*½/**** Image A Sound B
starring John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden
screenplay by James Edward Grant and Frank Nugent
directed by John Ford
by Walter Chaw One of legendary director John Ford's last films, and his final collaboration with John Wayne, Donovan's Reef is, like much of Ford's later work, a derivative amalgam of his earlier successes. Curmudgeonly and vicious, it's a lighter-than-air farce with a black heart that feels suspiciously like the mad rantings of an old soldier describing his vision of a bucolic Valhalla to which he one day hopes to return. Released in the same year (1963) that saw Sidney Poitier become the first black man to win an Oscar in a major category (for Lilies in the Field), Donovan's Reef is a shockingly, unapologetically racist and misogynistic film about braggadocio, therapeutic rape, and belittling the natives. In other words, John Ford apologists need to work overtime to dig their favorite auteur out from under this surreal bilge.