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John Wayne - Star of the Month
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,Haunted Gold

Haunted Gold

Warner Brothers was known in the 1930s as the studio that made successful films fast and cheap. That reputation certainly was not contradicted by Haunted Gold (1932) or many of the other Westerns the studio put out around the same time. Producers Leon Schlesinger and Sid Rogell hit on the idea of remaking several of cowboy star Ken Maynard's most popular silent Westerns into sound films, using footage from the original versions. Because Warners had taken over First National Pictures, where Maynard made his box office hits, the producers could use all the footage they wanted. Hiring Maynard himself was another matter. He was now under contract to Universal and no longer the fit-and-trim action figure of his earlier films. So to re-do one of Maynard's best-loved movies, The Phantom City (1928), they found a young actor they could dress up in Maynard╒s costumes and used him to re-shoot the interiors and close-ups. In addition, they edited in exciting action scenes from Maynard's other high-budget Westerns, including all the famous stunts the expert horseman was known for in his youthful days on screen.

The man they found was the 25-year-old John Wayne, who already had 30 pictures under his belt, most of them Westerns. He had the same wiry build as Maynard and looked enough like him to match the close-ups and the action shots. Between mid-1932 and mid-1933, Warners put Wayne in six Westerns (always playing a character with the first name "John"), four of them direct remakes of Maynard╒s movies and the other two using footage from the cowboy star╒s silents. Westerns were not Warners╒ forte nor something they were much interested in; this was the studio best known for gritty Depression-era urban dramas and crime stories, such as Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931). But the Wayne movies, made for rural markets and the bottom half of double features, got good reviews and returned excellent profits (and why not, recycling footage and hiring Wayne for only $825 a picture?). Still, it would be seven years and 45 more pictures before Wayne broke through to major stardom in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939).

Wayne almost didn't get put under contract. When his tireless agent Al Kingston brought him to Warners, studio executives were reluctant to hire someone they heard was an irresponsible drinker and womanizer. But Wayne revealed the source of the rumors to be Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn, a man the Warners producers didn╒t much care for anyway, and Wayne was signed. This was the first movie he did under his new short-term contract, although it was the third released. The rather odd story finds him returning to a mine to claim his half share in it. There he meets a woman whose father has lost his half of the mine to an outlaw. Wayne is forced to contend with the outlaw and his gang as well as a mysterious cloaked phantom who lives deep in the mine shafts. The story and script were by Adele Buffington, who had a long career in movies - from 1919 to 1958 - writing mostly B-Westerns.

Director: Mack V. Wright
Producer: Leon Schlesinger
Screenplay: Adele Buffington
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Editing: William Clemens
Original Music: Leo Forbstein
Cast: John Wayne (John Mason), Sheila Terry (Janet Carter), Erville Alderson (Benedict), Harry Woods (Joe Ryan), Blue Washington (Clarence).

by Rob Nixon



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