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Monday, September 02, 2013

A Final Outing For Ford/Wayne


Hawaii Location Dressed Casual: Donovan's Reef (1963)

Winston-Salem Hardtops Again Gangway For a Drive-In First-Run
Gangway For This Year's BIG Adventure!, said posters for a last teaming of John Wayne and director John Ford. The tag was misleading for Donovan making no pretense toward adventure and looking for a most part like home movies the two sent back from Hawaii vacationing. In fact, this seems to have been Ford reward of a season in the sun for friends in then-good standing, finished work an apparent afterthought. Ford/Wayne's relaxation is what commends Donovan's Reef to us, especially now that Hawaiian scenery can be fullest enjoyed on streaming HD at Amazon, Vudu, and elsewhere. Para pluggers had little but fisticuffs, Wayne v. Lee Marvin's, to sell. Wayne in '63 mid-fifties admitted he was too old for this, but how to turn down Ford's entreaty when the old man might not be able to get Donovan's Reef (or any) project aloft without Duke's OK?

Wayne Still Buff, But Had He Begun To Suspect How Sick He Was?

Imagine What It Cost Ford To Keep This Up
They'd use Ford's yacht, the Araner, as Donovan backdrop, meaning Ford could collect much needed rent for a floating drag on personal overhead. Such craft, wildly expensive to upkeep, had been a floating second home to JF and crew during freeboot days when more of them were alive and able to withstand international bar crawls, but life was simpler now. Ford would sell the craft soon afterwards. As for Wayne, years of smoking was headed home to roost. He'd get worst kind of news from docs the year after Donovan's release. With regard local circulation of the pic, our Robin Hood Drive-In of Winston-Salem got Donovan's Reef first-run in accord with product glut that bowed this and other big ones outdoors for the triad area. No wonder vast majority, there and elsewhere, would see Donovan's Reef first on TV (9/17/66 premiere via NBC), wait-time ever shortening for features to tube-land.

Another Haughty Miss Gets a Tanning From Big John. Content Like This
Wouldn't Sustain Long After 1963

Mark Your Wayne Appointment Book: Scott Eyman's
Definitive Biography of The Star Arrives 4/1/14
It's thankful we should be that Wayne's clout was such as to enable a Donovan's Reef. Behind-camera drama as since told makes us wish to have been on the trip to observe Donovan's team day-to-day: Ford losing interest and eyesight. Wayne's own patience with a mentor headed for dotage was ebbing. Other players who'd not seen Ford in years (Dorothy Lamour, Caesar Romero) realized good old days were spent. None of gloom spills onto resultant pic, however. Donovan's Reef wears a happy face and is catnip to Fordists. What he found funny was, as ever, a good sock to the jaw, one Victor McLaglen brawling as in old updated to a whole cast of McLaglen successors doing so here. There was $2.7 million in domestic rentals, under the prior year's Liberty Valance, but that with whatever foreign was realized hopefully put Donovan's Reef into profit.

5 Comments:

OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

I love this film and really appreciate you shining a little (positive) light on it.

"Catnip to Fordists" — how perfect.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Joe Thompson said...

I read a book or essay somewhere that claimed this was Ford's adaption of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I couldn't see it.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I saw this on a triple bill along with BYE BYE BIRDIE and 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE.

I was bored with REEF and BIRDIE and walked out on POUNDS.

Geez, that was a long day at the bijou.

10:58 AM  
Blogger april lane said...

Thanks for the tip-off about Eyman's new book on Wayne, which I have been in expectation of. His bio of Ford was excellent(as were those of several other Hollywood notables that he wrote).

8:16 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Always informative reader "Griff" offers interesting possibility re one of John Wayne's later westerns, "Chisum":


Dear John:

I have been doing a little research of late on the latter part of John Wayne's career, and came across a detail that fascinated me. Per Andrew V. McLaglen, CHISUM was actually produced by Twentieth Century-Fox (and, of course, Batjac). Fox apparently sold all of its interest in the film to Warners some time before its completion. McLaglen cited no reason for Fox's sale of the picture. Ever hear anything about this? [If there's an entire Greenbriar post on this, "The Wayne Western That Was Up For Grabs," I apologize. I couldn't find it.]

Certainly TCF had a lot of costly product to push in 1970, and WB, somewhat in transition from the bumpy Seven Arts years, might well have been pleased to have a ready-made Duke picture for the summer. I remember the trailer vividly: it shamelessly featured a news clip of Wayne walking, brandishing his Oscar, super-imposing the title "THE WINNER." [Well, it was probably the best night of his life; that smile and happy, unique amble was entirely earned.] While CHISUM is no worldbeater, and it surely didn't do TRUE GRIT biz, it performed respectably (I think it out-grossed Wayne's previous, Fox's THE UNDEFEATED) and I seem to recall this was Warners' #2 film of '70, behind WOODSTOCK. Perhaps the Greenbriar post I couldn't find had specific figures.

Watching these late Wayne pix, it occurs to me again and again what a brilliant cinematographer William H. Clothier was; one is tempted to give Clothier credit for a lot of what's good about these films. What this guy couldn't do with Fuller's earth!

Your posts have been a pleasure to read all summer. Uncovering the mystery of U.S. exposure to MR. ARKADIN... great stuff.

Regards,
Griff

2:24 PM  

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