"Haunted Gold" was one of six "B" westerns produced by Warner Bros. for the 1932-33 season starring John Wayne. They were either out and out remakes of silent Ken Maynard films or they borrowed liberally, stock footage of Maynard and his horse Tarzan.
The plot involves an abandoned gold mine haunted by a mysterious stranger known only as "The Phantom". Cowboy John Mason (Wayne) and his sidekick Clarence (Blue Washington) ride in to the mine site. Joe Ryan (Harry Woods) and his gang have already arrived looking for a lost gold treasure. Mason and Ryan are half owners of the mine, Mason having inherited his share from his father and Ryan having cheated the rightful owner out of his share.
Lurking about are the mine's former manager Tom Benedict (Erville Anderson) and his servant Simon (Otto Hoffman). Janet Carter (Sheila Terry) the daughter of the rightful owner of her half interest is also on hand. It seems that all have been summoned to the site by mysterious notes to each from "The Phantom". Meanwhile, "The Phantom" skulks about peering out from behind secret panels keeping an eye on the proceedings.
Mason and Janet team up to foil Ryan's attempts to gain control of the gold. Finally, "The Phantom's" identity is revealed and.................
This film is arguably the best of Wayne's six Warner Bros. westerns. There were better production values than he would have in his later Lone Star westerns and he had the advantage of working for a major studio. The animated owls over the opening titles are the work of Producer Leon Schlesinger who was better known as the head of Warners Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon factory.
Wayne and his horse "Duke" were made up to match stock shots of Maynard and "Tarzan" in the earlier silent films. Long shots of the hero and horse and most of the stunts and stunt riding is Maynard.
Having been filmed in 1932, two years before the implementation of Hollywood's Production Code, this film contains several racial slurs involving the "Clarence" character who is black. He is called both a "Darkie" and "Sambo", by the Woods character and is referred to as the hombre with "the watermelon accent" by gang members. Wayne's character even calls him "boy" in one scene.
For trivia buffs, look for the statue that was used as the falcon in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) atop the heroine's organ as she plays.
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