black and white silent film. Believed to be the first motion
picture that portrayed a mention of Soapy on film. The film caused Soapy's
a newspaper man and political
power in St. Louis, Missouri, personal anguish and supposed loss of
respect when the film was viewed
in his home town theater. In 1919 the son, Jefferson R. Smith,
the legal firm of McCarthy, Morris and Sachritz to take up a legal battle of
written letters meant to eliminate objectionable parts from the film. Jefferson felt the film had injured his personal and political standing in the community and
wished to sue
for malicious libel. At first the film company, George Kleine
Motion Pictures was willing to cut offensive scenes out but later reneged on their offer. There is no
known out come. One copy of the film exists at the Library of Congress. 1918.
Paul Quinzi saw the film during a visit to the Library of Congress and wrote;
"The film is the story of a girl called Molly McCrea, 'daughter of one
of the lost gold seekers of Alaska.' After having been abandoned by
her father at a young age, Molly decides to travel to Alaska herself
after reading in the newspaper of 'great opportunities for young men in
the north.' Disguised by a pair of overalls and a cap, Molly passes
herself off as a boy, stows away on a ship and adopts the slightly more
masculine name 'Alaska.' On the ship, Alaska meets Phil Hadley, who is
also seeking his fortune, and the two 'boys' become best buds.
The two arrive in Skagway and meet an 'old
sourdough' who shows them around the town. They soon hook up with a
native who offers to lead them to a good stake. On the way, a huge ice
cliff falls on their canoe, killing their guide, leaving Phil and
Alaska to their own devices. (No CGI of course; the prelude to the film
alludes to the actors 'missing death by a narrow margin' in this
scene). They eventually find the stake, but there's no gold to be
found. They wander around some more and Phil becomes ill. Alaska
saves him by discovering, luckily within a few hundred yards, an old
prospector's cabin. Lo and behold, it's the old sourdough from
Skagway! He takes them in and offers to let them stay and help work
Alaska seems to be slowly falling for Phil, who
constantly pines for Lorraine, his sweetie back home, a socialite who
writes him occasionally. Of course, thinking Alaska is a dude, Phil is
totally oblivious to her feelings. One day Alaska, Phil and the
sourdough go into Fairbanks, the nearest town, for supplies. Alaska
and Phil go into a saloon, where someone tries to rob Phil at the faro
table. A great bar fight ensues, in which Phil is roundly beaten and
falls out into the street. Alaska rushes to his side, whispers 'I love
you' and kisses the unconscious Phil. Then the sourdough collects them
and they make a swift exit from Fairbanks. They continue to work the
stake, Phil missing Lorraine, Alaska lamenting her unrequited love for
Phil. The old sourdough falls ill, and on his death bed asks Alaska to
take his share of the claim back to the States and give it to his
little girl, Molly! Alaska removes her cap, revealing her curls, and
no sooner are father and daughter reunited than they are separated by
Phil decides it's time to head back home to Lorraine, and leaves his
buddy Alaska to work the claim. He is thrown from his sled and is left
alone in the wintry wilderness. The next morning, Alaska wakes to the
jingling bells of the returning pilotless dogsled, and goes out to save
Phil, which she does, although admittedly still bitter about his having
left her for Lorraine.
Spring comes, and one day Phil spies Alaska secretly frolicking by the
lake, naked as the day she was born, highlighting the fact that she's a
she (no CGI here, either, but shot from far away). Later that day, some
prospectors happen by the cabin and leave off some newspapers from the
States. Phil picks up one only to read, 'Prominent socialite Lorraine
Dower weds New York millionaire.' Next morning, Phil takes Alaska to
Fairbanks, ostensibly to file a new claim. Instead, he takes her
directly to the chapel (pastored by the Rev. U.R. Blest), whereupon he
announces that they want to be married, to which Alaska coyly
consents. THE END.
SO WHAT ABOUT SOAPY?
Of course, the reason I wanted to see this film in the first place
was to see the first on-screen portrayal of Soapy Smith. My
understanding of the connection to Soapy was that his son was so
embarrassed and offended by the film that he threatened to sue the
producer for libel if he did not remove the objectionable scenes. I
have concluded that either he succeeded, or that the lawsuit itself may
have been Soapy's last con - from beyond the grave.
First, there is no Soapy character, or even a character loosely based on Soapy (a la Candy Johnson in Honky Tonk, Sheriff Gannon in The Far Country) in the film. The only mention of Soapy is an approximately 15-second scene when Phil and Alaska arrive in
Skagway. The entire part plays exactly like this:
Slide: The old sourdough takes Alaska and Phil to the grave of the notorious gunman, Soapy Smith.
Screen: [Shows Soapy's tombstone, circa 1919, tattooed with graffiti] Jefferson R. Smith, died July 8, 1898, aged 38 years.
Slide: 'This fellow tried to shoot up Skagway. They buried him with his boots on.'
