The Spoilers (1930 film)
The Spoilers is a 1930 American Pre-Code Western film directed by Edwin Carewe and starring Gary Cooper, Kay Johnson, and Betty Compson. Set in Nome, Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush, the film is about a gold prospector and a corrupt Alaska politician who fight for control over a gold mine. The film features a spectacular saloon fistfight between Cooper and William "Stage" Boyd.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Edwin Carewe|
|Produced by||Edwin Carewe|
|Based on||The Spoilers (novel)|
by Rex Beach
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
The Spoilers was adapted to screen by Bartlett Cormack from the 1906 Rex Beach novel of the same name. Film versions also appeared in 1914, 1923 (with Noah Beery as McNamara), 1942 (with John Wayne in Gary Cooper's role of Glennister, Marlene Dietrich replacing Compson, whom she resembled, as Malotte, and Randolph Scott as McNamara), and 1955 (with Anne Baxter as Malotte, Jeff Chandler as Glennister, and Rory Calhoun as McNamara). The 1930 and 1942 versions were the only instance of Gary Cooper and John Wayne playing exactly the same role in the same story in two different films.
While traveling to Nome, Alaska, Roy Glenister (Gary Cooper) meets beautiful Helen Chester (Kay Johnson), who soon becomes his sweetheart. Glenister is one of several owners of a lucrative mine called The Midas. When he arrives in Nome, he discovers that his partners, Slapjack Simms (Slim Summerville) and Joe Dextry (James Kirkwood), are in the middle of a legal dispute with three corrupt officials: United States Marshal Voorhees (Jack Holmes), Judge Stillman (Lloyd Ingraham), and a politician named Alec McNamara (William "Stage" Boyd ). They have been engaged in a racket claiming titles to various mines, ejecting the miners, and then making McNamara owner of the disputed properties.
The three corrupt officials lay claim to The Midas. McNamara also steals money from Glenister, Dextry, and Slapjack, preventing them from enlisting legal help from the United States. When Dextry and Glenister plan a vigilante action, McNamara calls in a detail of soldiers to protect "his property". As Glenister and McNamara prepare for a gunfight, they are dissuaded by Helen, who suggests that the courts handle the dispute. Later, after jealous saloon owner Cherry Malotte (Betty Compson) lies to Glennister telling him that Helen and McNamara are conspiring to cheat him again, Glennister and McNamara settle their differences with a spectacular fistfight, with McNamara getting the worst. Afterwards, Glenister wins the hand of Helen.
- Gary Cooper as Roy Glenister
- Kay Johnson as Helen Chester
- Betty Compson as Cherry Malotte
- William "Stage" Boyd as Alec McNamara
- Harry Green as Herman
- Slim Summerville as Slapjack Simms
- James Kirkwood as Joe Dextry
- Lloyd Ingraham as Judge Stillman
- Oscar Apfel as Struve
- George Irving as William Wheaton
- Knute Erickson as Captain Stevens
- Merrill McCormick as Miner
- Charles K. French as Man in Bar
- Jack Holmes as Voorhees
- John Beck as Hanson
The Spoilers was filmed on location in Oregon.
In his review for The New York Times, Mordaunt Hall gave the film a negative review for its poor narrative, unconvincing plot, and "absurdly melodramatic dialogue". Believing that the film would have benefitted from more details of the working for gold and fewer scenes in gambling halls and other places, Hall continued:
The characters are seldom real and the narrative dawdles along to a finish that is anticipated. The big fight between McNamara and Glenister, while well and vigorously acted, proved to be more amusing than thrilling ... The players give adequate performances, but what they are called upon to do and say is far from convincing. Kay Johnson is not happily cast in the part of Helen Chester, the girl who falls in love with Glenister, impersonated by Gary Cooper. Mr. Cooper does very well by his rôle, and William Boyd's portrayal of the designing McNamara is satisfactory. ... Through his attempt to give all the dozen characters a chance in this picture, Edwin Carewe's direction results in no little confusion. One never is quite sure where the persons are coming or going and the pivotal idea is scarcely credible.
Finally, Hall criticized the film's "general lack of intelligence" and the narrative, which "runs from one scene to another with too much threatening talk and an ineffectual misunderstanding between Glenister and Helen Chester, who are in love with each other."