Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun in The Spoilers (1955)

Rex's Remake Never Spoils

In 1906 Rex Beach's novel "The Spoilers" was published over the next 50 years it was to be adapted in a movie not once but 5 times which is quite staggering for one book, especially one which is a western. But there is a reason why Beach's novel was adapted so many times; it is because its story of greed and corruption in the Alaskan gold mines is entertaining, well worked and well rounded providing a mix of drama, action, romance and humour. Now I haven't seen any of the earlier adaptations of "The Spoilers" so I don't know how well it compares but what I do know is that as a 1950s western "The Spoilers" from 1955 is above average with the quality of the story shining through.

The miners of Nome, Alaska are not happy thanks to the Gold Commissioner Alexander McNamara (Rory Calhoun) handing over their gold mines to claim jumpers. And it takes saloon owner Cherry Malotte (Anne Baxter - Fools' Parade) all her cunning to try and keep the angry miners from killing Alex before a Judge can arrive to adjudicate over the claims. But Cherry has other issues because whilst she is looking forward to her beau Roy Glennister (Jeff Chandler - War Arrow) returning to Nome she is less than happy to see that he has become distracted by Helen Chester (Barbara Britton) the daughter of the Judge. But things kick off big time when McNamara tries to serve notice on Roy and his partner Dex (John McIntire) that someone else has staked claim to their mine as there is skulduggery a foot.

Anne Baxter as Cherry Malotte in The Spoilers (1955)

The thing about "The Spoilers" is that whilst a simple movie, even a bit cliche when watched now, there is plenty going on to make it packed. Right from the start as we meet angry miners Flapjack Simms and Banty Jones who are fuming at the Gold Commissioner for handing their claims over to someone else we get plenty of elements. We have the angry miners, the seemingly decent Gold Commissioner and then there is Cherry, the saloon owner and the woman who knows how to defuse a situation. And that is the quality of the story because the simplicity of this is that someone is up to no good with a plan to cheat Roy Glennister and his partner Dexter out of his mine but we get this tangled web.

Now this tangled web includes jealousy as Cherry becomes jealous when Roy has eyes for Helen, the daughter of the Judge who has arrived to deal with claim jumping in the courtroom. We get loyalty issues as Dex is exasperated at Roy when having become distracted allows them to take their mine when someone claim jumps it. We also get treachery and jealousy when it comes to Cherry's loyal staff but also the big treachery as we discover what is going on and the fact that someone is basically pulling a huge con in order to get their hands on Roy and Dex's claim because it is the most valuable.

It's because the storyline to "The Spoilers" is so strong that the fact the presentation of it is quite stereotypical it is still entertaining. We have comedy from drunken miners and Cherry's maid, we have handsome cowboys and cunning villains, we have beautiful women and well basically a lot of 50s cliche going on. But it works and with the muddy street of Nome providing obvious but fun humour "The Spoilers" puts a big smile on your face. Even the ending which typically ends in a brawl between Roy and the person trying to steal his claim is stunning as Cherry's saloon gets destroyed as men grapple over furniture.

Now I would imagine that the earlier versions of "The Spoilers" which featured such stars as John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper scored heavy on star power. That is not to say that Anne Baxter, Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun were not stars or good actors, they just lacked that really big name power. But then each of them does a nice job with Anne Baxter delivering a fun and sexy performance as Cherry whilst Jeff Chandler is a typically handsome hero. Yet some of the more enjoyable performances come from those who deliver the humour especially Wallace Ford who is a hoot as Flapjack Simms.

What this all boils down to is that "The Spoilers" is a very good 50s western which whilst having a lot of stereotypical 50s cliche going on shines because of the quality of the story.