Rex Ellingwood Beach
was an American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...
, and Olympic water polo
Water polo is a team water sport. The playing team consists of six field players and one goalkeeper. The winner of the game is the team that scores more goals. Game play involves swimming, treading water , players passing the ball while being defended by opponents, and scoring by throwing into a...
Rex Beach was born in Atwood, Michigan to a prominent family and pursued a career as a lawyer before being drawn to Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...
at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...
. After five years of unsuccessful prospecting, he turned to writing.
His first novel, The Spoilers
, was based on a true story of corrupt government officials stealing gold mines from prospectors, which he witnessed while he was prospecting in Nome, Alaska
Nome is a city in the Nome Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. According to the 2010 Census, the city population was 3,598. Nome was incorporated on April 9, 1901, and was once the...
. The Spoilers
became one of the best selling novels of 1906.
His adventure novels, influenced by Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...
, were immensely popular throughout the early 1900s. Beach was lionized as the "Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....
of the North," but others found his novels formulaic and predictable. Critics described them as cut from the "he-man school" of literature: stories of "strong hairy men doing strong hairy deeds." Alaska historian Stephen Haycox has said many of Beach's works are "mercifully forgotten today."
One such potboiler, The Silver Horde
(1909), is set in Kalvik, a fictionalized community in Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay is the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, at 57° to 59° North 157° to 162° West in Southwest Alaska. Bristol Bay is 400 km long and 290 km, wide at its mouth...
, Alaska, and tells the story of a down on his luck gold miner who discovers a greater wealth in Alaska's run of salmon (silver horde) and decides to open a cannery. To accomplish this he must overcome the relentless opposition of the "salmon trust," a fictionalized Alaska Packers' Association
The Alaska Packers' Association was a San Francisco based manufacturer of Alaska canned salmon founded in 1891 and sold in 1982. As the largest salmon packer in Alaska, the member canneries of APA were active in local affairs, and had considerable political influence...
, which undercuts his financing, sabotages his equipment, incites a longshoremen's riot and bribes his fishermen to quit. The story line includes a love interest as the protagonist is forced to choose between his fiance, a spoiled banker's daughter, and an earnest roadhouse operator, a woman of "questionable virtue." Real life cannery superintendent Crescent Porter Hale
Crescent Porter Hale was an American industrialist who was involved in the canned salmon industry in Bristol Bay, Alaska throughout his adult life.-Early life:...
has been credited with being the inspiration of The Silver Horde
but it's unlikely Beach and Hale ever met.
After success in literature, many of his works were adapted into successful films; The Spoilers
became a stage play, then was remade into movies five times from 1914 to 1955, with Gary Cooper
Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...
and John Wayne
Marion Mitchell Morrison , better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height...
each playing "Roy Glennister" in 1930 and 1942, respectively.
The Silver Horde
was twice made into a movie, as a silent film in 1920 starring Myrtle Stedman
Myrtle Stedman was a leading lady and later character actress in motion pictures beginning in silent films in 1910. She was born in Chicago, Illinois and educated at a private finishing school there. Miss Stedman performed in light opera and musical comedies there. Her voice was cultivated in France...
, Curtis Cooksey and Betty Blythe
Betty Blythe was an American actress best known for her dramatic roles in exotic silent films such as The Queen of Sheba .-Career:...
and directed by Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd was a film director, scriptwriter and producer...
; and a talkie in 1930 that starred Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur...
, Joel McCrea
Joel Albert McCrea was an American actor whose career spanned 50 years and appearances in over 90 films.-Early life:...
and Evelyn Brent
Evelyn Brent was an American film and stage actress.-Early life:Born Mary Elizabeth Riggs in Tampa, Florida and known as Betty, she was a child of 10 when her mother Eleanor died, leaving her father Arthur to raise her alone...
and was directed by George Archainbaud
George Archainbaud was a French-born American film and television director.-Biography:In the beginning of his career he worked on stage as an actor and manager. He came to Hollywood in 1915, and started his film career as an assistant director to Emile Chautard. In 1917 he made his directorial...
