The Silver Horde (1930)

  • Directed by George Archainbaud.
  • Based on the novel of the same name by Rex Beach.
  • Baby-faced Joel McCrea & his buddy Fraser (Raymond Hatton) (they only met 3 days ago) stumble upon a small village after a long journey through northern Alaska, and no one will let them into their houses for food & shelter except this one lady named Cherry Malotte (Evelyn Brent). She is somehow involved in a town battle regarding salmon fishing, and BFM (Baby Faced McCrea) & Fraser are somehow involved in gold mining (though they appear to be rather unsuccessful at it).
  • Cherry Malotte is apparently infamous for something – but only Fraser is aware of this.
  • Balt (Louis Wolheim), Cherry’s housemate/butler (?), has some really great fishing land, but needs some money to finance his operation. Cherry thinks Boyd (BFM) is the right man for him to partner with to get the necessary funds, and so off they go to Seattle to get it.
  • Before they (BFM, Balt, & Fraser) depart, BFM and Cherry share an unsuccessful scene where BFM thanks her for changing his life and setting him on his feet again. Because BFM & Cherry have only known each other for a week, and we’ve only seen them bonding in one scene – the depth of emotion they try to create just falls flat. The movie wants us to marvel at the impactful nature of Cherry’s mentorship to BFM – but instead we’re just like, ‘How many words have they said to each other? Like…five?’ Anyway…the moment doesn’t translate.
  • Success! They get the financing from Cherry’s contact Mr. Hilliard (William B. Davidson).
  • While in Seattle, Boyd (apparently his first name is Emerson) drops in for dinner at his fiancée Mildred (Jean Arthur)’s house. Mildred is awfully cheerful & devoted to Emerson, considering he’s just randomly showing up to say hi after 3 years of traipsing around Alaska, unsuccessfully mining for gold. You’d think she’d have at least a little bite to her feelings towards him, based on that…but no, the way she tells her father how committed she is to Emerson is like…he’s been at the grocery store down the street for a half hour – not the Yukon for multiple years.

Sigh.

  • Well, crap. JA’s dad’s BFF Fredrick Marsh (is that a joke?) is like, ‘No, Emerson – I don’t want you to have your fishing machinery after all.’ and talks Hilliard’s board out of loaning the money.
  • Balt is somehow also familiar with Marsh (which I don’t understand at all) and sends a note to Cherry back in Alaska that reads:

“Dear Miss Cherry, Marsh is up to his old tricks. He stopped our deal. You better come.”

  • “Jaguar,” Cherry says (Jaguar’s her maid). “Pack some things. Some pretty things. I’m going to Seattle.”
  • And go to Seattle she does.
  • Okayyyy…so – Emerson’s deal is being held up by both Marsh (he’s played by Gavin Gordon, by the way) & Mr. Wayland (Mildred’s father, played by Purnell Pratt). As Hilliard puts it, Wayland’s primary objection to Mildred marrying Emerson is that he isn’t rich enough – and they’re blocking the deal so that he doesn’t get any richer.

(Huh?)

Like…Wayland doesn’t want his daughter marrying this dude, and thinks he needs a reason for that, and if Emerson becomes rich with his fishing equipment, that reason will be gone?

That makes very little sense to me.

  • Anyway, the conclusion of that scene is Cherry admitting to Hilliard that she is in love with Emerson & is sad that he has a Mildred.
  • Weird.
  • Meanwhile, Balt doesn’t know how to answer a telephone. He is very careful to put on his bowler hat before he tries, however.
  • Cherry decides to trade her copper mine (she has a copper mine?) to Hilliard for his bank’s approval of Emerson’s loan. This seems like an absolutely ridiculous move for her to make, considering, again, the total number of words she & BTM exchanged in their 10 days of living in the same place, and also the fact that he is very clearly engaged to another woman.

Goddamn it, Cherry – look out for you.

  • Cherry leaves Seattle without BFM ever knowing she was there. When his loan gets approved, BFM thinks it’s because Mildred spoke to her father on his behalf (she did not).
  • Fredrick Marsh runs a rival salmon fishery???

