Acclaimed director John Ford and screen legend John Wayne team up for what would be their final collaboration in this boisterous, rowdy South Seas escapade. The Duke, Lee Marvin and Jack Warden play World War II navy buddies who have made the French Polynesian island of Haleakaloha their post-war paradise. Local headquarters is Donovan’s Reef, Wayne’s rough-and-tumble watering hole where bragging, brawling, and full-blown misbehavior are the order of the day. But destined to create more turmoil than any barroom fisticuffs is the sudden arrival of Elizabeth Allen, a straight-laced Boston blue blood. She’s hoping to locate her long-estranged father (Warden), affirm that he is “not of good moral character,” and then assume control of the family’s shipping dynasty back home in the States. Suave, debonair Cesar Romero and a sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour add to the laughs – and mayhem – in this tropical comedy treat.
IN HARM’S WAY
In Harm’s Way, based on James Bassett’s novel Harm’s Way, has enough plot in it for four movies or a good miniseries (when it was shown on network television in prime time, it was broken into two very full nights). On the morning of December 7, 1941, a heavy cruiser, commanded by Captain Rockwell Torrey (John Wayne), and the destroyer Cassidy, under acting commander Lieutenant (jg) William McConnell (Thomas Tryon), are two of a handful of ships that escape the destruction of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Under Torrey’s command, the tiny fleet of a dozen ships carries out its orders to seek out and engage the enemy fleet. But lack of fuel and a daring maneuver (but tragic miscalculation) by Torrey causes his ship to be seriously damaged. He’s relieved of command and assigned to a desk job routing convoys in the shakeup following the attack, and his exec and oldest friend, Commander Paul Eddington (Kirk Douglas), is reassigned after a brawl, the result of his anger after identifying the body of his wife (Barbara Bouchet) who was killed during the attack while cavorting with an Marine Corps officer. Torrey’s shore assignment leads him to reestablish contact on a very hostile level with his estranged son, Ensign Jere Torrey (Brandon de Wilde), his estranged son from a long-ended marriage, who is also serving at Pearl Harbor; he also establishes a romantic relationship with Lt. Maggie Haines (Patricia Neal), a navy nurse; he also befriends Commander Egan Powell (Burgess Meredith), a special-intelligence officer. Through his son’s boasting during their bitter first meeting, Torrey learns of a top-secret offensive called Sky Hook – he figures out enough of it to impress Powell, and when Sky Hook gets bogged down by the indecisiveness of its commander, Vice Admiral Broderick (Dana Andrews), Powell convinces the commander of the Pacific Fleet (Adm. Chester Nimitz, unnamed here but played by Henry Fonda) that Torrey is the man to salvage the operation. Promoted to rear admiral, with Eddington – who’d been rotting away on a shore assignment, drunk most of the time – assigned as his chief of staff, Torrey gets Sky Hook rolling and finally finds his purpose in this war, gaining the belated admiration of his son in the process. Eddington is similarly motivated but is still haunted by the violent, ultimately self-destructive demons that blighted his marriage and his life – he is particularly attracted to a young nurse, Annalee Dohrn (Jill Haworth), not knowing that she is already involved romantically with Jere Torrey. Meanwhile, McConnell survives the sinking of his ship and is ordered to join Torrey’s staff. Matters all come to a head when the Japanese begin a counter-offensive to Torrey’s planned troop landing. And just at the time Torrey needs his men at their best, Eddington’s violence and rage boil to the surface in a way that will destroy him and blight both men’s lives. In a final attempt at redemption, Eddington provides Torrey with the information he needs to set up a battle that he has at least a chance of winning, pitting his small task group of destroyers and cruisers against the Japanese task force led by the Yamato, the largest battleship ever built.
Hatari! is Swahili for “danger”-and also the word for action, adventure and broad comedy in this two-fisted Howard Hawks effort. John Wayne stars as the head of a daring Tanganyka-based group which captures wild animals on behalf of the world’s zoos. Hardy Kruger, Gérard Blain and Red Buttons are members of Wayne’s men-only contingent, all of whom are reduced to jello when the curvaceous Elsa Martinelli enters the scene. In tried and true Howard Hawks fashion, Martinelli quickly becomes “one of the guys,” though Wayne apparently can’t say two words to her without sparking an argument. The second half of this amazingly long (159 minute) film concerns the care and maintenance of a baby elephant; the barely credible finale is devoted to a comic pachyderm stampede down an urban African street, ending literally at the foot of Martinelli’s bed. The other scene worth mentioning involves comedy-relief Red Buttons’ efforts to create a fireworks-powered animal trap. Not to be taken seriously for a minute, Hatari is attractively packaged and neatly tied up with a danceable-pranceable theme song by Henry Mancini.
After the Civil War, a Union Colonel goes to Rio Lobo to take revenge on two traitors.
An aging Texas cattle man who has outlived his time swings into action when outlaws kidnap his grandson and wound his son. He returns to his estranged family to help them in the search for Little Jake.
