Donovan's Reef Reviews
January 3, 2010
The writing is a little sloppy, and overall things are silly and everything is meant to be light entertainment-but I rather enjoyed this. It was funny, even if things seem very dated and silly, but still, a good laugh or two or three never hurt anyone-especially when the intentions are good. It is weird (but cool) seeing Lee Marvin as comic relief though.
May 10, 2007
Donovan's Reef was the final collaboration between Johns Wayne and Ford, and features manly men doing manly things such as swill booze, chomp on cee-gars and hit each other with furniture. It can best be seen as a kind of attempt to make a masculine romantic comedy. However to me it just seemed like a western set in the south seas with all but the bar room brawls, sentiment and romance removed. In other words, with all the good bits removed. It's not dreadful as such, but it's gender politics are very dated (as if a young Boston sophisticate would be attracted to an middle-aged, brawling, beer sodden school boy) and it's just not that funny. Not a fitting epilogue to a partnership that produced some of the cinematic greats. Or maybe I'm just not "manly" enough...
December 26, 2006
Good funny with John Wayne and Lee Marvin, but I see heaps of mistakes in saloon brawl scenes.
January 12, 2013
A much better version of a movie from John Ford and John Wayne in the same year, "McLintock!", wherein John Ford "tames" a woman--in this case, she's not so headstrong as she is stuck up. There's also a terrific bar scene late in the film.
November 24, 2009
While remembered most for Westerns, followed by war movies, many don't realize the Duke had a nack for comedy. "Donovan's Reef" is very funny. It's one of the only times I've seen Lee Marvin cast as the comic relief.
November 23, 2009
One of my fav Christmas movies that I watch anytime of the year.
Christmas in Hawaii with The Duke... One of my fav Christmas movies that I watch anytime of the year.
August 6, 2008
Stupid fun from John Ford and many of his usual suspects. The very brief Christmas scene puts this on my short list of must-see Christmas videos every year.
April 25, 2007
John Wayne is good in this even though it's not a western. Lee Marvin stars also and it has some good comedy moments in it.
January 15, 2007
One of my favorite John Wayne movies. I remember watching this on the base in Annapolis as a young girl.
November 14, 2006
Several WW2 vets (Jack Warden, Lee Marvin & John Wayne) living on a sunny South Pacific island, celebrate a traditional Christmas with playful drinking and fighting.
January 19, 2015
DR is my favorite movie...bar none! This movie brings you back to a time when Hollywood wasn't afraid to make movies about real, testosterone fueled, party hard and play hard men!!!!
June 2, 2014
an undemanding watch that definitely entertains
January 13, 2012
While The Searchers and Quiet Man have been regarded as director John Ford's finest, I find Donovan's Reef to be the director's under-appreciated gem, a hilarious and beautiful picture worthy of repeated viewing; to this day, it remains my favorite collaboration between John Ford and John Wayne, and the quintessential definition of the term screwball, romantic comedy. The film contains colorful characters well-played by well-known performers, as well as the most breathtaking landscapes I've ever seen in a film mostly played for laughs, (the only other film similar to this is the panoramic sweeps of John Ford's Hatari.) While the duration of the film is taken by the legendary Duke, who owns a local, rowdy saloon, the heart and driving force of the story is adequately fulfilled by Elizabeth Allen's Amelia Dedham; the prissy, wealthy Bostonian journeys to the fictitious, picturesque island of Haleakaloha to checkmate the local doctor, (Jack Warden,) who also happens to be her biological father. You see, in accordance to the rigid, almighty governing rulebook at the Dedham Shipping Company, a certain Dedham may or may not receive his portion of company stock, and solitary control, of the company if he clearly does not "behaving in a way suitable for Boston standards." Amelia's quest is to deceitfully prove "Doc" Dedham has had an affair with a luscious South-Sea girl in a colorful sarong. Her clever scheme backfires in part by Guns Donovan and his scene-stealing navy chum, Thomas Gilhooley, (played by a Lee Marvin who behaves like he had an overdose of cane sugar.) The two men hatch this lame plot to conceal both Doc Denham's three children and, more importantly, his marriage to the last heiress of the island kingdom, Princess Manulani; much of the film hilariously portrays the unraveling of this plan, as Doc Dedham's three cute kids are unceremoniously taken by Guns Donovan, not the most convincing father figure. Along the way, Amelia softens up to island living, and ultimately becomes smitten with Donovan himself, after a series of embarrassing love-hate encounters, which often involved her falling flat on her ass or getting soaked with sea water like a saturated sink sponge. The film does a great job in the fun department, as story and plot remain flexibly loose, allowing for much slapstick, verbal fireworks, and relationship meltdowns. In addition to Amelia's humiliating encounters, the island of Haleakaloha also offers a nutty, French-speaking priest who owns a leaky chapel, a brash, egotistical louse after Amelia's fortune, (who happens to be the island's governor and played by, who else? Caesar Ramero.) The film also features several signature John Ford bar fights, complete with flying glass, pianos falling on people's heads Tex Avery-style, and wine bottles smashing onto people's noggins with no real consequences. On the negative side, typical with several John Wayne films produced in this era, there are stereotypes which many audiences may feel uncomfortable watching, particularly jokes poking fun at the local Chinese population; these individuals are either chattery comics or, in the case of the Governor's assistant Mr. Eu, secretive schemers. But I find these stereotypes watchable because practically every White character does not