The first review I found when I looked up this movie on Amazon said this:
Wayne's most popular vehicle of the 1960s is a broad, boisterous comedy-Western and a family movie in every sense--in subject matter, casting, personnel, and the audience it aims to bear hug. (Richard T. Jameson, Mr. Showbiz).
Keep this in mind, because it pretty much sums up what hardcore fans seem to think of this old movie. A few other things get pointed out a lot. One, it has this famous mudfight scene. Two, this was John Wayne's most personal movie, a comedy which was also a chance for him to express his views of politics and the world. He even gives a brief lecture about capitalism, which we naturally expect our old west heroes to do. Three, it's (I'm reading wiki here) "famous (or infamous) for its two spanking scenes, in which mother and daughter are each paddled with coal shovels; the daughter by her suitor, the mother by her estranged husband." Actually, he's not even the daughter's suitor at that point in the movie; he's some git she just met who works for her dad.
Anyway, so this movie, produced by John Wayne's own company, is a cross between The Taming of the Shrew and The Three Stooges Go West, yet also filled with political asides and really lame BDSM disguised as advice on How to Wrangle Yer'self a Missus. Somehow, it got to be considered a family film. Gold Key comics even made a comic-book version so that little tykes could get their racial stereotypes and spanking porn in carry-home form, too! I caught it on AMC, which out of nowhere decided to rerun it every week this last summer. Maybe it's big with the Tea Partiers.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of the game. It's just, like, OMG, this movie.
Some Basic Stuff
See, the Duke hisself, John Wayne, played one character his whole career. Now, when you gave him a good script and a good director, he made that character work. His final film, The Shootist, is not only one of the best Westerns ever, it used Wayne's reputation and the fact that he played only one character to its advantage. That's smart, that is. When he got a bad script, well, that’s another thing. He played Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror, for example, still acting like John Wayne, and he did that moronic bit of propaganda, The Green Berets. But neither gave me as big a WTF as McLintock! People laugh at and ridicule The Conquerer. Even hardline conservatives find The Green Beret a tad unrealistic. But McLintock! was the Duke's "most popular vehicle of the 1960s." Again, I say, WTF?
John Wayne plays John Wayne, who this time gets called G.W. McLintock! a former Indian-fighter who became a cattle baron and owns the nearby old west town where the action takes place. The "G.W." is for "George Washington," because the Duke is, like, A Real American Hero. Maureen O'Hara plays his wife, Kathleen, a shrewish snob who left him because she believes he's been unfaithful. Now she's back to get a divorce. We get a lot of clues that she was right about his infidelity, but, despite this being the thing that instigates the plot, we never find out, she never finds out, and the whole issue never gets resolved. Real men don't resolve issues. We learn as the movie goes along that she was actually a tough, hardcore frontier wife in the day, and she only later took on airs, which lead her to be rude to everyone in town. Never mind. Wayne and O'Hara are about the only really good thing in this movie, 'cause they play off each other well. Some of their comedy scenes are even funny.
Anyhoo, G.W. and Katie's daughter, Becky, played by Stefanie Powers, is coming back from college out east, along with a town dude who went to get edumacated. He's played by Jerry Van Dyke. Jerry Van Dyke was over thirty when he made this film, and he looks even older. Apart from his big dance number, I don't know why they picked him. He's totally miscast as a young college student. Anyway, he was in Glee Club at college. He actually gets made fun of for this fact, so I guess the film will warm the hearts of school bullies everywhere. He's prissy and clearly not man enough for the Duke's daughter. Fortunately, I guess, the Duke's real-life son, Patrick Wayne, plays Devlin, a hired hand who G.W. treats as his son. He's a Real Man, as this film figures it, and he's got his manly eye on Becky.
Since it's a western, there are also some Indians. A bunch of chiefs have just returned from incarceration. Despite the fact that G.W. killed many of their people years ago and stole their land, he's the only one they trust. Their presence, along with a Native band, causes trouble among the newer settlers. This leads to that famous mud-fight scene.
That famous mud-fight scene: If'n you like slapstick, it's pretty good, but the comedy is so broad and stupid it will leave a lot of people as slack-jawed as some of the actors playing the settlers.
