Rex Ellingwood Beach, known equally for his two-fisted novels of adventure and the films made from them, died two years before the publication of his last, and unfinished, novel, Woman in Ambush. At the time that he sold the film rights for one hundred thousand dollars, he stood at the end of a long successful career that had begun with Pardners in 1905. The Spoilers, perhaps his most famous book, was produced in 1914 as the first of the six-reel films starring William Farnum; the novel was the basis for three further films, one in 1922 with Milton Sills, one in 1930 with Gary Cooper, and one in 1942 with John Wayne. Beach was the first author to insist upon including film rights in his publishing contracts.
Most of Rex Beach’s work, ranging from magazine articles to novels and plays, reflects his knowledge and experience of pioneering business ventures in Panama, in the oil fields of the Southwest, and in the mines and salmon canning factories of Alaska. His fiction is strong on action and intrigue, melodramatic in plot, and written in a fast-paced style. His work has been compared with that of Robert Service and Jack London, and though he has received less critical acknowledgment than these writers, he attracted a strong audience during his time. He wrote little in later years, having invested his fortune with remarkable success in ranching and the growing of vegetables and flowers. On December 7, 1949, incurably ill with advanced throat cancer and blinded by cataracts, he shot himself at his lakeside home in Sebring, Florida.
Baldwin, C. C. The Men Who Make Our Novels. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1924.
Clemens, Cyril. “My Friend Rex Beach.” Hobbies 54 (1950).
Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1942.
Nizer, Louis. “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met.” Readers Digest 58, no. 345 (1951).
Ravitz, Abe C. Rex Beach. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1994.
Van Gelder, Robert. Writers and Writing. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946.