A spanking good time?
March 21, 2016 13 Comments
McClintock is a much later Wayne/O’Hara pairing – ten years later – which is a long time in the life of a female movie star, and the great and wonderful and beauteous Maureen (is there anyone of either gender who doesn’t just adore her?) has moved from being the youthful love interest to being an estranged wife and the mother of the youthful love interest (played by Stephanie Powers). It may just be me, but however beautiful the daughter is, it is still Maureen who steals every scene she’s in; here we see something rarely glimpsed in Hollywood – a maturer woman carrying the sex-symbol scenes against a younger one.
We hear about her before we see her. The Duke plays ‘GW McClintock’, one of those cattle barons who came up the hard way when the West was being won. We eventually learn that at one stage GW and Katie had to pawn her father’s medal to buy food for their baby – but GW’s toughness and business sense won through, and by the time we meet them, he’s the man who owns the town and the whole of the Mesa Verde.
GW, as he’s known, is a hard-drinking, hard-hitting sort of a guy – we see early on that he’ll take no nonsense from young bucks half his age – but that’s not him being high and mighty, it’s him defending his own.
We eventually learn that he has an estranged wife – but not why she is estranged. She is ‘back east’ as is the daughter, Becky, who’s at College there. GW is proud of Becky, but we get a sense that ‘back east’ is not a place he’d want to be – neither does he like the college boy she takes up with. You can see he’d prefer her to be with a guy like the young homesteader (his son, Patrick) who he’s taken a shine to (after being punched by him). That he comes with an attractive young widowed mother played by Yvonne de Carlo, sure doesn’t harm his chances. This adds to the tension when Katie – or Katherine as she insists everyone calls her – comes back to stay at the family mansion.
The film is, loosely (very loosely) based on the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ – though the name of the central female character and one of the famous scenes at the end are about the one sign of it. Katherine has a sharp tongue and rides GW with it; he puts up with it because – well a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, and she’s still his wife.
We see that Becky, the daughter, is something of chip of her mother’s block, as she’s quite patronising to the young man – Dev, and although she clearly likes him, blows him out in favour of the epicene college boy. Eventually Dev snaps and puts her over his knee and spanks her – she gets indignant, especially when GW won’t help her.
The film finishes in memorable fashion, with Katherine having driven GW too far, losing her outer garments as she flees, before ending up being spanked by GW – and as Maureen later said: “He really spanked me! My bottom was black and blue for weeks!” Needless to say, they don’t get divorced.
I grew up with the film, and it was only when watching it recently with a female friend that I realised how it looked if not played for laughs – was it not, she wondered, somewhat abusive and demeaning to the women concerned? Like so many films of that era (it came out in 1963) some of its attitudes jar with our modern way of seeing things, but if we insist on driving out humour and applying our own standards of political correctness (OK, not yours Neo!), we’ll be left with some pretty dull things to watch. It is a comedy of manners, and the comedy works because it runs the old theme of the domineering wife getting her comeuppance; if you don’t find it funny, better not watch.
It would be unfair to compare it with the last film, or with the ones we’ll be looking at over the next few days – John Ford was a genius, and you can’t compare this romping comedy with the grandeur of his visions of Ireland and America. But heck, it’s a good way to pass a couple of hours, and to admire the Duke and Maureen sparking off each other. And I know at least one guy in these parts not so politically correct that he turns it off before the ending.