Overall, the supporting cast frequently act like they're in an old vaudeville routine. As for Patrick Wayne, he's about as wooden as a paddle, but we'll get to those spanking scenes later.
It's the Duke, right? He specifically had the ineffectual, foppish government agent named "Cuthbert H. Humphrey" after Hubert H. Humphrey as an insult and political commentary. He's neither the first nor the last movie-maker to slip in clumsy political commentary, but the name-gag seems kinda pointless, years later. Then we have our college glee club dude explain that, when he calls G.W. a reactionary, he doesn't mean it as an insult. "It's just the way us kids talk these days," he says, or something like that. Say this for Wayne and his company: he may never have understood what was happening in the 1960s, but he saw it coming just the same.
Perry Lopez plays Davy Elk, an assimilated Indian who works for G.W. He's so white, G.W. defends his right to associate with white people. He's so white, he's not even played by a Native American.
A bunch of people who might actually be Native play the various chiefs. G.W. helps arm these stoic stereotypes in their last battle (not against him, of course), which everyone knows they're going to lose. They have a right, though, according to G.W., to go out fighting, the way they want to. In the Duke's world, Indians should either assimilate or die nobly.
Since it's a comedy, and since all the other savages are so noble, we get one Injun looking for the whiskey throughout the film, even during the final noble passing of the Chiefs and their war party through town. Nothing like lightening up imminent, offscreen death of Noble Red Men with a drunken Indian stereotype.
Okay. You’ve been patient. Here it is.
In the mud-fight, Kate shines, picking numerous men with her hat pin. She also ends up with a shiner, but everyone takes a bruising, so that's not a big deal. Thing is, when G.W.'s maid (Yvonne de Carlo), the sympathetic Good Woman in this film, sees it, she assumes that G.W. gave it to her, and she smirks. Clearly, beating women is okay in Dukeland. Yeah, sure, many men get beaten up in this movie, but they get to hit back, and G.W. takes a stand in one scene against beating up a man who's clearly weaker than you are.
Anyway, Becky's spanking could almost be viewed as sado-masochistic play, if this weren't some kind of family film. She gets in a quarrel with Devlin over something that's totally her fault and she demands her father shoot him. G.W. complies. She is shocked, but then it turns out wily G.W. used a starter's pistol and Devlin is fine. Devlin is naturally pissed off, so he spanks her. He's going to use his hand, but G.W. hands him a coal shovel.
Okay, so this is a slapstick comedy with lots of hi-larious beatings and fight scenes to go around. So Devlin had grounds to be pissed off. So she's wearing an old-timey dress and fifty or so layers of petticoats, so probably she didn't feel it too much.
Still, some git she just met spanks her, while her dad watches and grins. Never mind misogynistic. Anyone else finding this creepy as hell?
Or, John Wayne's real-life son spanks a hot up-and-coming actress, while his real-life dad watches and grins. How's that rate on the misogynistic creep-o-meter?
Becky runs away crying. Soon after, of course, she throws college boy over for the spanking guy. At the end of the film, G.W. hands the groom-to-be the coal shovel, because he "may need it."
Since this is partially based on The Taming of the Shrew, the real abuse has to land on Kate's arse. As the film starts to run out of steam, various friends of G.W.'s tell him he's got to do something about his uppity wife. Apparently, not only do real men beat their women, they can be goaded by peer pressure into doing so. How very alpha male.
We get this chase through the town. Now, both G.W. and Kate end up in the mud again, fighting and generally looking stupid. But the Duke gets to keep his clothes. Hers accidentally tear off, in a manner that recalls a bad bodice ripper or a twelve-year-old's masturbation fantasy. She ends up running around in her underwear. The Duke finally catches up with her and publicly spanks her with yet another convenient coal shovel before a laughing, jeering crowd. Then he says he'll grant her the divorce she's been seeking.
She decides that now she wants to stay with him, and runs after her master's carriage and jumps on. She even promises she'll give up trying to drag them to all those hoity-toity events he hates.
So, yeah, there's a fine family film. Hope all the girls and boys got the important message about gender relationships.
Seriously, this was one of the most popular American films of the early 1960s? The good old days, when the media was wholesome?
Whatever. Ima go play some violent videogames, listen to rap, and watch the fucking Sopranos.