That's it. That's the libelous content that was the basis of the
lawsuit alleging mental anguish. It seems to me that this is one of
the most innocuous things ever recorded about Soapy. Could it be that
the newspaperman's indignation and threat of a libel suit was a ruse to
extort money out of the filmmaker? That Soapy Smith had one con left,
and the talents of the father were revisited in the son? Or is there
some particular ignominy about being buried with his boots on that is
lost on someone of my generation? I guess 'tr[ying] to shoot up
Skagway' makes him sound like a kind of terrorist, but it's certainly
not the extensive character assassination I was expecting.
Of course, it's possible that some original version had a somehow more
sinister depiction of Soapy and after being threatened with a lawsuit,
the director removed it, leaving only the cut I saw. But the film is
set in 1919, so it's unlikely that there would have ever been a Soapy
character included in it.
On the other hand, far be it from
me to presume to know what genuinely offends someones sensibilities. I
don't have any famous (or infamous, for that matter) relatives that I
know of, so I don't pretend to know how it feels to have one's name
attached to such a reference. And also on the other hand, the part
about Soapy is a complete throwaway; it does absolutely nothing to
advance the story and is almost conspicuously out of place. The
producer's offer to cut the scene involving Soapy was hardly even a
concession; it seems like he went out of his way in even mentioning
him, in an unflattering, but still relatively harmless reference. Maybe the fact that the reference was so capricious was what set Jeff
Actor: Clark Gable
Clark Gable as Candy Johnson (Soapy) Opening scene from HONKY TONK
Many thanks to Whit Haydn and DaveV for making this possible.
American black & white film starring Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Frank Morgan, Claire Trevor and Chill Wills. MGM purchased the rights to the book, The Reign of Soapy Smith, by William Ross Collier and Edwin Victor Westgate and transcribed into a cinema play by Ann Lee Whitmore and Tom Sellers, with Clark Gable playing the lead (L.A. Times, 04/29/1940. p. 8). The film was to be about Soapy, but according to Jeff, his grandfather, Soapy's son, (Jefferson Randolph Smith,
III) threatened to open a lawsuit against MGM if they used his father's name and story.
Soapy's son still had rights over useage of his father's name. Rather than scrap the movie, which had already begun filming, MGM just changed the names
around. Soapy Smith became Candy Johnson, a con man, played by
Clark Gable. Candy Johnson, tired of running from town to town,
sets his mind to have a town of his own. A very fun film
with great comical dialogue and a few shootouts thrown in for flavor.
At the startof the film there is a beautiful rendition on three-card Monte. In
the film Gable, as Mr. Johnson, for the sake of a woman, decides to use
his huckstering skill to build a small-town church, but soon he's up to
his old tricks, again, managing a dance hall and gambling emporium.There is a happy ending.
The Great Jesse James Raid 1953 (Docudrama) Actor: Earl Hodgins
"A well-crafted western" - Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
The Far Country 1955
Actor: John McIntire
Actors John McIntire and James Stewart
Actor James Stewarttakes
a herd of cattle to Dawson City, Canada, and encounters a likable
badman in Skagway, Alaska. The character is loosely, but clearly
and unmistakably, based on Soapy. Almost everything factual is
off, including the year, 1896. The geography is so bad, it's
laughable. Still, the Soapy character and the frontier mining
atmosphere are in the mold of truth.
The Klondike Fever 1980
Actor: Rod Stieger
film having the same title as the book by Pierre Bertone, but that's
where the similarity ends. Rod Stieger, as Soapy, was far
too old, beardless, and dressed like a priest, complete with collar.
The Alaskans 1959-1960 (TV) Actor: John Dehner
TV fictional show based around the Klondike gold rush. Several
episodes included Soapy in some form of dishonest mayhem. One of
the episodes, "Remember the Maine" tells the story of Soapy and his
Alias Smith and Jones 1971-1972 (TV) Actor: Sam Jaffe
An older, gray haired Soapy discusses business with "Smith & Jones"
TV show based on two outlaws trying to go straight. Sam Jaffe
appears as Soapy in three episodes;
The Great Shell Game, aired, February 18, 1971.
A Fistful of Diamonds, aired, March 4, 1971.
Bad Night in Big Butte, aired, March 2, 1972.
Deadwood 2004-2005 (HBO)
Actor: Gil Gayle
Soapy Smith in Deadwood
one and two of this HBO program shows a prize soap pakage sell swindle
character known in the cast as "the Huckster." Actor Ricky Jay
was introduced to Jeff Smith and is knowledgable of the Soapy Smith
story. "The Huckster" is obviously based on Soapy.
Treasure 1968 (TV) Actor: Unknown
Bill Burrud's Treasure
The Saga of Soapy Smith aired on Bill Burrud's Treasure. Well done portrayal of his Skagway days leading up to his death. The question arises as to the where abouts of Soapy's wealth after his death. It is hard to fathom that Soapy died broke when at the height of power.
The Ballad of Soapy Smith 1983
Actor: Denis Arndt
wonderful play writen by Michael Weller and premiered in Seattle,
Washington in 1983. It was performed in New York and years later
in a college university in California, where Jeff Smith had the
pleasure of seeing the play and meeting Mr. Weller.
