John Wayne’s Field Jacket in Donovan’s Reef

John Wayne as Michael "Guns" Donovan in Donovan's Reef (1963)

John Wayne as Michael “Guns” Donovan in Donovan’s Reef (1963)

Vitals

John Wayne as Michael “Guns” Donovan, island saloon owner and U.S. Navy veteran

French Polynesia, December 1963

Film: Donovan’s Reef
Release Date: June 12, 1963
Director: John Ford
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

A decade after John Wayne traveled to Hawaii to play the titular anti-communist agent in Big Jim McLain, the actor returned for the production of Donovan’s Reef, a more lighthearted and less politically motivated film and the final of Duke’s many cinematic collaborations with prolific director John Ford.

Donovan’s Reef is set during the holidays in French Polynesia where ex-Navy gunner’s mate Michael “Guns” Donovan operates a saloon on the fictional island of Haleakaloha.

What’d He Wear?

Guns escorts Amelia Dedham (Elizabeth Allen) and his pal Doc Dedham’s three daughters on an expedition to find a Christmas tree, dressing for the occasion in an olive belted field jacket with his usual navy cap and khakis.

The field jacket is a reasonable choice for John Wayne to wear in this contemporary-set film as a modernized equivalent of the classic stockade jacket he wore in many of his westerns. The military connotations of this jacket befit the character’s USN experience as well as Duke’s own personal brand of patriotism. This particular piece of outerwear was identified by a BAMF Style reader as an M42 coat, an element of the M42 jump uniform worn by U.S. airborne unit paratroopers during World War II.

The M42 jump jacket, in olive drab #3 cotton, has a classic shirt-style collar and epaulettes (shoulder straps), fastening up the front with a snap-up fly front and a brass zipper that extends from the waist line to the collar where there is a double-snap fastening at the neck. There are four flapped bellows pockets – two on the chest, two on the hips with slanted flaps; each flap has two visible gunmetal snaps to fasten the pockets closed.

DONOVAN'S REEF

Rather than the purely cinched waist of typical military-issued field jackets, the jump jacket has a full belt worn through three belt loops on the right, center, and left of his back. Each sleeve closes with two snaps at the cuff, though Guns wears them unsnapped and folded back once over each wrist to reveal his shirt cuffs.

Guns’ navy silk-like sport shirt is an anomaly in this military-inspired outfit as a strictly civilian garment. It has a flat camp collar, breast pocket, white buttons on the plain front and white buttons on the cuffs of its long sleeves.

Inset: John Ford directs John Wayne on location.

Inset: John Ford directs John Wayne on location.

That night, Guns wears the same navy sport shirt but with white trousers and his navy canvas sneakers; he also wears this outfit on the Christmas-set finale in addition to his navy peaked cap and with his light gray sportcoat over his arm.

In this setting, however, Guns wears the navy sport shirt tucked into his usual khaki slacks worn with a broad brown leather belt with a brass single-prong buckle.

DONOVAN'S REEF

Elizabeth Allen and John Wayne on location.

Elizabeth Allen and John Wayne on location.

Unless he’s dressing for a special occasion like an evening date or Christmas Eve mass, Guns wears a pair of khaki chinos in lightweight cotton drill with frogmouth front pockets, back patch pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs).

Guns also wears these go-to trousers with a number of khaki officer’s shirts (for a uniform-like effect) as well as his white short-sleeve sport shirt.

For the Christmas tree-cutting expedition, Amelia Dedham appears to have borrowed some naval workwear from Guns… or at least the film wants us to believe so as her casual clothing was clearly designed for Elizabeth Allen’s slim figure with hardly a chance of fitting John Wayne’s burly frame. In addition to her navy knit cap, blue chambray work shirt, and denim bell-bottomed dungarees, Amelia wears navy canvas sneakers like we see Guns wearing in other scenes.

Here, Guns wears a pair of tan moc-toe ankle boots with crepe soles and nubuck uppers that evoke the “roughout” service shoes issued by the U.S. military during WWII, so named for reversing the leather to expose the more water repellent “rougher” side.

Other than the moccasin-style toe box, these boots are similar to classic chukka boots and desert boots with their short uppers and two eyelets for laces, and they would be both comfortable and durable footwear for an afternoon of work. Guns wears them with a pair of beige socks.

Machete in hand, Guns "escorts" Amelia.

Machete in hand, Guns “escorts” Amelia.

Guns wears his usual dark navy twill broad-brimmed cap with a USN anchor insignia pin worn through the center of the crown.

Amelia and Guns ride back into town with the Christmas tree fastened to the back of his classic Jeep CJ-5.

Amelia and Guns ride back into town with the Christmas tree fastened to the back of his classic Jeep CJ-5.

On the third finger of his left hand, Guns wears what appears to be a large gold class ring with a red garnet stone, which some online discussion has speculated to be Wayne’s personal class ring from USC, where he played football in the late 1920s but never actually graduated after a broken collarbone left him unable to fulfill the duties of his athletic scholarship.

Concealed by the left sleeve of his long-sleeve shirt is his wristwatch, a plain gold watch with a white leather strap.

Elizabeth Allen and John Wayne in Donovan's Reef (1963)

Elizabeth Allen and John Wayne in Donovan’s Reef (1963)

How to Get the Look

You can take the gunner’s mate out of the navy… but you can’t take the navy out of Guns Donovan, who incorporates timeless military fashions into his civilian wardrobe.

  • Olive drab cotton M42 jump jacket with zip/snap fly front, epaulettes, four bellows pockets (with double-snapped flaps), full-belted waist, and double-snap cuffs
  • Navy long-sleeve sport shirt with camp collar, plain front with white buttons, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Khaki lightweight cotton drill flat front chino trousers with frogmouth front pockets, patch back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Brown leather belt with brass single-prong buckle
  • Tan nubuck moc-toe two-eyelet ankle boots
  • Beige socks
  • Navy blue cotton twill baseball cap with USN anchor insignia pin
  • Yellow gold class ring with red garnet stone
  • Yellow gold wristwatch with round case on white leather strap
  • Navy blue canvas sneakers with white laces, three lace grommets, and white rubber outsoles

Thank you, BAMF Style reader dpurves for identifying Guns’ jacket as the M42!

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

5 comments

  1. C

    The jump jacket is an interesting choice for a tropical locale. They are made of heavy material and meant to take a beating. They do not breath particularly well either. The waist belt has a heavy buckle that flaps around when not secured around the waist. Given Guns military service in the USN, one wonders where he obtained the jump jacket which was almost exclusively provided to airborne forces. To be certain, there were combat jumps in the Pacific Theater perhaps most notably by the 11th Airborne Division onto Corregidor but a USN deck jacket seems more in keeping with the character’s biography.

    Like

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