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Donovan's Reef (1963)

John Wayne , Lee Marvin , John Ford  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (543 customer reviews)

Price: $10.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Donovan's Reef Donovan's Reef 4.7 out of 5 stars (543)
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Product Details

  • Actors: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero
  • Directors: John Ford
  • Writers: Edmund Beloin, Frank S. Nugent, James A. Michener, James Edward Grant
  • Producers: John Ford
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2001
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (543 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005ASGF
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Donovan's Reef" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer

Editorial Reviews

Acclaimed director John Ford and screen legend John Wayne team up for what would be their final collaboration in this boisterous, rowdy South Seas escapade. The Duke, Lee Marvin and Jack Warden play World War II navy buddies who have made the French Polynesian island of Haleakaloha their post-war paradise. Local headquarters is Donovan's Reef, Wayne's rough-and-tumble watering hole where bragging, brawling, and full-blown misbehavior are the order of the day. But destined to create more turmoil than any barroom fisticuffs is the sudden arrival of Elizabeth Allen, a straight-laced Boston blue blood. She's hoping to locate her long-estranged father (Warden), affirm that he is "not of good moral character," and then assume control of the family's shipping dynasty back home in the States. Suave, debonair Cesar Romero and a sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour add to the laughs - and mayhem - in this tropical comedy treat.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polynesian Pleasure June 11, 2005
Format:DVD
There are days when things just don't go right. Business doesn't hit on all cylinders, or something in one's personal life is out of alignment. Irritation can set in. Frustration. Just plain old down-in-the-dumps mopeyness.

There ARE things that can be done about this, especially if you have a VHS or DVD player. You can pop in any number of good movies and use your scene selector to get you to that "special part" that just warms your heart and chases your blues away.

You can watch the end of "Shenandoah" from the point where Jimmy Stewart goes to the family cemetery to talk to his wife Martha, on through to the arrival of "the boy" in the middle of Sunday preaching. Or you can watch James Cagney as George M. Cohan get his Medal of Honor from FDR in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", tap dance down the White House steps and join in the troop parade down Pennsylvania Avenue singing "Over There". Or you can scene-select to the Von Trapp family singing "Edelweiss" as a farewell appearance at the Salzburg Music Festival in "The Sound of Music" and then follow them across the alps into Switzerland at the close to that fine film. OR , if the season is right, you can quick jump to the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont, in time to see retired General "Tom Waverly"(Dean Jagger) get sandbagged by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and company at the surprise reunion of the "151st Division" at the end of "White Christmas".

OR...you can plug in "Donovans Reef" and just sit back and LET THE WHOLE THING ROLL!!!!! Because from the first moment of the opening credits, when the delightful, infectious musical rendition of "Pupa O Ewa" ("Pearly Shells") cranks up...until the very end of the film...when "Pupa O Ewa" is cranking again...you can just leave your "doldrums" behind.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
What do you do when you're a workaholic 68-year-old director, and your doctor orders you to take a vacation? Well, if you are John Ford, you grab John Wayne and your 'Stock Company' of actors, jaunt off to Kauai, the "Flower Isle" of Hawaii, and make "Donovan's Reef", a old-fashioned, brawling comedy! While the film was certainly not 'top-drawer' for either the director or star, it is a pleasant diversion, and would mark the final 'film' teaming of the legendary pair.

"Donovan's Reef", equal parts "South Pacific", "Hawaii", "What Price Glory?", and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", was already 'nostalgic', by the time it was made, as so many actors who would have been Ford 'naturals' in key roles had passed away, or were too old to play the characters believably. Thus you have Lee Marvin instead of Victor McLaglen, Jack Warden in a 'Ward Bond' role, and Elizabeth Allen in a part 'tailor-made' for a younger Maureen O'Hara. Even Wayne, himself, at 56, seems a bit 'long-in-the-tooth' for the physical demands of his role (challenging the 32-year-old Allen in a swimming race?), as well as the romance (a fact that even the Duke would agree with; this would mark the last time he would play a romantic lead, 'winning' an actress so much younger). Also, knowing that in less than two years Wayne would lose a lung to cancer, one winces at the number of cigarettes he lights up, throughout the film. "Donovan's Reef" was certainly geared to an earlier time and sensibility.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GETS BETTER WITH EACH PASSING YEAR April 8, 2004
Format:DVD
Professional movie reviewers and published guides do not rate Donovan's Reef very high. More than a few seem to look down their noses at this light comedy. But I have always liked it. Nothing about this movie is supposed to be taken seriously with the sole exception of its subtle rejection of racism. (Some may nitpick about certain depictions of the "non-whites"; but only the hard hearted would fail to notice that the "whites" come off as essentially foolish as well.) At the center is the battle of the sexes between Wayne and Elizabeth Allen-each side getting its share of victories and comeuppances. All the characters are likable and the writing is sharp and witty.
Of special enjoyment is the Christmas Pageant in the leaky chapel. I have never been able to think about the "three wise men" of the Christmas story without this scene coming to mind. The Polynesian ceremony at the end of the film is also humorous as well as touching.
The setting is supposed to be French Polynesia but everything about the film from the scenery to the people suggests Hawaii. No matter. This is simply a great "little" comedy. Watch it some lazy Sunday afternoon and it will make your day.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Subversive Masterpiece! May 28, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Don't let the surface fool you. Donovan's Reef is a Renoiresque comedy of manners (that is to say, a comedy of serious matters) that explores the psyche of old warriors (WWII vets) languishing in an island paradise. Ford evokes the familiar terrain of his 1937 classic "The Hurricane" and Murnau's "Tabu", to revisit the theme of island morality in a larger world gone wrong.
It's as if the despairing sailors of "They Were Expendable" had stayed and fought their own war, survived, and tried to come to grips with the cataclysm. Gilhooley (Marvin) and Donovan (Wayne) get together every year on their mutual birthday (December 7th) for the purpose of a brawl celebrating some obscure rift between the two of them which neither can remember. Whether they fought over some girl, or ritualistically celebrate America's entry into WWII, Ford lets us know that these guys are stuck in a kind of limbo.
As in Renoir, the comedy is broad enough to be symbolic, and the arrival of an old buddy's daughter looking for her lost father is enough of a catalyst to shake things up. The intrusion of the larger world, with Ford's hilarious send up of "Boston Manners" forces the island's inhabitants into a dehumanizing charade. Doc Dedham (Warden) must acknowledge his "white" daughter Amelia, while hiding the existence of his island children, who are in fact the true aristocrats of the island. The picture closes with a beautiful sequence (virtually silent) where Amelia, realizing the subterfuge she has brought to life, pays homage and accepts her half sister, healing the rift between the racist, patronizing outside world and the gods of the island.
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