I like John Wayne, but I struggled with Haunted Gold.
This was the first movie produced under a six-picture contract Wayne signed with Warner Bros. It's a remake of The Phantom City (1928).
When Warner Bros. acquired First National Pictures a few years prior, they inherited the rights to several silent westerns starring Ken Maynard. These were popular, A-list productions featuring Maynard’s impressive stunt work.
Warner Bros. sought to remake the Maynard silents with sound, recycling as much footage as possible, reshooting only the close-ups and interiors. All they needed was an actor who matched Maynard’s build. Enter Wayne.
Wayne plays a cowboy investigating an abandoned mine. It’s a dull, talky story involving half-shares in mines, frame-ups, betrayals, and a mysterious Phantom. One assumes Maynard's version had more life.
Wayne's performance is stiff and unsure, lacking even a glimpse of his signature laconic persona.
And then there’s Blue Washington as Wayne’s sidekick. It’s an unfunny and demeaning role that sees him referred to as “boy” by Wayne and “watermelon mouth” by the villains. It makes a bad movie even worse.
Warner Bros. may have known they had a turkey on their hands. They shot and released two more Maynard remakes with Wayne, Ride Him, Cowboy (1932) and The Big Stampede (1932), before releasing this stinker.