escape the same finger-pointing mockery; in fact, one persistent theme of Donovan's Reef is the idiocy and imperfect nature of salty military men, who are caricatured even MORE than non-Anglos. This is clearly see in Act I, in which Gilhooley jumps ship and swims all way to Haleakaloha just to egg on a traditional, 20-year punching contest with Donovan for the singular reason that they mutually despise the indisputable fact that both share the same birthday; neither man is able to remember the reason or origin of this hurtful tradition; when forced to concede and shake hands, they do so grudgingly, not unlike five-year-old boys caught in a playground brawl. Despite being released in 1963, I found that the film actually does a darned decent job at handing issues or racism and bigotry. While ultimately screwing with reality and all things serious in life, Donovan's Reef is, fantastically, twenty years ahead of its time, regarding progressive messages of racial tolerance and multiculturalism. The rigid attitudes of Dedham's Shipping Company remains the hub of all humor, and is ultimately overturned when Donovan "makes a human being" out of Amelia, by placing her over his strong knee and gives her a good whacking job over the backside in the second-to-last scene in the film. In addition, the eldest and most mature of the three kids, Lelani, has one strikingly poignant moment when she flees to her room in tears, heartbroken that she would not be allowed to see her white, half-sister Amelia, on the basis of adult prejudice towards her skin color. In addition to addressing racism, Amelia's character was a somewhat strong female character, (at least in in the early 60's.) As mentioned in beginning of this review, Elizabeth Allen's character seems to be the crux of the story, though filmmakers wisely told the story through more the most colorful characters Donovan and Gilhooley, (who at one point are trying to drown each other each other in an artificial, outdoor lily pond.) She spends much of the last half of the film discovering answers for herself, rather than being told; she sees through the lies created by the scheming, deceiving ex-military men, and independently learns the truth about her father, Doc Dedham, and her siblings' tie with the legendary Princess Manulani
April 2, 2012
All the leads have great comedic chemistry and lead by John Wayne's constant charisma, Donovan's Reef succeeds in bring together all the elements of a good Wayne film - comedy, drama, and action.
June 18, 2005
DONOVAN'S REEF (1963)
April 30, 2009
John Wayne + John Ford in the South Pacific is like a nice vacation... Lee Marvin in his most easy going, likeable role... Several gags & jokes keep the pace moving well
A bit of a stuffy plot requiring too much exposition for this genre, yet it works out in the end
June 20, 2008
I have seen this movie so many times that it doesn't really matter that I'm not really watching it. I'd say it's technically a Christmas movie--certainly it's set in December--but I never think of it as one, hence its appearance here in June. Indeed, the movie starts on 7 December, the birthday of Donovan (John Wayne) and Gilhooley (Lee Marvin). Indeed, they mention that they've been fighting on that day for 22 years. Given that the movie was made in 1963, this means they've been fighting every 7 December since Pearl Harbor Day.
Michael Patrik "Guns" Donovan runs a bar on the French Polynesian island of Haleakaloa with Cesar Romero as the governor. At the beginning of the film, his friend Doc Dedham (Jack Warden) goes off to the smaller islands to provide medical care for the natives of those places. While he is gone, his daughter, Amelia (Elizabeth Allen), comes from Boston to find out if her father, who is due to inherit quite a wallop of the shipping business their family owns, is of sound moral character. Suspecting that it's something along those lines, the three men--Donovan, Gilhooley, and Romero's Marquis Andre de Large--come to an arrangement to conceal the existence of Dedham's three children with the late ancestral princess of the island, Manulani.
I think it's about equal parts fear of Amelia's possible racism and the men's determination not to be the one to explain it to her that causes this particular situation. After all, Donovan gets irate when Dedham's wife is referred to in conversation as "some native woman." And that's part of a conversation about how Miss Dedham could well see her. He knows that Andre doesn't mean it that way. However, his love and respect for the woman overpower his knowledge. He also loves the three children that he pretends are his.
This would be Wayne's last movie with John Ford, though Ford would live another ten years and Wayne another fifteen. It is greatly unlike most of their work together, with the exception of [i]The Quiet Man[/i]. Wayne is playing a romantic lead, which he does not pull off terribly well in either film. However, in this film, he is supposed to be gruff and a bit unpleasant. Miss Dedham is stiff and a bit unpleasant. Gilhooley is drunk and [i]very[/i] unpleasant. The only truly shining lights, characterwise, of the movie are Father Cluzeot (Marcel Dalio) and the children. The oldest, Lelani (Jacqueline Malouf), is a beautiful, dignified girl who wants nothing more than to greet her sister with all due courtesy and who hates that, were she white, she would be allowed to. Sally (Cherylene Lee) and Luki (Tim Stafford) are precocious and adorable, if a hair on the obnoxious side themselves.
John Wayne made 171 movies. I've seen perhaps two or three dozen of them; I have liked less than a third of those. However, this is one that I [i]own[/i], not for any nostalgic sense, as I own (and do not watch) [i]Angel and the Badman[/i], my mother's favourite. I genuinely love this film. I'm in a bit of a rush this morning, but I don't have to watch the movie to know every detail of it except for some of the Polynesian words.
June 12, 2008
Very minor Ford. John Wayne's performance here is pretty bad. He's only as good as his material and it shows. The film seems to only exist so these guys could go to Hawaii.