Newt's John Wayne Site

The Spoilers (1942)

This was the fourth film version of Rex Beach's 1906 novel and the second of three films with Marlene Dietrich.

The spoilers of the title are a group of villains horning in on the gold-mining boom at Nome, Alaska, at the turn of the century. They are led by the unscrupulous new gold commissioner, Alexander McNamara (Randolph Scott), and include a crooked judge (Samuel S. Hinds) and his attractive niece Helen (Margaret Lindsay). They attempt to swindle miner Roy Glennister (John Wayne) and his partner Dextry (Harry Carey Sr.) out of a valuable claim. Dietrich has the part of Cherry Malotte, the gambling lady who has grubstaked them and pitches in to help them foil McNamara's scheming. Dietrich plays once again the seemingly self-assured, independent, impregnable woman of somewhat disreputable character whose defenses crumble faced with the right man. Roy Glennister is that man.

At the beginning of the film we see her collecting together some of the hard-boiled eggs that are Roy's particular weakness. This, then, judging my Cherry's devotion towards him, is quite a man. This is a sharp contrast to the likable but weak character Wayne had played in Seven Sinners. He was now stepping up in Hollywood's esteem to more virile roles. Roy does not return her warmth of feeling; he treats her rather frivolously, often calling her "sport," and is clearly not ready to be committed to any woman. He treats Helen with much more courtesy and thereby upsets Cherry who sees in Helen just the kind of well-bred woman she has to fear.

When a rigged case brings Roy's ownership of his mine into question, he falls out with his partner over how to handle the matter. Roy wants to give the law a chance to sort it out and accepts the judge's promise of a quick hearing. Dextry calls him a "weak sister" and dissolves their partnership. The judge double-crosses them, Roy is still prepared to try a court of appeal in Seattle but finds that McNamara has had his funds frozen. Roy makes up with Dextry by agreeing to go about this his way. They black their faces and reclaim their money from the bank only to be arrested through a slip-up in maintaining their alibi.

McNamara plots to let Roy escape from jail to be shot down outside, but Helen and the judge rebel at adding murder to the list of their crimes. Helen packs her bags and warns Cherry of what McNamara has in mind, Roy manages to escape unharmed. He now throws caution to the winds and organizes a force of miners to take on the deputies stationed outside his claim. Meanwhile, Cherry lures McNamara away while the raid is taking place, then delights in revealing how she has tricked him.

Ever since the first version of The Spoilers in 1914 created a sensation through its climatic brawl between William Farnum and Tom Santschi which carried screen fighting to new levels of realism, subsequent versions have been bound to try and make a similar impression. The result of this 1942 version is probably the best remembered of all Wayne's screen battles. Slick, fast and impossible, the brawl smashes up a good part of the scenery and ends with McNamara laid out cold in the wreckage of the saloon.

Roy Glennister John Wayne
Cherry Malotte Marlene Dietrich
Alexander McNamara Randolph Scott
Helen Chester Margaret Lindsay
Dextry Harry Carey Sr.
Judge Stillman Samuel S. Hinds
Bronco Kid Farrell Richard Barthelmess
Wheaton William Farnum
Flapjack Simms Russell Simpson
Banty George Cleveland
Marshal Bud Osborne
Complaining Miner Harry Woods

Shooting from Mid-January to the end of February 1942.
Released May 8, 1942 (US), July 13, 1942 (Great Britain).
Previously filmed under the same title in 1914 (William Farnum in the Wayne role), 1923 (Milton Sills in the Wayne role), 1930 (Gary Cooper in the Wayne role). It was subsequently filmed in 1955 ( Jeff Chandler in the Wayne role).

Buy the Movie Here Today!

John Wayne Store

Your comments or suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Back to Movie Reviews Page

Back to Newt's John Wayne Home

Search this site What's new Site map