McLintock! (my favorite use of the exclamation mark, and made by Andrew V. McLaglen, 1963)) is John Wayne's bombastic Western that helped define his star image, in which he plays a wealthy cattle baron in the old West whose shrewish estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara) suddenly returns to his home in anticipation of their daughter (Stefanie Powers)'s return from boarding school (or college, or something like that). Mrs. McLintock wishes to take the girl back to the state capitol with her to live a proper, upper class life, while John wants his daughter to marry the right man and pursue her own destiny. More than that, he wants to hang on to the life and legacy he has built there in town as greedy landowners conspire to take it away from him. This parallels the U.S government's efforts to relocate the Native American tribes in the area, a fact that also weighs in Mr. McLintock's mind. Can McLintock keep the peace both in his city and his household? That's the film.
And it's not much of a question, because the answer is, "of course he can! And he can do it with gusto!" We know this because that's how he does everything else, deflecting his wife's barbs and actually spanking her, while belting a man after saying that he won't in possibly the most famous moment of John Wayne's whole career. McLintock is a larger than life figure, earning that exclamation mark, and while he can be annoyed (as he is repeatedly in this film), he can't be brought down, which he proves by resolving nearly every conflict he encounters with bravado, earning the respect of both his foes, his friends, and his daughter's would be suitor (Patrick Warren), the inspiration for the spanking trick. He wins back his household (thus getting the girl), cements his legacy, and comes out the good ol' American superhero we've all been told John Wayne is. It's cute, and entertaining.
Is it a good film? Eh...
Look, I don't hate McLintock!, by any means. I just recognize it for what it is. This is how traditional Americans view the ideal of manhood, a proud, strong, decisive man who doesn't take no guff and keeps "his" women in line. It's a movie that illustrates the generation gap in 1963 better than many other films I can think of. Again, a little known fact (for some reason) is that in the early '60's, television was kicking the movies' ass, and young people (the mobile part of the population, upwardly and otherwise) just weren't all that into this kind of hero and this kind of story. Don't know how well this film did in its time (John Wayne was still a big star), but this Hollywood was in the process of breaking down as the new American culture was taking shape. The economy was good, and science and technology had brought about a whole new set of entertainment options. Things to do. Places, and more importantly, ideas to explore. This was when everyone started questioning everything, and young audiences thought this kind of character with these sensibilities was pretty old hat. As a result, those of us born afterward tend to watch movies like McLintock! With a sense of irony. We know how outmoded all of this is, and how you can get put in jail for abusing your wife today. We know that being big and bombastic is kind of obnoxious to a lot of people. We know that John Wayne's confused values about Native Americans (a confusion far from exclusive to him) aren't all that appealing in the modern era. So you have to take this material with a grain of salt, which wasn't necessarily the intention of the filmmakers. Still, for what it is - well shot, colorful, with beautiful woman, tough guys, and simple values - it is an exemplar. Don't love it, but don't hate it. B-