Donovan's Reef (1963)

Donovan's Reef (1963)

Wayne and Allen Tie the Reef Knot

Oh Monk, you're not gonna let three guys gang up on one guy even if it is Gilhooley - Michael Donovan

John Wayne and Elizabeth Allen in Donovan's Reef (1963)

Mike 'Guns' Donovan (John Wayne) has a simple life on the island of Haleokaloa where he enjoys nothing more than drinking and getting rowdy with his friends including old war buddy Thomas Aloysius 'Boats' Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) who shows up to carry on a 22 year tradition of celebrating their joint birthday. But when Ameilia (Elizabeth Allen), the high society daughter of Dr. William Dedham (Jack Warden), arrives on Haleokaloa Donovan's easy going life gets shaken up as whilst falling for the feisty Ameilia he also ends up trying to hide the fact that her father has three more children on the island that she knows nothing about.

"Donovan's Reef" was to be the last proper movie that John Wayne and John Ford made together and compared to some of their earlier collaborations it is undeniably weak. But it is also fun with Wayne and Ford recycling character types and story elements from their various other movies and delivering them in a simple, action packed, romantic comedy. It is very much a movie for those who just enjoy watching John Wayne being John Wayne because there is no depth to it, no stunning cinematography and you could almost describe it as being a throw away movie. But with Lee Marvin delivering a scene stealing performance as Thomas Aloysius 'Boats' Gilhooley "Donovan's Reef" does what it sets out to do and that is make you laugh.

Lee Marvin in Donovan's Reef (1963)

Now whilst "Donovan's Reef" starts with some action comedy as we become aware of the tradition between Donovan and Gilhooley of getting drunk and having an almighty fight on their joint birthday the real story revolves around the arrival of Ameilia to the island of Haleokaloa. On one hand we have the comedy of Donovan falling for the forthright Ameilia and on the other we have Donovan trying to cover for her father surroundinf the three other children he has which Ameilia knows nothing about. And yes that it is a recipe for confusion and romantic tribulations when the truth comes out. Well I did say that "Donovan's Reef" felt like it was recycling things and the storyline is one of them but it is still entertaining.

That entertainment starts with the drunken buddy comedy of having John Wayne and Lee Marvin in a movie together and develops to the chalk n cheese comedy of Donovan and Ameilia. Again it isn't anything new and ironically John Wayne followed this movie up with "McLintock!" which would see him playing a similar sort of character and fine tuning it to be even more entertaining. I wish I could be more enthusiastic as "Donovan's Reef" is entertaining but every single part of it is familiar and has that feel of being cherry picked from another movie and slapped together as those involved fancied some fun in the sun on a Pacific island.

What this all boils down to is that "Donovan's Reef" whilst fun is just an average movie and very familiar with characters and storylines ending up similar to those that have appeared in other John Wayne movies. But it is fun and whilst it's all very obvious how the chalk n cheese relationship between Donovan and Ameilia will end up it has plenty of amusing scenes especially those which feature Lee Marvin who steals the show.

Movie Recommendations

The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man (1952)

Returning to Ireland from his life in America, Sean Thornton (John Wayne - ...

North to Alaska

North to Alaska (1960)

Having struck it rich with their gold mine just outside of Nome, Alaska bes ...

The Magnificent Showman

The Magnificent Showman (1964)

14 years after Lili Alfredo (Rita Hayworth) ran away from the circus follow ...

Jet Pilot

Jet Pilot (1957)

When a Russian plane is spotted in American airspace the air force coax it ...


Hellfighters (1968)

Chance Buckman (John Wayne - The War Wagon) is the best at what he does and ...

True Grit

True Grit (1969)

When her father is murdered whilst away on business young Mattie Ross (Kim ...

Red River

Red River (1948)

After parting company with a wagon train, Thomas Dunson (John Wayne - Fort ...

The Searchers

The Searchers (1956)

The year is 1868, 3 years after the end of the war and Ethan Edwards (John ...

The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

As the eldest son of Katie Elder, John (John Wayne - McLintock!) heads back ...

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Having returned home to Shinbone for the funeral of his old friend Tom Doni ...

El Dorado

El Dorado (1966)

Hired gun Cole Thornton (John Wayne - The Sons of Katie Elder) shows up in ...

Big Jake

Big Jake (1971)

When a group of outlaws lead by John Fain (Richard Boone - Hombre) terroriz ...

Cahill U.S. Marshal

Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973)

J.D. Cahill (John Wayne - The Train Robbers) is a legendary lawman, a Marsh ...

The Cowboys

The Cowboys (1972)

When cattle rancher Wil Andersen (John Wayne - Chisum) is let down by his h ...

The Shootist

The Shootist (1976)

When legendary gunfighter J.B. Brooks (John Wayne - Rooster Cogburn) learns ...

Follow The Movie Scene

Follow The Movie Scene on Twitter Like The Movie Scene on facebook Join The Movie Scene on Gplus Subscribe to The Movie Scene's RSS