The Days of '98 Show (with Soapy Smith)
Actor: James Richards
Please see the special section on this wonderful play at the bottom of this page or click HERE
Games & Entertainments
"Save Soapy" (A level in the game involving the rescue of Soapy)
Gun 2005 (Neversoft) Video game (XBox, PSP, etc.)
Gun is a western-themed video developed by Neversoft and published by Activision for the Xbox 360, Xbox, GameCube, PC, PSP and PSP2. It was released in North America on November 8, 2005 and in mid-to late November in Europe. Soapy Jennings is one of the characters in the game named after Soapy Smith. It is unknown why they changed his name but one rumor states it was in honor of one of the creators friends.
Soapy, played by Dave Wittenberg is a safe-cracking card cheat and the main characters (Colton) closest ally. Soapy is
a little too smart and cocky for his own good. Though he's a smooth
talker, he tends to get himself into trouble,
where as Cole is constantly bailing him out.
The Yukon Trail 1997 (The Learning Co.) Computer generated
Windows/Mac computer game in which the player (you) play a Klondike
Gold Rush stampeder trying to get to Dawson and the gold fields.
In Skagway the player runs into Soapy Smith, his saloon, a crooked
shell game and a card cheat.
The Yukon Trail game players can talk to historical characters,
play a crooked shell game, enter "Soapy's Saloon" and talk to Soapy
Conker Live & Reloaded2005 (Microsoft Game Studios)
Squirrel soldier: "Soapy"
Conker: Live and Reloaded is an Xbox game, that Jeff played with his son Jefferson.
When in the "Total War" portion of the game, players team up against a sea landing force of enemy squirrels. The names of each character is visable in white letters above the heads for identification purposes.
One day, Jefferson and I were in the heat of battle in the game. we were the bank of a trench when, in a blur I something that caught my attention. A squirrel flew
by in a
blur just below us, in a trench. I startled my son by yelling, "Did you see
that?" Before he could answer, I took off chasing the
squirrel down the winding trench. My son, now mad and yelling at me for deviating from the game,
was trying to keep up. Finally, I trapped my prey in a cul-de-sac.
"Look at the name of the character I was chasing, Jeff!" I hollared excitedly. The name
above my captives head read "Soapy." Not really knowing, or caring whether "Soapy" squirrel was friend or foe, I did the only thing I could do in that predicament...I
shot "Soapy" dead.
Portraits & Art
Number 84 in a series by H. Rawson in 1941
The Ballad of Soapy Smith, 1981, written by Al Oster The Ballad of Soapy Smith, 1987, written by Tim Martin
Clifford, Howard, Uncrowned King of Skagway, Sourdough Enterprise, 1997. Well published with common mistakes. Has a different perspective of Soapy's death and who shot him. Howard is a friend of the Smith family having met John Randolph Smith and Jeff Smith in 1973.
Pullen, Harriet S., Soapy Smith Bandit of Skagway: How He Lived; How He Died. Stroller's Weekly Print (Elmer J. White - believed to be a member of the Soap Gang). early 1900s (unknown publication date).
Robertson, Frank G. and Beth Kay Harris, Soapy Smith: King of the Fronteir Con Men, Hastings House, 1961. Probably the best biography made to date.
Shea & Patten, The Soapy Smith Tragedy, Daily Alaskan Print, 1907 (this is the Daily
Alaskan newspaper which published Soapy's death in July, 1898).
Westrate, Edwin Victor and William Ross Collier, The Reign of Soapy Smith: Monarch of Misrule, Doubleday, Doran, 1935. The first complete biography. No footnotes, resources given.
Walt Disney Comics, Uncle Scrooge, Marvel, June 1994.
In this comic book the story of how Scrooge McDuck (Uncle Scrooge) obtains his riches, all thanks to Soapy Slick (Soapy Smith).
Scrooge goes to Skagway where he buys a fraudulent mine claim from Soapy. When Scrooge finds gold on the claim Soapy tries to claim the mine back.
(Left) Scrooge holds up a gold nugget from his claim as Soapy and his gang start up the hill to rob him.
Fats, A. Conan, The Adventure of the Grace Ghost, Greater Grace Daily Online Gazette. A. Conan Fats, a descendant of
English mystery writer A. Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes
stories, continues the family tradition of writing. This time Soapy is the villian in THE ADVENTURE OF THE GRACE GHOST
Conceptual art of the Federation starship, U.S.S. Jefferson Randolph Smith (NCC-29402), Sulek-Class, under Captain Tatyana Trofimov, year 2268.
Ford, John M., How Much For Just The Planet? Pocket Books, 1987. Soapy is not a character in this book, but a Star-trek Federation Starship in the year 2268. The U.S.S. Jefferson Randolph Smith (NCC-29402, Sulek-class) is a Federation resource exploratory ship under the command of Captain Tatyana Trofimov.
From the same novel there are other
ships named after the Klondike era, such as the U.S.S. Dawson City. It
appears John did a little research into mining for the novel. It also
appears Ford had a sense of humor.
Miller, Mike, Soapy, Alaskabooks, 1970. A fun fictional paperback read.