universal then quickly reteamed the trio of Wayne, Scott, and Dietrich in PITTSBURGH (1942), released in December '42. PITTSBURGH was also just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber; look for a review here in the near future. (Update: Here it is!) Kino Lorber is certainly making Dietrich fans happy of late, having also recently released A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948), which I reviewed here earlier this month.

THE SPOILERS was directed by Ray Enright. It runs 87 well-paced minutes. Location shooting included Lake Arrowhead, California.

I'm looking forward to listening to Toby Roan's commentary in the near future. Other extras on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray are the trailer, a trailer gallery for seven additional films, and an image gallery.

The print and sound quality are excellent. This is a very nice release of an entertaining film which will be enjoyed by classic film fans in general and Wayne and Dietrich fans in particular. Recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

The fight between Scott and Wayne has the (well-deserved) reputation of being the toughest and best slugfest on celluloid. The 50s colour version had Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun repeating things but the 1942 version is still the one.
Not a huge Dietrich fan myself but I assume this was where she and Wayne started their affair so he certainly was a fan, I guess.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This is a favorite of mine. Great cast and fun film. I love Marlene's hairstyles and dresses and she has good chemistry with both Scott and Wayne. I liked her so much better away from von Sternberg's influence, who had turned her into a strange artificial product.

You've got to watch Pittsburgh next.

7:32 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Cherry Malotte. The Spoilers was Rex Beach's first novel. In it Glennister and Helen Chester are the couple , and she is not at all guilty of collusion with McNamara. That was substantially modified. My guess, and only that, The Silver Horde shows Cherry, still notorious, at a later date. I have several of Beach's novel here, but neither The Spoilers nor Silver Horde. Perhaps someone has a copy and knows if Cherry and Boyd end together. My guess, they do.

7:45 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Jerry, The Spoilers is where Wayne and Dietrich ended their affair, which began with Seven Sinners.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That fight was really a humdinger, Jerry! I'm looking forward to checking out the '50s version just because of the leads, but can well imagine this one being the best. Really enjoyed it. Will be fun to see the other Wayne-Dietrich films, this was my first one.

Great to know you enjoy it too, Margot! I should be watching PITTSBURGH in the very near future. :) I also checked and I have SEVEN SINNERS (in fact, I have two copies, one in a Wayne set and one in a Dietrich set! LOL) so I need to try out that one as well.

Barrylane, many thanks for the added info on Rex Beach and Cherry Malotte, that was very interesting to hear how Hollywood (as often happens) changed the story! I have been able to downloaded free public domain copies of both THE SPOILERS and THE SILVER HORDE to my Kindle so I can check them out in the future. I'll be interested to get a better understanding of the evolution of the Cherry character.

Best wishes,

9:02 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Thanks for reminding me, Barry. Of course - "SEVEN SINNERS" was 1940.

9:19 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I just recently saw this for the first time myself and was wondering how it had somehow evaded my attention for so long, cuz I really loved it. That knock down drag out fight at the end was fantastic. Very fun to read this write up on it!

10:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

What fun that you also just discovered this film, Deb! Whoever staged that fight sure deserves kudos!

I'm kind of surprised I hadn't seen the movie before, although honestly there are so many '40s Wayne films I need to see maybe I shouldn't be surprised after all! I was really glad to check this off my Wayne (and Scott!) list. I'll be watching it again in the future! Looking forward to trying out PITTSBURGH.

Best wishes,

12:12 AM  

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