Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Morning Movie Review: Donovan's Reef

This morning, with no Belle to rouse us at sun-up, Murphy and I slept in a bit, only to be finally awakened by the vet calling to let me know that she's doing well and can come home this afternoon. As I hung up, it dawned on me that she's not even here and she still managed to get me out of bed in the morning, albeit indirectly through the vet.

So Murphy and I turned to and made breakfast, and then I watched a movie while he played with two Wubba toys all by himself.

The movie: Donovan's Reef, a 1963 movie starring John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero, Elizabeth Allen, and Dorothy Lamour. There was also a minor role played by Edgar Buchanan, best known to most as Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction. He was a great character actor back in the day and you can't not love the guy even if he's only paying a sleazy corporate lawyer for two minutes.

In this picture, three old World War Two Navy buddies (Wayne, Marvin and Warden) now live on a South Polynesian island paradise. All is going well until Warden's grown daughter from Boston shows up to meet the father that she'd never met before, the idea being to prove that he's living a life of poor character (by Boston standards) so that she can divest him of his shares in the family's vast shipping business. Warden, the island doctor and builder of the local hospital, is away when she arrives but she's attended to quite well by Wayne, who starts out by dropping her into the lagoon while trying to help her depart the ship that brought her. She is, of course, as severe and dowdy as any upper-crust society woman from Boston would be expected to be and she doesn't take kindly to her reception or some of the islanders' ways. However she soon encounters three precocious "half caste" children (remember, this movie was made in the early 60's) who, she is told, belong to Wayne. They're really her father's children by a native princess that he'd married shortly after the war but everyone conspires to keep that a secret as they fear that she won't understand. The movie is light, fun and predictable, and of course she figures out that the kids are really her sisters and brother in the end, but by then she's come to respect and admire her father so much that she insists that he keep his shares in the family business. He of course refuses to go back to Boston and in the end, so does she as she remains on the island to marry Wayne, who tames her properly by taking her over his knee and giving her a good spanking followed by a kiss that makes her submit totally. (remember: 1960's...) Cesar Romero plays the island's scheming Governor who tries without success to woo Allen away from Wayne, and Dorothy Lamour plays a nightclub singer who is chasing Lee Marvin and of course she gets him in the end.

There's no real drama and nothing heavier than a few fistfights between Wayne and Marvin, both of whom share the same birthday and slug it out every year "as kind of a tradition" even though neither remembers what the original fight was about. They also slug it out with the Australian Navy on Christmas morning for no real reason, but what they hey--it's just a fun movie like they don't make any more.

Meanwhile, it's 4 degrees outside, and Murphy's enjoying the radiant warmth of the wood stove.
I guess that he's giving the movie four paws up.

Hope your day is going well, too.


  1. I wore out a VHS tape of that film, but for some reason never got it on disk. That must be rectified.

    Good review, too. Stay warm.

  2. Great movie. I couldn't remember the plot exactly, just the fights between Wayne and Marvin.

  3. Great movie - it's a Christmas tradition at our house (and often a few times throughout the year as well)!

  4. Anonymous9:19 PM

    A great movie.
    Did you know Edgar used to be a dentist?

  5. @ Rick: I did not know that. Wow.

  6. I love the old "donnybrook" bar fights in those John Wayne movies. McClintock might be the best of them though.