'Guns' Donovan prefers carousing with his pals Doc Dedham and 'Boats' Gilhooley, until Dedham's high-society daughter Amelia shows up in their South Seas paradise.
John Wayne ... Michael Patrick 'Guns' Donovan
Lee Marvin ... Thomas Aloysius 'Boats' Gilhooley
Elizabeth Allen ... Ameilia Sarah Dedham
Jack Warden ... Dr. William Dedham
Cesar Romero ... Marquis Andre de Lage
Dick Foran ... Australian Navy Officer
Dorothy Lamour ... Miss Lafleur
Marcel Dalio ... Father Cluzeot
Mike Mazurki ... Sergeant Monk Menkowicz
Jacqueline Malouf ... Lelani Dedham
Cherylene Lee ... Sally Dedham
Jeffrey Byron ... Luki Dedham (as Tim Stafford)
Edgar Buchanan ... Boston Attorney
Jon Fong ... Mister Eu
Director: John Ford
Runtime 109 min
Codecs: DivX 3 / MP3
"Donovan's Reef" is an accurately made, funny, light-hearted work, with some moments of deep poetry. For the audience it is more a relaxing vacation than an actual movie: we are transferred to a paradisiac South Pacific island, where a bunch of super-nice guys, our friends John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Cesar Romero make a funny show to entertain us. From the very beginning we find John Ford's characteristic sense of humour: we see a family meeting of sullen Bostonian shipowners, who all take for granted that their relative Dr. Dedham (Jack Warden) is living in orgiastic promiscuity over there, in the Islands of Sin. And then there is the usual number of (harmless) fist-fights and brawls... and a quarrel-loaded love-story... and many comic misunderstandings...
"Donovan's Reef" is one of the very last cinema appointments of John Ford. Inside this light comedy, the old Master inserts touches of his poetic legacy, his trade-mark messages of peace, brotherhood, anti-racism. An evident instance is the scene of the Christmas Mass and Ceremony, with the islanders in their native costumes. And then there is an extremely poignant short scene, just few seconds. The nice little French priest is walking on a beautiful, sunny lawn, shaded by palm-trees, close to the sea: it's the cemetery. We see tombs with a Celtic cross, a French cross, a David's star; then the priest stops at a native barrow, covered with garlands, and he starts to pray (this is the tomb of the late native princess, the doctor's wife). After the storms of our life on this earth, we become all brothers in a better world. This quiet and dignified, yet full of religious hope acceptance of death is one of the most felt and profound themes of Ford's poetry.
I recommend "Donovan's Reef": enjoy the humour, the funny action, the fine performances of the cast, and don't miss the deep poetic touches of the Master John Ford.
My conceptions about the South Pacific were formed when I saw this movie at the Elm Theatre in Brooklyn growing up. It has an honored place in my collection.
First off that music does get you. Every John Ford film is marked by a great use of music, in his westerns the use of traditional western themes pace the action. Here in Donovan's Reef the music under the credits sets the mood for the story set on this South Seas Paradise.
Secondly this was the last film that John Ford made with John Wayne. I believe this is the most successful actor/director relationship in the history of film by just about any standard you want to use, box office, quality of work, etc. The partnership went out on a high note.
John Wayne's westerns are usually a self contained world that operates on the principles of his universe. This film does also, but here it is more believable. This mixed group of people really do know the secret of living and let living. And the outside world occasionally does intrude and violently as the World War II background of the principal characters demonstrates.
This is also a film about believing stereotypes. John Wayne, Lee Marvin and the rest of the island believe Elizabeth Allen will be a racist. She's hurt by the abandonment of her father (Jack Warden) but she does come to accept her half-siblings. The film is anti-racist,
but it also teaches a great moral lesson in not making your mind up about people prematurely.
The comedy as in all Ford films is heavy handed, but I still crack up at Wayne and Marvin and their escapades.
This is what the definition of escapist entertainment is.
Donovan's Reef is fun. It has a decent story, good characters, and stunning scenery. This is why you go to the movies, isn't it? If compared against Ford's acknowledged masterpieces, Dononvan's Reef does not measure up, but measured against other escapist films, it is a great movie. John Wayne's performance is consistently good, and as always, believable. Wayne was so real in his films, that he is never considered to be a good actor, but if you look at his body of work, you have to admit he could do it all. His Guns Donovan character is certainly up to snuff, and he does well with what he has. His interaction with Lee Marvin as Boats Gilhooley is as good as any of his other brawling, head-butting clashes with legends like Ward Bond or Victor McGlaglen. Lee Marvin is very funny and clever in his scenes, and very rarely over the top. He could always deliver on a character that was supposed to be likable, but mentally ill.
Aside from the fun, we have a significant plot element of prejudice considering the behavior of Guns, Boats, and Andre, where they hide the Doctor's half-caste Polynesian children from the All-White Bostonian daughter, Amelia. Paradoxically, we have Chinese stereotypes in the form of goofy looking morons with toothy grins and heavy accents. Still, in the end reason prevails in that the young Leilani shows wisdom beyond her years. When she sings a prayer of thanks to the goddess of the canyon where Guns chops down their Christmas tree, Amelia asks if she believes in gods and goddesses. Leilani replies, "I believe in one God, as we all do, but I respect the customs and beliefs of my people." Amelia subsequently accepts the cultural differences with a gracious bow to Leilani, who is being honored as the last hereditary princess of the island. That is a nicely done scene.
If you focus on what Donovan's Reef isn't, it will be a disappointing film. If you enjoy it for what it is, you will have a great time.
* This is the technically last movie that John Ford and John Wayne worked on together, although Wayne later provided the voice-over narration for Ford's documentary Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend (1976).
* In a fight with Lee Marvin, John Wayne underestimated an uppercut. He crashed through a table and fell down. Director John Ford decided to put the scene into the movie.
* Ameilia asks the captain "to charter the Araner." That was the real name of John Ford's yacht.
* The yacht used in the film is John Ford's yacht "The Araner".
* During the scene where Amelia is wishing to "charter the Araner", Donovan states that he owns the Araner and a boat named the Inisfree. Inisfree is the name of the town in Ireland in which "The Quiet Man" another John Wayne film takes place.
* Actor Mickey Simpson is sometimes mistakenly credited as the mate hit with a mop by Lee Marvin in the opening scene. It is not Simpson but 'Duke Greene' .
* Actor John Qualen dubbed the voice of the sailor who yells "Man overboard!" in the opening scene, though it is not Qualen on-screen.
* In the beginning, Gilhooley tells the captain who "shanghi'd" him that they were supposed to be at the island "on the 7th". Taking into account the time-line of the movie, ending on Christmas, that would make Donovan and Gilhooley's birthday as December 7th, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.