Monday, December 4, 2017

Lust for Gold: A Motion Picture

November 27, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The motion picture, “Lust for Gold,” has been the reason for many individuals to begin their search for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. The release of this film by Columbia Pictures in 1949 started another generation of lost mine searchers in the Superstition Mountains.

Barry Storm signing his book “Thunder God’s Gold” for Ida Lupino, one of the stars in “Lust for Gold.”

Early in 1947 Columbia Picture 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 producers of this film asked Arizona’s Governor Dan E. Garvey for a letter of authenticity about the Lost Dutchman Mine. The governor wrote a letter that basically stated the story presented by Columbia Picture Corporation was a true account describing the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Portions of the motion picture were filmed on the studio lot; however a large percentage of the film was filmed on location along the Apache Trail. Many scenes were filmed in the area near the Salt River Project access road to Horse Mesa Dam. The film opens with a spectacular scene of Superstition Mountain with an adventurer named Paul Buckley hiking toward the Superstition Mountain. A narration describes how rugged the mountains are, how dangerous they are and that many people had lost their lives in these mountains searching for gold. The film’s narrator talked about a cache of gold worth twenty million dollars hidden in these mountains. According to the story, the Apaches, under the leadership of Cochise, killed the Peraltas and buried their gold.

The film then introduces a treasure hunter by the name of Floyd Buckley, who appears to know what he is talking about. Barry Storm is portrayed as the grandson of Jacob Waltz, the German prospector who had a rich gold mine in the Superstition Wilderness Area. Storm tries to talk Buckley into accepting him as a partner, but Buckley quickly brushes him off.

Buckley hikes off into the Superstition Mountains and is mysteriously murdered in an ambush.  Storm had followed Buckley to the point where he was killed, but didn’t witness the shooting. He did hear the shot and found Buckley’s body. According to the film, Storm ran and walked thirty-six miles to Apache Junction to report the murder. Ironically, there is no place in the Superstition Wilderness, particularly the western portion that would be thirty-six miles from Apache Junction.

At this point in the film, Barry Storm begins his research about the infamous tale of the Lost Dutchman Mine. He travels to the pioneer’s home and finds out about Jacob Waltz.  Here, the producer of the film inserts many of the stories about Waltz being a murderer. Storm found out at the Pioneer’s Home that the Lost Dutchman Mine and the Peralta Mine were all one and the same.

The film stresses the cactus marker with the stones in it as one of the key markers in locating the mine. This clue continues to surface today in a variety of stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine. The film also presents an interesting correlation between the sunburst, ORO and snake on Black Top Mesa and the one in the film. According to the film, Manuel, Pedro and Ramon cached the gold somewhere in the Superstition Mountain where the moon shines through a window rock revealing its location.

Glenn Ford was far too young to portray Jacob Waltz, who was 64 years old at the time. Waltz arrived in the territory from California in 1863 with the Peeples-Weaver Party. Waltz spent his first five years in the Prescott area before moving to the Salt River Valley in 1868. Most documents about Waltz indicate he was the opposite type of person the film portrays. Many sources reported Waltz as well liked and a kindly person. Records indicate he voted in every election after receiving his citizenship in 1861 in California. The film reveals Waltz as a vicious, premeditated murderer. This was absolutely not true. Ever since I have been doing research on this subject, some researchers have been constantly trying to prove Waltz was a murderer.

Much of this film is based on exactly what Barry Storm believed, but the problem with that is, Barry Storm’s research was not that accurate. Barry, like a lot of researchers, developed “facts” that fit their own scenarios. Often this is true of researchers trying to answer their own questions. The story of Waltz hearing the pounding of steel against rock just before discovery of the Mexican mine is part of the Storm scenario.

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. 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 in 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, Arizona.

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.

The 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. Finally, the title “Lust for Gold” was accepted. 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 Diamondback, 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.

Barry Storm wrote the book, “Thunder God’s Gold,” while living in a cave in Surprise Canyon near Tortilla Flat in 1949. He found living there suitable for his needs. He bought supplies at Tortilla Flat. This was the book “Lust For Gold” was based on.