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Having expended large chunks of both his personal fortune and box-office capital with his ill-fated recreation of the fall of The Alamo (1960), John Wayne badly need a project that would let him readily recoup on both fronts. He found it with McLintock! (1963), a raucous family comedy that effectively transposed Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew to a Wild West setting and proved to be a box-office success.
The Duke takes the title role of George Washington McLintock, an aging, self-made, hard-drinking cattle and land baron who has made his mark on his frontier town, right down to its name. For all his accomplishments, he still feels a gnawing dissatisfaction with his current lot in life. He's disgusted with the federal government's encroachments into the community, from the constant flow of homesteaders promised barely tillable soil, to the prospect of certain violence if the local Indian tribesmen are forced onto reservations.
He's also quietly disconsolate because it's been two years since his willful, beautiful wife Katherine (Maureen O'Hara) left their spread without a word to return to her blue blood, high society circles back east. After a run-in with headstrong young homesteader Devlin Warren (Patrick Wayne), he offers the kid a position as a ranch hand, and takes on his attractive, widowed mom Louise (Yvonne De Carlo) as a badly needed house cook.
The complications percolate further when Katherine re-enters G.W.'s life, full of airs and determined to obtain both a divorce and custody of their teenaged daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers), presently due back from her first year at college. McLintock spends the balance of the narrative dealing with the corrupt and incompetent local politicos, refereeing for the quarreling but mutually attracted Becky and Devlin, and convincing Kate of her proper place in a slapstick if chauvinistic finale.
The McLintock! set was packed with Wayne's family and old cronies. Beyond the roles for son Patrick and daughter Aissa, his eldest, Michael, earned his first credit as producer. The supporting cast included such friends and colleagues as Chill Wills, Bruce Cabot, Edgar Buchanan, Chuck Roberson and Bob Steele. The directing chores were handled by Andrew V. McLaglen, whom Wayne had watched grow up over years of co-starring with his father Victor in projects like The Quiet Man (1952). In fact, John Ford took over the chair for a few days in the production of McLintock! when McLaglen fell ill.
Wayne had badly wanted to work with O'Hara again since The Quiet Man, and their climactic cross-town scuffle is patently evocative of that film's knockabout yet sentimental denouement. In her autobiography 'Tis Herself, O'Hara recalled the perils of doing her own stunt work for the water-trough plunge. "Had I fallen too long, I'd have snapped my neck. Too short and I'd have snapped my arms and legs. If my elbows had not been tucked in tightly enough to my body, I'd have broken my arms and shoulders as well...At forty-two years of age, you'd think I'd have known better."
Wayne was also determined to ensure that De Carlo received her featured role. De Carlo's husband was another old colleague, stuntman Bob Morgan; he sustained career-ending injuries in an on-set accident during the shooting of How the West Was Won (1962).
Producer: Michael Wayne
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Screenplay: James Edward Grant
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Film Editing: Bill Lewis, Otho Lovering
Art Direction: Eddie Imazu, Hal Pereira
Music: Frank De Vol
Cast: John Wayne (George Washington McLintock), Maureen O'Hara (Katherine McLintock), Patrick Wayne (Devlin Warren), Stefanie Powers (Becky McLintock), Jack Kruschen (Jake Birnbaum), Chill Wills (Drago).
by Jay S. Steinberg