John Wayne’s Visit To Kauai for the Filming of Donovan’s Reef

“The Duke” Portrayed a U.S. Navy Expatriate in French Polynesia

It was in 1962 that John Wayne came to Kauai to star in the movie Donavan’s Reef, an action comedy that was also a morality play dealing with issues of greed, racial bigotry, and American beliefs of superiority.

In the film the Duke played the former United States Marine “Guns” Donavan who ran a tropical bar on a South Pacific island which was represented by beautiful Kauai.

Kauai Filming of Donovan’s Reef

Filming of Donovan’s Reef took place all around the Garden Island from Waimea Canyon to the north shore. The main set was near Ahukini Pier and Hanamaulu Beach on the east side.

Filming also took place on the Wailua River as well as at Lawai’s Allerton Estate where the summer home of Queen Emma represented in the movie the white beach house of the French island governor. This historic home is now part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Allerton Garden.

Scenes of canoes and boats filmed on the Wailua River were edited and merged with Allerton Estate scenes.

Wayne and Marvin Provide Memorable Scenes

Another notable actor in Donovan’s Reef was Lee Marvin who played Thomas “Boats” Gilhooley, a U.S. Navy expatriate who was working aboard a freighter when he jumped off the ship as it passed the French Polynesian island.

John Wayne’s character “Guns” Donovan, was also a U.S. Navy expatriate, who returns to the island after a fishing trip and ends up having to care for some children.

Former shipmates, Gilhooley and Donavan have a tradition of having a knock-down, drag-out fight every year on their birthday, which happens to be the same. They continue the tradition in the island adventure.

Other actors in this Kauai film were Elizabeth Allen as Amelia Dedham, Jack Warden as Dr. William Dedham, and Cesar Romero as the French governor Marquis Andre de Lage. Dorothy Lamour plays Gilhooley’s girlfriend Miss Lafleur.

During filming of Donovan’s Reef on Kauai the cast stayed at the Kauai Inn on Nawiliwili Bay. The website of the Kauai Inn still boasts how the cast of the movie, including Lee Marvin and John Wayne, lounged around the pool and told stories along with the inn’s other guests.

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