The Spoilers (1942)


THE SPOILERS—third, and most popular, of the five versions churned out of the 1906 Rex Beach novel about claim-jumping, double-dealing and two-fisting in the Nome of ’98. Also one of six flicks ground out by John Wayne in 1942, and his second go-round with Marlene Dietrich, while they boldly carried on an off-screen dalliance between filming.


It’s a fair outdoor shoot-’em-up, feeling familiar and occasionally lackluster as directed by Ray Enright.  Harry Carey comes off best in the supporting mob. An Oscar nomination was drawn for the Art Direction, and the frontier Alaskan fracas sleds along at 87 minutes.


The highlight is the famous hay-maker free-for-all between Wayne and villain Randolph Scott. Studio press agents circulated blab that the director just turned the two actors loose and they really slugged it out. That was just hype, of course, since doubles are often visible, with over thirty different stuntmen covering the wilder bits of the six-minute brawl, careening over balconies, crashing through doors, shattering tables, chairs and mirrors. It’s a neat piece of vintage action, no doubt helping the movie to recover three times its production costs.


Yukon master-poet Robert W. Service has a small role, and others in their period duds include  Margaret Lindsay, Richard Barthalmess, Roy Barcroft, William Farnum and Russell Simpson. The star trio followed this later in the year with another brawler, Pittsburgh.




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