Donovan's Reef

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Donovan's Reef is a 1963 American motion picture starring John Wayne. It was directed John Ford and filmed on location on Kauai, Hawaii.

The cast included Elizabeth Allen, Lee Marvin, Dorothy Lamour, and Cesar Romero. The film marked the last time Ford and Wayne ever worked together on a project.



The film is a morality play in the guise of an action/comedy. It deals harshly (though not in an obvious way) with issues of racial bigotry, corporate connivance and greed, American beliefs of societal "superiority" and hypocrisy (i.e., the Boston shipping company considers carrying rum to be immoral, so they euphemistically refer to it as "West Indies goods").


The film begins with Thomas "Boats" Gilhooley (Marvin), an expatriate United States Navy veteran, working aboard a freighter. When he realizes that the ship he signed up for is just passing by Haleakaloha, French Polynesia, and not actually stopping there, he jumps ship to swim to the island.

Next, Michael "Guns" Donovan (Wayne), another expatriate U.S. Navy veteran and a former shipmate of Gilhooley, returns from a fishing trip aboard an outrigger canoe. Donovan is greeted by William "Doc" Dedham (Warden), the only physician in the archipelago, who is about to begin a one- or two-week pre-Christmas circuit of the "outer islands," taking care of the health needs of the residents. Dedham's three children are placed in Donovan's care.

The kids' plans for a peaceful celebration of Donovan's birthday, on December 7, are shattered by the arrival of Gilhooley, who shares the same birthday. There is an unbroken 21-year tradition that Donovan and Gilhooley have a knock-down, drag-out fight every birthday—to the delight of the local observers—and their 22nd year does not break the tradition. The two vets meet in (and trash) "Donovan's Reef," the saloon owned by Donovan.

Miss Amelia Dedham (Allen) is a "proper" young lady "of means" from Boston, who has become the chairman of the board of the Dedham Shipping Company. Her father is Doc Dedham, whom she has never met, but who now has inherited a large block of stock in the family company, making him the majority stockholder. She travels to Haleakaloha in hope of finding proof that Doc has violated an outdated (but still in effect) morality clause in the will which would enable her to keep him from inheriting the stock and retain control.

When word reaches Haleakaloha that Miss Dedham is on the way, a scheme is concocted by Donovan, Gilhooley, and the Marquis de Lage (Romero). De Lage is Haleakaloha's French governor, who hopes to find a post somewhere else. Donovan is to pretend to be the father of Doc's three hapa children (Leilani, Sarah and Luke), until Doc comes back and can explain things to the prim, proper Boston lady. The plan is reluctantly accepted by the oldest daughter, Leilani, who believes that the deception is because she and her siblings aren't white, a reflection of the bigotry of the period.

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