When you consider the number of great westerns which John Wayne appeared in it almost feels wrong to say that "McLintock!" is one of Wayne's more entertaining movies. With no real proper storyline rather than several smaller ones which interlink and the formula of macho action, brawls and gags "McLintock!" is technically weak but it is simply great fun. From the first time we watch GW McLintock argue with his estranged wife Katherine through to the over the top brawl as the settlers plan to hang an Indian it is totally stupid but brilliantly funny at the same time. Basically "McLintock!" is the sort of John Wayne movie that fans of John Wayne will lap up but leave those who care little for the man a bit bemused by what is in many ways a lot of nonsense.
As local landowner and cattle baron GW McLintock (John Wayne - How the West Was Won) has as many friends as he does enemies and as such finds himself not only drawn into the difficulties which a band of settlers bring with them but also the return of the Indian Chiefs who want him to represent them in their fight to keep their territories. But that is the least of his issues as with his daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers - A Soldier's Love Story) returning to town it also brings his estranged wife Katherine (Maureen O'Hara - Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation) whose bossy, forthright manner simply does his head in.
So as already mentioned "McLintock!" doesn't really have one storyline rather than several little ones which interlink and frankly none of them are that original. In a way the central storyline revolves around GW's estranged wife Katherine returning to town and making his life a misery with her bossy demands including wanting a divorce, all of which is a slim mask for her true emotions towards her husband. And so what we get is basically John Wayne dealing with a forthright woman, very much in the same style as "Donovan's Reef" which came out in the same year. And as such we get John Wayne acting typically bullish and ending up winning her over in what boils down to a chase scene at a 4th of July party and spanking her. Watching all of this now it feels so wrong but at the same time amusingly so right.
But that is not the only storyline because we also get the return of GW's daughter Becky and with it comes a love triangle as Devlin Warren and Matt Douglas Jr. vie for her attention. It's all very obvious and with Devlin played by John Wayne's son Patrick there is almost a sense of him playing the role like his dad would have. So what that means is we get Patrick Wayne acting very bullish and their flirting culminates with, yes you guessed it a spanking.
There are other storylines which include issues with settlers wanting to take over some land and the return of the Indian chiefs but all of these stories are basically there to deliver laughs. And to be honest every single gag is forced upon us but rather strangely they work. Watching the brawl break out as the settlers plan to hang and Indian is so manufactured that you wonder what director Andrew V. McLaglen was thinking but watching this muddy brawl ends up strangely funny especially with everyone ending up sliding down a wet slope into a mud pool, including Maureen O'Hara. And even more forced is the almost song and dance element which again you wonder what the heck, but then with Jerry Van Dyke playing Matt Douglas Jr. these song and dance elements end up being funnier than ever. It's a case that every moment of humour be it the big set pieces or the smaller gags feel wrong but end up so funny.
Much of the reason why all of this works is because everyone involved seems to be having so much fun. John Wayne most definitely looks in his comfort zone and enjoying playing the popular local, the bullish romantic and drunk and I swear there are scenes where it looks like he is struggling to stop himself from laughing. And he seems even more comfortable playing opposite Maureen O'Hara who is wonderfully antagonistic as his wife Katherine. The verbal sparring is magnificent and you can imagine that they sparred as much off set as they did on because it flows so naturally. Basically everyone from Stephanie Powers who is delightful as Becky through to Jerry Van Dyke and Patrick Wayne put in enjoyable performances, embracing the daftness of the movie and basically having fun.
What this all boils down to is that in many ways "McLintock!" is one of John Wayne's more entertaining movies but for totally different reasons to the great westerns he gave us. It doesn't really have a storyline and what it does have is very obvious but the constant stream of humour which flows through out the movie and the fun performances are what makes it so entertaining. Yes it's forced but the slapstick of an over the top brawl or John Wayne tumbling down a flight of stairs drunk is what it is, funny.