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE
Like Pontius Pilate, director John Ford asks “What is truth?” in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance-but unlike Pilate, Ford waits for an answer. The film opens in 1910, with distinguished and influential U.S. senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) returning to the dusty little frontier town where they met and married twenty-five years earlier. They have come back to attend the funeral of impoverished “nobody” Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). When a reporter asks why, Stoddard relates a film-long flashback. He recalls how, as a greenhorn lawyer, he had run afoul of notorious gunman Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), who worked for a powerful cartel which had the territory in its clutches. Time and again, “pilgrim” Stoddard had his hide saved by the much-feared but essentially decent Doniphon. It wasn’t that Doniphon was particularly fond of Stoddard; it was simply that Hallie was in love with Stoddard, and Doniphon was in love with Hallie and would do anything to assure her happiness, even if it meant giving her up to a greenhorn. When Liberty Valance challenged Stoddard to a showdown, everyone in town was certain that the greenhorn didn’t stand a chance. Still, when the smoke cleared, Stoddard was still standing, and Liberty Valance lay dead. On the strength of his reputation as the man who shot Valance, Stoddard was railroaded into a political career, in the hope that he’d rid the territory of corruption. Stoddard balked at the notion of winning an election simply because he killed a man-until Doniphon, in strictest confidence, told Stoddard the truth: It was Doniphon, not Stoddard, who shot down Valance. Stoddard was about to reveal this to the world, but Doniphon told him not to. It was far more important in Doniphon’s eyes that a decent, honest man like Stoddard become a major political figure; Stoddard represented the “new” civilized west, while Doniphon knew that he and the West he represented were already anachronisms. Thus Stoddard went on to a spectacular political career, bringing extensive reforms to the state, while Doniphon faded into the woodwork. His story finished, the aged Stoddard asks the reporter if he plans to print the truth. The reporter responds by tearing up his notes. “This is the West, sir, ” the reporter explains quietly. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Dismissed as just another cowboy opus at the time of its release, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has since taken its proper place as one of the great Western classics. It questions the role of myth in forging the legends of the West, while setting this theme in the elegiac atmosphere of the West itself, set off by the aging Stewart and Wayne.
THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER
Henry Hathaway directs the 1965 psychological Western The Sons of Katie Elder. Four sons reunite in their Texas hometown to attend their mother’s funeral. John (John Wayne) is the gunfighter, Tom (Dean Martin) is the gambler, Matt (Earl Holliman) is the quiet one, and Bud (Michael Anderson Jr.) is the youngest. They soon learn that their father gambled away the family ranch, leading to his own murder. The brothers decide to find their father’s killer and get back the ranch, even though they are discouraged to do so by local Sheriff Billy Wilson (Paul Fix). When the sheriff turns up dead, the Elder boys are blamed for the murder. Deputy Sheriff Ben Latta (Jeremy Slate) joins forces with the only witnesses of the murder: Morgan Hastings (James Gregory) and his son Dave (Dennis Hopper). A gunfight breaks out between the Hastings gang and the Elder gang. After his brother Matt is killed, John decides to settle the ranch dispute in a court of law with a judge (Sheldon Allman). However, Tom decides to take matters into his own hands by kidnapping Dave. After the final climactic gunfight, John and the wounded Bud retreat to a rooming house owned by Mary Gordon (Martha Hyer).
In 1970, John Wayne won an Academy Award. for his larger-than-life performance as the drunken, uncouth and totally fearless one-eyed U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn. The cantankerous Rooster is hired by a headstrong young girl (Kim Darby) to find the man who murdered her father and fled with the family savings. When Cogburn’s employer insists on accompanying the old gunfighter, sparks fly. And the situation goes from troubled to disastrous when an inexperienced but enthusiastic Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell) joins the party. Laughter and tears punctuate the wild action in this extraordinary Western which features performances by Robert Duvall and Strother Martin.
About ten minutes into The Shootist, Doctor Hostetler (James Stewart) tells aging western gunfighter John Bernard Books (John Wayne) “You have a cancer.” Knowing that his death will be painful and lingering, Books is determined to be shot in the line of “duty”. In his remaining two months, Books settles scores with old enemies, including gambler Pulford (Hugh O’Brian) and Marshall Thibido (Harry Morgan) and reaches out to new friends (including feisty widow Lauren Bacall and her hero-worshipping son Ron Howard). In the end, is shot to death, but in so doing he is able to dissuade another from following his blood-stained example. Throughout the film, Book’s imminent demise is compared with the decline of the west, as represented by the automobiles and streetcars that have begun to blight the main street of Wayne’s home town. It is unknown if John Wayne was aware that he was dying of cancer when he agreed to film The Shootist; whatever the case, the film is a powerful valedictory to a remarkable man and a fabulous career.
Legendary producer-director Howard Hawks teams with two equally legendary stars, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, in this classic Western drama. Mitchum plays to perfection an alcoholic but gutsy sheriff who relentlessly battles the dark side of the wild West, ruthless cattle barons and crooked “businessmen.” The Duke gives an equally adept performance as the sheriff’s old friend who knows his way around a gunfight. Filled with brawling action and humor, El Dorado delivers the goods. James Caan and Ed Asner co-star.
THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY
When a commercial airliner developes engine problems on a trans- Pacific flight and the pilot loses his nerve, it is up to the washed-up co-pilot Dan Roman to bring the plane in safely.
ISLAND IN THE SKY
A transport plane crash-lands in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane’s pilot, Dooley, must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue.
Based on the Louis L’Amour story “The Gift of Cochise,” this sparkling western has Wayne as a half-Indian Cavalry scout who, with his feral dog companion, finds a young woman and her son living on a isolated ranch in unfriendly Apache country. A poetic and exciting script, outstanding performances, and breathtaking scenery make this an indisputable classic. Page’s debut.
Wayne shows off his funny side in this 1963 western, a comedy inspired by The Taming of the Shrew. Starring as wealthy cattle baron G.W. McLintock, Wayne shows a real sense of comic timing in several scenes filled with slapstick humor. After his wife (Maureen O’Hara) and daughter leave him for the East, McLintock attempts to win them back. The dynamics between O’Hara and Wayne are the strong suit of this film, the actors having worked together previously on
THE QUIET MAN
As this is by no means a revisionist western, McLintock’s chauvinistic attempts to “tame” his wife fit within the problematic ideology of the larger western genre. The ultimate example of this comes at the end of the film when McLintock settles his marital dispute by publicly “spanking” his wife in what is now a notorious cinematic moment.