Monday, July 25, 2011

Lust for Gold, Part 2

July 25, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Early in 1947 Columbia Pictures Corporation bought the rights for Barry Storm’s book “Thunder God’s Gold” with the intention of writing a screenplay and making the book into a motion picture. From the metamorphosis of a book to a motion picture considerable changes occurred. Ted Sherdeman and Richard English wrote the screenplay and the film was produced and directed by S. Sylvan Simon. The film was billed as the “true story of a secret treasure”. This film was meant to be Columbia’s competition against Republic’s film “Treasure of the Sierra Madres” starring Humphrey Bogart. “Lust of Gold” starred Glenn Ford, Ida Lupino, Gig Young, William Prince and Edgar Buchanan.

Glenn Ford played the role of Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman. Ida Lupino played the role of Julia Thomas. William Prince played the role of Julia Thomas’ husband. Gig Young played the role of Barry Storm, a modern adventurer and prospector. Edgar Buchanan played the role of Waltz’s partner. Three other prominent stars also had roles in this film. These stars included Will Greer, Jay Silverheels and Paul Ford.

The film portrays Waltz as an illiterate immigrant who could not write or even sign his name. Historical documents prove this totally incorrect. Waltz signed many documents between 1848-1889. It is a fact that no known letters written by Jacob Waltz have survived, but many of Waltz’s signed documents have survived to this day.

Ida Lupino played the role of Julia Thomas. The film portrayed her as Emil Thomas’ wife and Waltz’s lover. This was as far from the truth as any part of the film. Supposedly, Julia Thomas was trying to talk Waltz into taking her to his mine. Julia Thomas and her husband certainly didn’t die in a big earthquake at Waltz’s mine in the Superstition Mountains. Julia Thomas was born Julia Kahn (Korn) in Louisiana in 1867. She was married to Emil Thomas in Centrailia, Mitchell Co., Texas in 1883. Julia Thomas moved to Phoenix 1885, and divorced Emil Thomas in 1895. She then married Albert Shaeffer in 1896. She died of Bright’s disease in December of 1917, in Phoenix.

Jacob Waltz was in Julia Thomas’ home at the time of his death. He was about 81 years old. Julia became his caregiver when he could no longer care for himself.

This entire script for the film was made up from material provided to the scriptwriters by Barry Storm (John T. Climenson). The film was first titled “Bonanza,” than this title was changed to “Lust for Gold.” Near the release time of the film Barry Storm filed a lawsuit against the Columbia Picture Corporation claiming they lied about him saying he was Jacob Waltz grandson. He wanted this part of the film changed or more money. Columbia eventually settled with Storm and released the film in 1949. The film was a nightmare from the beginning for Columbia Pictures to produce because of Barry Storm and his various legal maneuvers.

S. Sylvan Simon did an excellent job directing this film. His props and stunts where basically ahead of their time. The mine scene was totally constructed at the studio. When the earthquake scene started one could see what an elaborate stage Simon had created. Simon was a man who never overlooked the most infinite
detail. However, there were a few things they did miss. The rattlesnake scene was terrible. The rubber rattlesnake did not look real at all. Then when they finally showed the live rattlesnake it was not a Western Diamond Back, but a specimen of rattlesnake not even indigenous to the Superstition Mountain area.

The final scene at the mine when the Apaches attacked was very interesting. The stunts were superb, especially the lance and arrow scenes. However, it was difficult to agree with arrows sticking in stone. The reason for this problem was, the scene moved extremely fast from beginning to end, and there was little time to cut certain portions of the scenes.

“Lust for Gold” never became a household name. Republic’s film “Treasure of the Sierra Madres” became a classic because of the star Humphrey Bogart and the story the film told. Republic’s film was far more  believable then Columbia’s film.

Many of the people who talk about the Lost Dutchman Mine learned much of their information from books or the film “Lust for Gold.” This film has introduced many generations to the history and legends of Superstition Mountain. Occasionally you can still watch “Lust for Gold” on the late night show or on a Saturday matinee.