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Donovan's Reef (1963) Poster

Trivia

Jack Warden, who played Elizabeth Allen's father, was only nine years her senior in real life.
Because of the age difference, John Wayne felt very uncomfortable with the romantic scenes with Elizabeth Allen, and asked John Ford to cast Maureen O'Hara opposite him instead. Ford refused and replied "Are you going to be the one who tells her she's perfect because she's old?". After this movie, Wayne made the decision to confine his romantic interests to mature women.
John Wayne later said his character needed to have been played by a younger actor. He said, "The script really called for a younger guy. I felt awkward romancing a young girl at my age."
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When John Ford offered Lee Marvin the role of Gilhooley, he told the actor it didn't matter what the story was as it would be a good excuse for the cast and crew to have a free holiday in Hawaii.
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In a fight with Lee Marvin, John Wayne underestimated an uppercut. He crashed through a table and fell down. Director John Ford decided to leave the scene in the movie.
The term "shanghai'd" dates back to the 1840s. Skippers of the China Clipper ships had trouble getting sailors to man the ships because most preferred to join the gold rush. Crooked bartenders would, for a price, slip a likely man a "Mickey Finn" (chloral hydrate) in his drink to knock him out. The man would wake up later "shanghai'd" and on his way to China as a deckhand.
Actor John Qualen dubbed the voice of the sailor who yells "Man overboard!" in the opening scene, though it is not Qualen on-screen.
Patrick Wayne, John Wayne's son, has a small cameo - he plays the Australian Shore Patrol officer who breaks up the final fight.
In the beginning, Gilhooley tells the captain who "shanghai'd" him that they were supposed to be at the island "on the 7th". Taking into account the time-line of the movie, ending on Christmas, that would make Donovan and Gilhooley's birthday as December 7th, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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Ameilia asks the captain "to charter the Araner." That was the real name of John Ford's yacht, which is the yacht used in the movie.
This is the technically last movie that John Ford and John Wayne worked on together, although Wayne later provided the voice-over narration for Ford's documentary Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend (1976).
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Actor Mickey Simpson is sometimes mistakenly credited as the mate hit with a mop by Lee Marvin in the opening scene. It is not Simpson but Duke Green.
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John Ford didn't like James Grant's screenplay so had Frank Nugent re-write it. John Wayne himself said he preferred the original script because the re-write lost a lot of good stuff that involved Lee Marvin.
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During the scene where Amelia is wishing to "charter the Araner", Donovan states that he owns the Araner and a boat named the Inisfree. Inisfree is the name of the village in Ireland in which The Quiet Man (1952), another John Wayne / John Ford film, takes place. Araner is the name of John Ford's personal yacht, which is the actual ship used in this film.
Paramount Pictures refused to finance the movie, agreeing only to distribute it. John Ford decided to produce himself despite not having a screenplay.
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Lee Marvin was so hungover in the mornings, filming often had to be rescheduled.
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Because of John Ford's age and ill health, John Wayne was like an assistant director on set, setting up equipment and checking the rushes each day.
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"Boats" is Navy slang for the rating of *Boatswain's Mate*. "Guns" is Navy slang for the rating of *Gunner's Mate*.
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A few years later John Wayne suggested Lee Marvin should make another film with him. However Marvin had become a major star after Cat Ballou (1965) and told Wayne that he was no longer interested in playing supporting roles. Wayne could never really believe that Marvin was being paid $1 million per film in the late 1960s.
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While the film is set on the fictional island of Haleakaloha, which has a French governor, the only Polynesian language exhibited in the film is Hawaiian - "Haleakaloha" can be translated as "Home of Laughter and Love" (hale = home, aka = laugh, aloha = love) - and Amelia has come from Boston, MA by sailing ship.
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In a bit of tongue-in-cheek, portraits of the founder and leaders of the Dedham Shipping Company are all of Jack Warden (in appropriate period dress). The portrait of Manulani appears to be a similar treatment of Elizabeth Allen, as she would appear if she were Polynesian or hapa.
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A mistaken use of a blasphemy slipped past the censors. At the end of the first fight between John Wayne and Lee Marvin, after Jack Warden has broken it up, Wayne and Marvin start to get out of the pond, but Marvin slipped and fell back into the water. As he did so, he exclaimed, "Jesus!" Because it was funny, the error was left in the film, and because the sound of the water partially obscured the exclamation, the dialogue was also left unaltered.
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In the movie Donovan and Gilhooley are supposed to share December 7th for their birthday. In real life, Mike Mazurki (Sgt. Monk Menkowicz) was born December 25, 1907.
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John Wayne's character's full name is Michael Patrick Donovan. However, he is rarely referred to by his given name. He is called either "Guns" or, occasionally, "Donovan" by most people throughout the movie. His full name is used only once, by Amelia when reading from the monument. He is called "Mike" several times, including the Captain of the Araner, LaFleur and Andre. As "Michael" by Sister Angelique (in French), Sister Mary Margaret, Andre and by Amelia on several occasions. Most notably Amelia, during their last scene, where she addresses him as "Michael" three times and "Michael Donovan" once.
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John Wayne and Lee Marvin would often go out drinking together in Hawaii, despite John Ford's efforts to keep them apart. One night, Wayne returned to his hotel after a drinking session, when he saw a group of Catholic priests and launched into a vitriolic attack on the Catholic Church. Guilt kicked in almost immediately and Wayne made a donation to a church charity on the spot.
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It was the 24th highest grossing film of 1963.
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