Release Year: 1967
Director: Howard Hawks
Writers: Leigh Brackett (screenplay), Harry Brown (loosely based on his novel The Stars in Their Courses)
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #163, week 31 2017
Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Arthur Hunnicut, Charlene Holt, Edward Asner, R.G. Armstrong, Christopher George, Michele Carey, Paul Fix, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford
Cole Thornton (John Wayne), an old gun for hire turns down a job in the town of El Dorado and decides instead to help his old friend, Sheriff J.P. Harrah, who is on the other side of the conflict. They are help by Bull (Arthur hunnicut), a veteran from the Indian Wars and a young gambler known as Mississippi (James Caan).
Although director Howard Hawks (His Girl Friday, 1940) emphatically denied it, El Dorado is more or less a remake of his earlier Western Rio Bravo (1959). Which one you prefer is a matter of taste, but it is hard to not hold the two films up beside each other. Here the characters are perhaps more convincing; the very green poster-boy Ricky Nelson is replaced by a more mellow James Caan, Walter Brennan’s Western caricature Stumpy is replaced by Arthur Hunnicut’s more rounded Bull. On other hand, the other hand, the final shootout in Rio Bravo is more impressive and its opening more evocative. The big plus for El Dorado is its two leads. Here the great John Wayne (Big Jake, 1971) is balanced by Robert Mitchum (The Night of the Hunter, 1955), another big Western name in his day. The two have great chemistry on screen and as their characters are incapacitated at different times during the movie, each one has his time to shine. The has a running time of 2 hour but doesn’t show; the passing is quick and there is never a dull moment. But how can a film be anything but smooth as clockwork and entertaining as hell when it is orchestrated by three great pros such as Wayne, Mitchum, and Hawks? Not likely to win new fans to the John Wayne style Western (alas, some will never be convinced) this is a very good Western and if you can’t decide between this or its twin Rio Bravo, we suggest you watch both! Highly recommended.
Robert Mitchum’s character wounded his right leg and had to use a right hand crutch, but the crutch switches side during the film. According to Mitchum this was done at the request of the director. It annoyed john Wayne who had worked continuity on silent films before his first acting jobs and he has his character mention it in one of the final scenes.
The bartender in the town’s saloon, Elmer, is played by Robert Mitchum’s brother John. In the final shoot-out Mitchum makes the mistake of calling him by his real name and says “Hold it right there, Johnny”.
The poem recited on several occasions by James Caan’s character is “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Picture Copyright: UIP