- Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
- November 13, 1963
A wealthy rancher in the West uses his power and influence in the territory to keep the peace among the factions.
McLintock! is a fun John Wayne comedic Western. It’s not a laugh riot but it does have its jokes and you will smile. It’s sillier than most of his movies. The film itself is a very loose Western retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. It’s been several decades since I had to read it for an English class (or seen the movie adaption), but I can see the similarities between both.
The humor is very broad here. You’re not going to continuously laugh your head off but you will consistently smile. Some of the better jokes are the zingers that John Wayne’s character of G.W. McLintock gets in at other characters such as Matt Douglas (Gordon Jones) and his son the dweebish “Junior” Douglas (Jerry Van Dyke).
One of the great scenes in McLintock! is the mud scene where a big brawl breaks out and eventually people are sliding down to the mud pit. It’s just a silly bit of fun. It begins with a misunderstanding by a hotheaded father (Leo Gordon) concerning his daughter who has gone off with the young Ben Sage, Jr. (Edward Faulkner) but the assumption is that she has been kidnapped by Comanches. A brawl erupts near one of McLintock’s mines with just about every character involved.
G.W. McClintock is a self-made man who has a 200-mile spread on the Mesa Verde and an estranged wife named Katherine (not Katie) played by Wayne’s favorite costar Maureen O’Hara. When those two got together on the screen they created absolute magic. Their friendship and mutual admiration for each other offscreen translated well into whatever movies they were making together.
In McLintock! the marriage between the McLintocks broke down over suspected infidelity by G.W. though there is still clearly an attraction between the two. This becomes clear early on when G.W. takes on widowed Louise Warren (Yvonne De Carlo) and her children Alice (Aissa Wayne) and Dev (Patrick Wayne).
Mrs. Warren (love that name) is a bit of a romantic red herring in that her presence does more to irritate Katherine because someone might be making googly eyes at her husband than it does anything else. Truthfully I thought by the end of the movie Mrs. Warren was going to wind up with G.W.’s right hand man Drago (Chill Wills) and not Sheriff Lord (Chuck Roberson).
Events of the movie are kicked off when some homesteaders come into the area and G.W. cautions them on being able to make it work. He’s a firm but fair man with a strong code. He’s self-made and doesn’t ask anything of anyone and doesn’t give anything away as purely a gift and expects the same of the newbies. Nothing is a handout. It is a bit heavy handed of a lesson as well as one rarely done in film even then.
Mercifully they do not say that the fighting between G.W. and Katherine indicates they are still in love. While it was a bit of a trope of older films, and I do accept it, it doesn’t mean I like it or want to see it. However over time Katherine does come to realize she has some feelings for her husband and he realizes he is the same way when it comes to her. The barbed banter between the two is excellent.
G.W. must deal with a long-time minor rival of Douglas as well as the government man (Strother Martin) there present for the Indians. Both of which his character clearly looks down upon because they are spineless and without an ethical core.
Stephanie Powers plays McLintock’s daughter Rebecca “Becky” McLintock who is not only the object of affection for Dev but also the affection for Junior Douglas. Junior is clearly the default choice for Becky until she meets Dev in which case she knows a real man when she sees one.
The film at points takes a bit of a somber tone. McLintock is not happy with the treatment of Native Americans-specifically the Comanche. The settlers are all too ready to blame them or just chase them away but McLintock takes time out to stand up for them.
Tension with the local Comanches plays a big part in the story. Territorial governor Gov. Cuthbert H. Humphrey (Robert Lowery) plans to have the Comanche moved out of the area and into Oklahoma which per events in the film leads to G.W. speaking for blood brother Chief Puma (Michael Pate) in a kangaroo court after which G.W. organizes a jailbreak to bring the government’s attention to what governor and the Indian agent have been doing.
I bring this up because there is a stereotype of Wayne films where he just goes around shooting the local Native American population and they are portrayed as mindless savages. Having seen more than a few of his Westerns I cannot recall where the Native Americans were portrayed as mindless savages or killed because they were attacking for no reason. Often they were forced into having no choice but to fight back (if they fought at all) or were treated as intelligent individuals. If anything Wayne’s characters tended to be upset at how they were treated.
Wayne had some serious star power at this point and used it. He had the script developed to show his personal disapproval for how the Western genre showed Native Americans and his dislike for corruption in politics. This was something that he would do in future films from here on.
The dialogue and script are sharp. And the performances are all strong. Andrew V. McLaglen made his feature film directorial debut here and it was a very strong outing for a man who had previously done B-movies, TV shows and other major qualification was that he was the son of one of John Wayne’s good friends.
This is just one of those great films. It’s fun and entertaining from start to finish. The formula is crossed wires and big misunderstandings which are the basics of all good romantic comedies.
McLintock! is a classic from days gone by. It’s got a solid script and great direction and fantastic performances all around. I highly recommend this film!