During the Alaska gold rush, prospector George sends partner Sam to Seattle to bring his fiancée but when it turns out that she married another man, Sam returns with a pretty substitute, the hostess of the Henhouse dance hall.
Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros.
In an ideal society on a picturesque South Sea island, there are people of several races and backgrounds living together in harmony. John Wayne is a WWII hero, who worked hard to own a shipping company and finds his true love. She is a strong a woman as he is a man. An adventure and love story.
"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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