Rather than focus on the naysayers who take offence to this Duke flick and the reasons why, I’m sticking to my guns here and the fact that I love to celebrate movies from the past and a love for John Wayne films in particular. This one just might be Duke’s funniest film and he’s brought along the John Wayne/John Ford stock company for the ride. Then he went and added some well known names to the mix in the bargain for this BATJAC production and all around Wayne family affair.
It’s a western setting and Duke is the biggest cattle baron in the land. He demands respect and gives it in return when it’s earned. His right hand man and all around ramrod is Chill Wills and the two are free wheeling booze buddies and women chasers when it’s time to blow off some steam. Duke’s space is going to be invaded when news reaches him that his estranged wife is returning to the ranch to ensure their daughter, Stefanie Powers, moves to the big city and gives up this life on the frontier. There’s really only one actress that fits the bill to play hard and tough opposite the Duke as his wife and it’s the screen’s fiery redhead herself, Maureen O’Hara. She’ll give as good as she gets as the two spar verbally and physically for the majority of the film. If you know anything of the two’s great love and friendship for each other in real life than the film will play that much better.
When a group of homesteaders take up residence in the area the plot will introduce Patrick Wayne as a youngster who reminds Duke a lot of himself (wonder why) and Yvonne De Carlo as the boy’s widowed mother. When she takes up residence at Duke’s mansion as the cook, O’Hara is going to make some assumptions that set her and Yvonne on a crash course as well.
Plot be damned……. the real reason to see this film is the cast and for those of us who genuinely love the films and career of John Wayne, this is one hell of a cast of character players enlisted to play off Duke over the film’s running time.
How’s this for scene stealers? Along with Chill Wills, there is Strother Martin who gets manhandled throughout, Edgar Buchanan as a vagabond about town looking for a handout, and Hank Worden turning up in the same role he always plays. That of an uneducated simpleton. These four well known character actors in one film is kind of cool because they all have such distinctive, unforgettable voices. The only one missing to make it a perfect ensemble is that of Slim Pickens.
While Duke can’t necessarily haul off and deck O’Hara, perennial baddie Leo Gordon’s been brought into the mix as a foe big enough to square off with Wayne in the biggest mudslide brawl of comedic proportions we’re likely to see anytime soon at the movies. The scene opposite Gordon gives Duke a chance to say some lines most all of his fans know by heart. “I haven’t lost my temper in forty years, but pilgrim you caused a lot of trouble this morning, might have got somebody killed… and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won’t, I won’t. The hell I won’t! “
Others to make an appearance are Duke regulars Bruce Cabot and Edward Faulkner. They’re joined by Perry Lopez, Jerry Van Dyke as the city slicker and competition to the hand of Powers, Jack Kruschen and Michael Pate among a few other faces you’ll be sure to recall. Michael Wayne was by this time serving as a producer on his father’s films and Andrew V. McLaglen had graduated to directing after apprenticing with Ford and filming countless western episodes for the television market. He’d go on directing westerns with and without Wayne including Cahill and The Undefeated with Wayne while also giving us Shenandoah and The Last Hard Men without the iconic star.
When it comes to the final ten minutes of the film that sees Duke square off with O’Hara I guess you either laugh and enjoy it or turn away offended. I’m laughing and am not about to get into a war of right and wrong and what’s acceptable and what’s not. If you’re unaware of what I’m talking about then you’ll have to see the film for yourself to see if your bothered by the climactic “big scene.” Looks to me like Duke and O’Hara are having one heck of a time and I’d have loved to have been on the set when those pages of the script were being filmed.
Love the film and won’t apologize for it. Shouldn’t have to. This one along with North to Alaska proved Duke’s fans could have some good laughs at the expense of the action star. No different than those that came after him like Eastwood and an Orangutan or Arnold and a DeVito.
McLintock is a relatively easy find on disc if you are looking to score a copy. If you haven’t seen it, I’d like to personally recommend it for the wonderful cast and belly full of laughs.