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'Guns' Donovan prefers carousing with his pals Doc Dedham and 'Boats' Gilhooley, until Dedham's high-society daughter Amelia shows up in their South Seas paradise. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
"Donovan's Reef" is an accurately made, funny, light-hearted work, with some moments of deep poetry. For the audience it is more a relaxing vacation than an actual movie: we are transferred to a paradisiac South Pacific island, where a bunch of super-nice guys, our friends John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Cesar Romero make a funny show to entertain us. From the very beginning we find John Ford's characteristic sense of humour: we see a family meeting of sullen Bostonian shipowners, who all take for granted that their relative Dr. Dedham (Jack Warden) is living in orgiastic promiscuity over there, in the Islands of Sin. And then there is the usual number of (harmless) fist-fights and brawls... and a quarrel-loaded love-story... and many comic misunderstandings...
"Donovan's Reef" is one of the very last cinema appointments of John Ford. Inside this light comedy, the old Master inserts touches of his poetic legacy, his trade-mark messages of peace, brotherhood, anti-racism. An evident instance is the scene of the Christmas Mass and Ceremony, with the islanders in their native costumes. And then there is an extremely poignant short scene, just few seconds. The nice little French priest is walking on a beautiful, sunny lawn, shaded by palm-trees, close to the sea: it's the cemetery. We see tombs with a Celtic cross, a French cross, a David's star; then the priest stops at a native barrow, covered with garlands, and he starts to pray (this is the tomb of the late native princess, the doctor's wife). After the storms of our life on this earth, we become all brothers in a better world. This quiet and dignified, yet full of religious hope acceptance of death is one of the most felt and profound themes of Ford's poetry.
I recommend "Donovan's Reef": enjoy the humour, the funny action, the fine performances of the cast, and don't miss the deep poetic touches of the Master John Ford.
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