Wednesday, October 10, 2018

That Time John Wayne Got an Alabama Tan

John Wayne appeared in seven films released in 1942, and one of those was The Spoilers. Wayne began his film career in 1926 and by this time he was a rising star. That began in 1939 with his appearance in the John Ford western Stagecoach. As we can see in this film he had not yet reached the summit of movie stardom; major stars Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott are billed ahead of him. 

The movie is based on the very popular 1906 novel by Rex Beach. Before his successful career as a novelist and playwright, Beach prospected for gold in Alaska. He didn't have any luck, but his personal observation of corrupt public employees robbing miners became the inspiration for his second novel. Other silver screen versions were released in 1914, 1923, 1930 and 1955. You can find a copy of the book here.

More comments are below. 

The Wikipedia entry for The Spoilers has this plot summary:

Nome, Alaska, 1900: Flapjack and Banty come to town to check on their gold mine claim. Saloon owner Cherry Malotte is aware of the corruption all around, including that Bennett and Clark are out to steal the men's claim.
In on the crooked scheme is the new gold commissioner, Alexander McNamara, as well as the last word of law and order in the territory, Judge Stillman. So the bad guys usually get their way.
Cherry's old beau, Roy Glennister, returns from a trip to Europe. He is attracted to Helen Chester, the judge's niece. Roy makes the mistake of siding with McNamara, damaging his relationship with his longtime partner, Al Dextry.
Roy realizes he's been deceived as McNamara and Stillman prepare to steal at least $250,000 while the mine's case awaits appeal. Helen is now in love with Roy, who begs Dextry's forgiveness and persuades him to rob a bank to take back the wealth stolen from them. Both Glennister and Dextry don black faces to disguise themselves.
The Bronco Kid kills the marshall but Roy gets the blame. He is arrested and a plot forms to kill him, but Cherry comes to his rescue, breaking Roy out of jail. A fierce fistfight with McNamara results in Roy getting back his mine and his girl.

I recently watched The Spoilers. It's a mildly entertaining vehicle for all three stars, and I always enjoy watching Randolph Scott.

At one point Wayne & his partner put on blackface as a disguise. When it comes time to remove it, he says “Let’s get rid of this #Alabama tan first”

I have been unable to find any information about the source of blackface being described as an "Alabama tan". That phrase does not appear in the novel, and a cursory Google search produced nothing. I have no idea whether or not the phrase appears in other film versions of the book. Perhaps it was an invention of the screenwriters of this version, Lawrence Hazard and Tom Reed

if you have any ideas, leave a comment!

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