Tag Archives: Maureen O’ Hara

Big Jake (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Grandfather tracks grandson’s kidnappers.

In 1909 a group of outlaws led by John Fain (Richard Boone) raid the McCandles homestead and kidnap their grandson (Ethan Wayne). Martha (Maureen O’Hara) is the home’s matriarch who decides that the help of the army and Texas Rangers just won’t do and the family’s estranged grandfather, Big Jake McCandles (John Wayne) will. Big Jake, who was once a legendary gunfighter in his day has been roaming the west alone for many years, but once he gets word that his grandson has been kidnapped he snaps into action using the help of an old Apache associate named Sam (Bruce Cabot) to help track where the kidnappers are.

This another film where in Leonard Maltin’s review book he gives two different takes of the film depending on which version, older vs. newer, that you have. I realize Maltin does not review all of the movies that are in his book, but whoever reviewed this movie in the older versions gave it only 2-stars and describes it as an ‘uneasy combination of a traditional Wayne western and a Butch Cassidy-type spoof’. In the newer versions Maltin or whoever did the review now suddenly likes it and gives it 3-stars calling it ‘an underrated western that’s well paced and handsomely shot’. The only consistency between the two is that both consider Boone’s performance as being ‘especially good’.

For me the original review is far more accurate. Although the film does start out with a rather offbeat, Avant-garde opening everything that comes after is formulaic and mechanical. The plot is too basic and not all that exciting or gripping you never see or learn much about the boy who has been kidnapped and therefore one’s concern for his safety wanes. It starts out right away with the violent kidnapping without any backstory and then deviates into a lot of side-story adventures until you almost forget about the kidnapping plot completely only to finally come back to it with a so-so shootout finale. In a lot of ways the kidnapping theme could’ve been excised completely as the only time it gets amusing is during Wayne’s bantering with his co-stars as they ride around looking for the bad guys, so everything should’ve centered on that while possibly changing the plot around to them looking for gold or lost treasure instead.

Wayne’s presence is the biggest detriment as he has played this domineering, stubborn old codger for far too long and there needed to be a fresh new spin put on it, but none is supplied. I was hoping for one brief moment that the arrogant, brash Wayne character might be proven wrong at something, or forced to swallow his immense pride just to keep things balanced, but of course its only everyone else that has do that while the mystical Wayne proudly plods on like he can do no wrong.

I thought the introduction of the automobile into the plot, where some of the men decide to ride in those while Wayne stubbornly sticks with his horse, might offer this by having the old-fashioned character eventually forced to modify his thinking and embrace change and modernization. In reality everyone must eventually have to do this at some point in their lives, so The Duke should too, but instead here the reverse occurs, where those that adapt to change are made to look foolish while the hard-headed Wayne rides off unblemished, which to me made it too agonizingly predictable.

Having Wayne’s real-life son Patrick playing Big Jake’s feisty and rebellious son is fun, but I wanted their confrontations to be played up more. Christopher Mitchum is okay too as Big Jake’s other kid who rides a motorbike and this was the last movie that Mitchum did with Wayne because afterwards he quit speaking to him due to Wayne’s right-wing leaning politics, which I found ironic since 25 years later he ran for a California congressional seat as a conservative republican.

O’Hara is sadly wasted and seen only during the film’s first 15 minutes and then that’s it. Singer Bobby Vinton also appears at the beginning, but his acting is terrible and fortunately for the viewer his time on the screen is brief.

The only thing that I liked about the movie is the gorgeous view seen outside the ranch home in the opening scenes and I wished that the entire story had taken place in the home so we could keep enjoying its breathtaking surroundings, which was filmed on-location in the Mexican state of Durango. Otherwise everything else is a bore.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 26, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated G

Director: George Sherman

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)

mr hobbs takes a vacation

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Calamity filled family vacation.

Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) is a slightly cantankerous man in his 50’s who is tired of family vacations as he finds them to be more stress than they are worth. He loves his family, but hates going on trips with them. He dictates a letter to his secretary that is to be opened by his wife (Maureen O’Hara) upon his death detailing his many grievances of one particular trip that they took to a beach-side house that ended up being one catastrophe after another and through flashbacks the viewer relives them along with him.

Stewart is a real blast and the best thing about the movie. He doesn’t have that wide-eyed country boy charm like in some of past roles, but instead is a world-weary cynical man whose constant flow of acerbic comments and observations are quite funny. O’Hara is beautiful and engaging as his wife and helps as a sort of anchor between him and the rest of the family although I thought she looked much too young to be playing a grandmother. 60’s teen-heartthrob singer Fabian can also be seen as Joe a young man who takes a liking to one of Hobbs’ daughters. I liked the beatnik beard that he grows, but the part where he breaks out into a duet with his date in a film that is otherwise not a musical is very weird.

The actual beach house is a crazy sight and looks creepier than the Psycho house and sits literally right on the sandy beach and looking vulnerable to getting flooded during high tide. Beachgoers sit and sunbathe all around it and I would have thought many of them might walk into the house, or peer through the windows, but that angle does not get played up. Some of the myriad mechanical issues that Hobbs has with the building are the film’s funniest moments especially his difficulty getting the water pump going. The film should’ve continued to focus on this story thread all the way till the end, but doesn’t, which is a weakness.

While the movie is cute and pleasing it is also contrived and unoriginal. Many of the scenarios that they have could have easily occurred had they stayed home and the whole vacation concept seems to get lost. The writing and humor are better suited for television and the plot is threadbare. In a lot of ways this could better be described as an ordinary family sitcom with several different episodes strung together.

The visit that they have with a boring couple (John McGiver, Marie Wilson) near the end doesn’t work at all and should’ve been cut as a two hour running time is too long for this type of film to begin with. The scene where Hobbs get stuck in the bathroom with the tipsy and nude visiting wife elicits a few chuckles, but the bird spotting trek that he takes with the husband becomes too much of a pointless tangent. The scene also has a glaring goof because the two men decide to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to start their trek but when they first get outside the sun is already high in the sky and looking like it is the middle of the afternoon.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 15, 1962

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Henry Koster

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video