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Monday, July 07, 2014

The Big Brawl Back Again

Feldman Pulls Strings On The Spoilers (1942)

Another Universal flog of the Destry formula, their minted-since-'39 approach to actioners that would continue with but slight variation through and past WWII. The Spoilers is recalled in terms of John Wayne, but he's billed third to Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott (though interestingly, Chicago's RKO Palace in the ad at left promotes Wayne to second position, with Dietrich now reduced to third), she the chanteuse and reinvented persona that was less Dietrich than Mae West. Dialogue throughout is mock-suggestive, expressions and eyebrow lift giving impression of blue words having been spoke despite that almost never being the case. We must take it on faith that Dietrich is the Klondike's most desirable woman, there being little evidence otherwise on view. The actress had gone rigid with determination to look just so for every shot, coif piled high with light as though adjusted over hours to favor her. There was six years age difference between Wayne and Dietrich that looks a chasm here, most of that consequence of MD at forty-one clinging to youth.

Time strikes cruelest to supporting Richard Barthelmess, who'd undergone face fix that left damage around his eyes, this brought stark to relief by Vudu's HD transmit of The Spoilers. Dick had been trying for a comeback via character parts, but this would be penultimate effort. He'd retire by end of 1942. The Spoilers was early among "packaged" projects developed by super-agent Charles Feldman, doubling here as independent producer in addition to repping all three stars and much of talent behind cameras. Feldman was very much a creative contributor to The Spoilers, as much or more so than anyone else credited. He was shaping careers for a long haul, most diligently Wayne's, taken on recently as a client by Feldman. Universal had welcomed the big tent with Destry Rides Again and saw it grow with follow-up Seven Sinners plus other ventures of Feldman input.

The Spoilers would see the watch wound to keenest accuracy. As serve of "lusty action" by a cast associated with such, it couldn't miss. The property, which Feldman brought to Universal with his cast, was known from earliest feature era, having been done to acclaim as both silents and a 1930 talker. What tripped pleasure centers was the Big Fight that everyone associated with Spoilers climax. This would be re-staged to fare-thee-well by Wayne, Scott, and stuntmen to go nameless. Further advantage of HD access to The Spoilers is fix on who gets doubled and where. Contest between the two sees Wayne the winner both in story outcome and fact he did lion's share of the brawl, including a backwards window fall-through I'd have figured for his stand-in. Duke-it-yourself integrity was maybe an asset JW brought over from Republic --- whatever --- he has Scott beat for scorn of action substitutes.


Blogger Tom said...

The Wayne version of The Spoilers has always been easily accesible, it seems to me.

But what about the others? I vaguely recall seeing Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun rattling each other's brain foundations when they had their saloon buster upper in the 1956 version. Is it still available for viewing today?

And what about the 1930 version to which you made reference, John?I's one that I bet no one reading this blog has ever seen. I'd love to see a young Gary Cooper going at it with William "Stage" Boyd. Stills of the film seems to indicate that it was a vigorous contest.

I believe that a print of the '30 version is supposed to be locked up somewhere. Is there no chance for a restoration and DVD release of some kind? Probably the thought of limited sales prospects has something to do with it, I imagine.

This is one of the rarest of all Cooper talkies, one of a small handful that are hard to impossible to come by (I believe The Texan is a lost film), and his effort with Lombard, I Take This Woman, is locked away with the owner, I believe. More copyright issues, I assume.

12:14 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Tom, I saw the 1930 version of "The Spoilers" once at a Cinecon, years ago, and don't recall a lot about it other than the fight, which was rugged. Also saw "I Take This Woman" at another Cinecon, and it was very good. A shame both features have been unavailable for viewing since.

12:19 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

I've seen THE SPOILERS (1930) and THE TEXAN (1930), which was run at Cinecon in 2008.


2:34 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I'm certainly glad that some of these early Coopers have been seen at festivals (The Texan? Really? If so, that's great, but I was almost positive it was the one talkie of Coop's career that was officially lost).

I particularly envy both of you for having seen The Spoilers. Very frustrating that these early efforts are so difficult to see.

Man, I hope that someone is taking care of these prints!

3:58 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer has reservations about "The Spoilers":

I'm afraid that "The Spoilers" has never been a favorite of mine. It's a little too aware that its reason for being is the big fight at the end, so that everything seems arbitrary and uninvolving, cut down dramatically to the bare minimum in settings that seemingly have nothing that wasn't placed there by the set dresser. There's no sense of life to it, and thus no sense of dramatic or moral resolution to the fight itself. It's a stunt man's extravaganza, with Wayne and Scott seemingly absorbing punishment that would have felled a dozen mortal men. Even Marlene is only the most noticeable artifice of the show, though I understand that she got her hair messed up a little by Wayne away from the cameras.

8:09 AM  

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