Beach occasionally produced his films and also wrote a number of plays to varying success. In 1949, two years after the death of his wife Edith, Beach committed suicide in Sebring, Florida
Sebring is a city in Highlands County, Florida, United States, nicknamed "The City on the Circle", in reference to Circle Drive, the center of the Sebring Downtown Historic District...
at the age of 71. In 2005, when the home Beach lived in was remodeled, a bullet was found in the wall, believed to be the bullet that ended his life.
Beach served as the first president of the Rollins College
Rollins College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Winter Park, Florida , along the shores of Lake Virginia....
Alumni Association. He and his wife are buried in front of the Alumni house.
Beach, and his most famous novel, were commemorated in 2009 by the naming of a pedestrian/bicycle trail in Dobbs Ferry, NY, a former place of residence. The trail is called "Spoilers Run" (see on Google Maps)
In 1904 he was a member of the American water polo team which won the silver medal in the St. Louis Games.
- The Spoilers (1906)
- The Barrier (1908)
- The Silver Horde (1909)
- The Ne'er-Do-Well (1911)
- The Net (1912)
- The Iron Trail (1913)
- The Auction Block (1914)
- Heart of the Sunset (1915)
- Rainbow's End (1916)
- The Crimson Gardenia and Other Tales of Adventure (1916)
- The Winds of Chance (1918)
- Flowing Gold (1922)
- The World in His Arms (1946)
- Going Some
Films based on his novels
- The Spoilers
The Spoilers is a 1914 film directed by Colin Campbell. It is set in Nome, Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush, with William Farnum as Roy Glennister, Kathlyn Williams as Cherry Malotte, and Tom Santschi as Alex McNamara. The film culminates in a spectacular saloon fistfight between Glennister and...
- The Auction Block (1917)
- The Iron Trail (1921)
- Fair Lady
Fair Lady is a 1922 silent film directed by Kenneth Webb. The film stars Betty Blythe, Thurston Hall and Robert Elliott. The film was based on the novel The Net by Rex Beach. The film was rereleased in Finland in 1924 and Portugal as O Selo de Cardi in 1927...
- The Spoilers
The Spoilers is a 1923 silent film directed by Lambert Hillyer. It is set in Nome, Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush, with Milton Sills as Roy Glennister, Anna Q. Nilsson as Cherry Malotte, and Noah Beery, Sr. as Alex McNamara. The film culminates in a saloon fistfight between Glennister and...
- The Auction Block
The Auction Block is a 1926 silent film directed by Hobart Henley. The film stars Charles Ray and Eleanor Boardman. It is written by Fanny Hatton based on the novel by Rex Beach. The film is a remake of The Auction Block, a 1917 Goldwyn production starring Rubye De Remer and Tom Powers...
- The Spoilers
The Spoilers is a 1930 film directed by Edward Carewe and set in Nome, Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush. The film features Gary Cooper as Roy Glennister, Kay Johnson as Helen Chester, Betty Compson as Cherry Malotte, and William "Stage" Boyd as Alec MacNamara, and culminates in a spectacular...
- Flowing Gold
Flowing Gold is a 1940 adventure film starring John Garfield, Frances Farmer, and Pat O'Brien. It was based on the novel of the same name by Rex Beach. The film is set in the American oilfields and the title refers to oil.-Plot:...
- The Spoilers
The Spoilers is a 1942 film directed by Ray Enright. The movie is set in Nome, Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush, with Marlene Dietrich as Cherry Malotte, Randolph Scott as Alexander McNamara, and John Wayne as Roy Glennister, and culminates in a spectacular saloon fistfight between McNamara and...
- The World in His Arms
The World in His Arms is a 1952 seafaring adventure film made by Universal International Pictures. It was directed by Raoul Walsh and produced byAaron Rosenberg from a screenplay by Borden Chase and Horace McCoy, based on the novel by Rex Beach...
- The Spoilers
The Spoilers is a 1955 film directed by Jesse Hibbs, adapted to sceen by Oscar Brodney and Charles Hoffman from the novel and play by Rex Beach. The movie is set in Nome, Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush, with Anne Baxter as Cherry Malotte, Jeff Chandler as Roy Glennister, and Rory Calhoun as...