Guns Donovan (Wayne) tries to appear fatherly, and fails miserably, in Donovan's Reef.
The Background: John Wayne’s relationships with children (in his movies) was strange. He generally acted as if he expected then to behave like adults. And when they didn’t, he was stunned, and didn’t know what to do.
Never—of course—did he resort to violence. His few “threats” to youngsters throughout his career were just that. It was as if he said, “I wanna smack ’em, but I don’t think it would do any good!” And that was usually true, because most youngsters saw through Duke’s tough façade and didn’t let him bother them too much.
The Movie: Donovan’s Reef (1963) was as much an excuse for a boy's holiday as much as anything else. Director John Ford talked John Wayne and co-star Lee Marvin into joining him in Hawaii for a few months to make a movie, drink too much, play cards, and in general have a grand old time. The resulting film actually turned out to be a pretty good comedy, despite what must have seemed like slim chances, given the conditions!
The Scene: Michael Patrick “Guns” Donovan (Wayne) has to pretend to be the father of the children of a pal of his who abandoned his first family and ran away to the South Seas to start a new life. When his friend’s prim New England daughter, Amelia Dedham, tracks him down, “Uncle Guns” must become “Daddy”—a perfect opportunity for one of the kids to take advantage of the situation. The scene is late at night in a fierce storm. Amelia Dedham comes downstairs in her bathrobe to see Guns Donovan and his charge, Luke, in the hallway, where Luke has left his St. Louis Cardinals cap.
Amelia Dedham: Is this child your son?
Guns Donovan: Oh..uh, yeah… He’s, uh.. This is, uh, Luke.
Luke: But everyone calls me Lukie! And I have two sisters. And I bet you they don’t even know I’m up, huh, Uncle Guns? I mean, Pa Guns?
Amelia Dedham: What about your mother?
Luke: My mother?
Donovan: She’s dead.
Luke: Oh, golly, I wish I was sleeping in my own bed.
Amelia Dedham: It’s high time you were in bed. (To Donovan) It’s really none of my business, Mr., uh…
Amelia Dedham: Well, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking a child out in a storm like this.
Donovan: Me taking him out in a storm like this! I’ve been chasing him all over the island!
Amelia Dedham (to Luke): How would you like to spend the night here?
Boy: Oh boy! In a real bed instead of a hot old cot he makes me sleep on.
Donovan What do you got to complain about?! I’m sleeping in a hammock, ya fresh kid! I oughta belt ya!
Amelia Dedham: Really, Mr. Donovan! Must you bully everyone?
Oops! Well, it wasn’t his kid anyway!