(This review is a good deal shorter than the marathons that most of my Yesterday’s Movies have become, but I just don’t have a lot to say about it. Oh well.)
McLintock! is an odd movie. I liked it, I liked it a lot, but it’s just odd.
It feels plotless. Stuff happens, to be sure, but it’s almost slice-of-life, or seems so at first glance. The fact that it’s a western-set Taming of the Shrew is patently not obvious because the shrew, the divine Maureen O’Hara (the only actress to go toe-to-toe with the Duke five times and hold her own each and every time), does not put in an appearance until a half hour into the film.
But even with that skeleton of a story, this movie is just very lightweight. It’s a sitcom of a movie. There are no real stakes to speak of in the story proper, and the subplots that should carry weight only do so through implication, and are resolved unsatisfactorily or, at least, incompletely within the framework of the story.
In particular is the Indian subplot. For one thing, this is one of may movies you can throw into the face of John Wayne’s critics who claim his movies are racist and portray Indians as evil savages. That’s a myth, simply untrue, ((You could make an argument for it in precisely two movies that I know, Stagecoach and The Searchers. It’s not really true of either one, but you could make the argument. )) and even a frothy movie like this gives it the lie. The Indians in this story have been having problems with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (whose representative is played by Strother Martin), and for their trial, they request that John Wayne’s character speak on their behalf. And he does, with no qualms at all (except for the knowledge that nothing he says will make a difference, which he warns them about beforehand).
Anyway, by the end of the movie, the Indians have ridden off with US Army weapons, causing a great kerfuffle. But since they have promised Wayne’s character not to actually use them (which promise they don’t precisely keep), everything’s supposed to be okay, and the viewer is supposed to presume that things will play out after the movie ends just as Wayne’s character says they will. But it’s weak to rely on a few lines of dialogue, especially when such a potentially serious issue weighs down such a light movie.
None of that really matters, though, because the movie is, and only really means to be, a bundle of fun.
Any film which climaxes with the divine Maureen O’Hara running through town in a corset and bloomers (and not much else) ((It’s definitely G-rated, but it’s Maureen O’Hara, and thus enticing no matter how tame. )) being chased by the Duke before succumbing to a spanking, can’t be all bad.