Okay, sure.

  • Marsh tells all of Emerson’s workers that he (Marsh) will pay them more, so they quit on the…eve of…the…salmon-catching (???). The way this issue is to be resolved is for Emerson to fight (like…a boxing match) his head worker Svenson (Ivan Linow).
  • (Y’all, this plot is terrible.)
  • So…Emerson fighting one of his workers in the woods is supposed to convince all of these salmon catchers not to accept more money from Marsh? That makes no sense! Why would that be a thing?
  • Balt is pumped about this, though. (I think he’s a former boxer???)
  • BFM wins. The crowd of salmon workers/fight spectators cheers after this happens. So I guess that means they’re sticking with Boyd (by the way, that’s Emerson’s first name)?
  • Next, there are some (okay, a lot) of shots of salmon swimming. This is fun at first, and then very boring.
  • Oh my God, PETA would have a field day with this movie. They show the whole capturing & conveyer-belt-ing of a shit ton of salmon. There are a lot of salmon that are first shown jumping & alive…and then are shown dead (and then shown again as canned salmon). I can honestly say that I’ve never seen as many dead salmon in a movie as are depicted here. Way to go, SILVER HORDE – at least you are the champion of something.
  • “Emerson’s success forces Marsh to show his hand.” says the title card.
  • This translates to Marsh trying to destroy BFM’s salmon machinery with his freight boats.
  • Before this can happen, all of BFM’s guys run after Marsh’s boats on their boats, and they have a good old-fashioned salmon-workers brawl.
  • For some reason, now Mildred is also in Alaska, and witnesses the salmon workers brawl (of which Emerson is of course, directly in the center of). Afterwards she lectures BFM on his lack of decency & also his friendship with Cherry Malotte, who we at last find out is infamous for…being a prostitute.
  • Anyhow, I think Mildred & Emerson are Splitsville?
  • The film now insinuates that Cherry slept with Hilliard to get Emerson’s loan approved…except we very clearly heard her trade her copper mine for it, so…? I would suggest reading this as commentary on society’s mistaken judgments about people – except this movie is not that deep, so – lord knows.
  • Mildred goes to confront Cherry about her involvement with BFM. In the scene, Mildred is wearing all white, and Cherry is wearing all black. We are wearing an eye roll.
  • Evelyn Brent kills the confrontation scene, though. She is spectacular in it!
  • Next, it’s Boyd’s turn to confront Cherry about her semi-harlot past, and he’s a real asshole about it. ‘How dare you help me find myself & find a career! If I had known you were a whore, I never would have accepted it!’ he yells nastily (or, you know, he yells something of that nature).
  • Hahahaha……what?! Cherry ruins the new Marsh/Mildred engagement plan by presenting her prostitute friend Queenie (Blanche Sweet)…who is, it turns out, Marsh’s long lost wife.

Marsh is like, ‘Oh, I though she was dead,’ but it’s too late – the MilFred coupling is already off.

  • Boyd awakens in the middle of the night and is like, ‘Oh nooooo! I’m an idiot!’ and goes and tells Cherry he’s sorry & he loves her & something about how there is no past, only tomorrow (?).
  • The End.
  • (Oh, and I think Balt might have strangled Marsh to death? We don’t really see that scene play out, but I think that happened.)
  • Y’all, this movie was terrible. Evelyn Brent knocked her part out of the park, but that was pretty much the only bright spot.
  • I’m wondering if the novel’s plot was just condensed & translated to screen extremely poorly, and that everything made much more sense & unfolded significantly more smoothly in the book?
  • The characters of Balt & Fraser were totally unnecessary & could have been cut out completely. There were lots of scenes with just the two of them, and they made absolutely no difference to plot as a whole.
  • The scenes featuring salmon catching, processing, & canning were semi-interesting – but they would have fit far better in a documentary short on salmonry.
  • This and DANGER LIGHTS, also starring Jean Arthur & also released in 1930, are total movie brethren – and I don’t mean that in a good way.
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