Thanks to a longtime public domain status, it is hard to know if you are purchasing a top-notch copy of director Andrew McLaglen’s “McLintock,” the 1963 Western comedy that reunites John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara for the 4th of the 5 films they made together. Paramount and the Wayne Estate are dubbing this Bluray release the “Authentic Collector’s Edition – From Original Film Elements,” and the Technicolor picture by way of widescreen Panavision does look fantastic.
George Washington “GW” McLintock (Wayne) has no idea why his wife Kate (O’Hara) walked out on him two years ago, but during that time he has tried to hide his heartbreak under a bachelor lifestyle filled with cronies, alcohol and more alcohol. As the richest man in the territory living on the biggest ranch in the territory (a territory with a town named after him), GW can pretty much do whatever he wants — and that he does.
While heartbreak has caused GW to regress into a man-child, its effect on Kate has been to turn her into “Katherine,” a prim, moneyed, society snob. The return of their daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) from college, and the fight over her future, reunites the sparring couple. Becky isn’t much better than her mother. Both woman spend a lot of time Well-I-Never!-ing before being tamed by the earthy men who love them.
“McLintock!” is a based loosely on Shakespeare’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew,” and is definitely not for joyless Leftists or feminists with heart conditions who are almost certain to miss the strength and nuance in O’Hara’s sly performance (who’s really manipulating who?) or pause over today’s endless supply of Hollywood offerings where men are treated as evil or buffoons.
“McLintock!” represents a number of important firsts. It was the first film that earned Michael Wayne, (the Duke’s oldest son) a “produced by” credit. Michael would go on to become the respected producer behind eight more of his father’s films, including “The Train Robbers” (1973), the Duke’s most off-beat offering that will someday be discovered and fully appreciated.
This is also the first John Wayne film that gave the Duke moments, scenes, and bits of dialogue to express his own philosophy about life and character. Until the end of his career, 13 years later in 1976, Wayne’s status as a living American icon and as the producer of many of his own films, made this possible. Of course, it also helped that the customers loved it (and still do).
As it likely did during the Left’s sinister cultural upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s, today it sounds even more revolutionary to hear a film character like McLintock saying something as simple as, “No government ever gave anybody anything. Governments are in the business of taking away from people, not giving.”
“Agard, if you knew anything about Indians, you’d know that they’re doing their level best to put up with our so-called ‘benevolent patronage’ in spite of the nincompoops that’ve been put in charge of it!”
Through “McLintock!” Wayne has a lot more to say, including what it means to be a man, the importance of struggle when it comes to building personal character, the poison of racial bigotry, the appalling treatment of the American Indian at the hands of the American government, and how government handouts destroy the human spirit and strip the manhood of anyone who isn’t a “widow or orphan.”
“McLintock!” is nothing close to politically correct or preachy. As they almost always would, Wayne’s bits of wisdom work perfectly through whatever character he’s playing and even provide some of the best scenes:
“McLintock!” is an equal-opportunity offender. For every Indian Chief running around hollering, “Where’s the whiskey?” there’s at least three white buffoons, including, at times, Wayne himself. It is all in fun, extremely good-natured, and very funny (especially the first-half). My only complaint is the 127-minute length.
Another first is that “McLintock!” represented McLaglen’s directorial breakthrough because he has always been an under-appreciated director.
McLaglen never directed a film any film scholar will ever call a masterpiece. There’s no “Searchers” or “High Noon” or even “The Good the Bad and the Ugly.” But he sure as hell delivered more than his share of terrifically entertaining films, most of them Westerns, and managed to survive, adapt, and even flourish during a time when the fall of the Production Code changed everything.
McLaglen would go on to direct some of Wayne’s better later Westerns, including “The Undefeated” (1969), “Chisum” (1970), and Cahill: U.S. Marshall” (1973). The son of British actor Victor McLaglen would also direct the criminally under-appreciated “Shenandoah” (1965) with Jimmy Stewart, “Bandolero!” (1968) with Raquel Welch and Dean Martin, and the brutal “The Last Hard Men” (1975) with Charlton Heston and James Coburn.
“McLintock!” is no classic but it’s funnier than 95% of comedies today, mighty entertaining and the Bluray is loaded with extras any Wayne fan is sure to appreciate.
“McLintock!” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct the name James Coburn as the costar of “The Last Hard Men” — which I saw last week and can’t believe I got wrong.