El Dorado (1966 film)
|Directed by||Howard Hawks|
|Produced by||Howard Hawks|
|Screenplay by||Leigh Brackett|
|Based on||The Stars in Their Courses by
|Music by||Nelson Riddle|
|Editing by||John Woodcock|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release dates||June 7, 1967|
|Running time||126 minutes|
|Box office||$5,950,000 (US/ Canada)|
El Dorado is a 1967 western film starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, directed by Howard Hawks, and released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Leigh Brackett and based on the novel The Stars in Their Courses by Harry Brown. Nelson Riddle wrote the musical score. The film was shot in Technicolor. The paintings in the credits are by Olaf Wieghorst, who plays Swede Larsen in the film.
The film is the second in a trilogy directed by Hawks varying the idea of a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town: the other two films are Rio Bravo (1959) and Rio Lobo (1970), both also starring Wayne. The plotlines of all three films are similar enough to almost qualify El Dorado and Rio Lobo as remakes.
Cole Thornton (John Wayne), an infamous gunslinger, is hired by wealthy rancher Bart Jason (Edward Asner) to help him in a range war with the McDonald family in the town of El Dorado. The local sheriff, an old friend of Thornton, J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) gives Cole more details that Jason had deliberately left out - including the possibility of having to side against Harrah. Unwilling to fight his friend Thornton quits to the relief of saloon owner Maudie (Charlene Holt), who is in love with Thornton (and was for a time a romantic interest of Harrah's).
The McDonalds learn of Thornton's presence in town. Fearing that he might come for them, Kevin McDonald (R.G. Armstrong) puts his youngest son, Luke, on guard. When Thornton passes by on his way back from rejecting Jason's offer, Luke (Johnny Crawford), who has fallen asleep, wakes and fires a wild warning shot whereupon Thornton reflexively shoots him. Luke is still alive when Thornton finds him, but he refuses treatment based upon the belief that a gut-shot man wouldn't have a chance anyway and commits suicide when Thornton turns his back on him.
Thornton subsequently brings the boy's body to the McDonald ranch and offers an explanation. The only McDonald daughter, Joey (Michele Carey), impulsively rides off before Thornton can finish his story and ambushes him shortly thereafter. Her shot is not fatal, but the bullet lodges next to Thornton's spine and in time begins to trouble him by occasionally pressing against the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis of his right side. The local doctor, Dr. Miller (Paul Fix), does not have the skill to remove the bullet and Thornton soon departs El Dorado for a new job.
Several months later, Thornton runs into another gunslinger-for-hire named Nelse McLeod (Christopher George) and a young greenhorn called Mississippi (James Caan), who has come for revenge against one of McLeod's men. McLeod has been hired by Jason for the same job Thornton turned down and Thorton hears from McLeod about how Harrah has turned into a drunk after an unhappy love affair. Thornton decides to return to El Dorado, hoping to save Harrah from being gunned down by McLeod and his men. He is followed by Mississippi who also wishes to help, despite his lack of experience and terrible aim with a gun.
Once Thorton and Mississippi arrive in El Dorado, they hear more of the story behind Harrah's change. The two men then join with Deputy Sheriff Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) in order to get Harrah sober and cleaned up. Within a day of their arrival, McLeod and his men also come to El Dorado and are hired on by Bart Jason. When one of them shoots one of the McDonalds, Thorton, Harrah, Bull and Mississippi chase the shooter and his friends into an old church and then into Jason's saloon. Harrah arrests Jason and takes him to the jail for his part in the shooting of one of the McDonalds. Later that night, Thorton and Mississippi decide to patrol the town in the hope of keeping the peace and are deputized by Bull. There is another shootout with McLeod and his men, which results in a minor leg injury for Harrah.
The next day, Maudie sends a message to Thorton and his friends stating that McLeod's men are frightening her and her patrons. When Thorton and Mississippi go to help her, they are ambushed and Thorton has an attack that leaves him partially paralyzed and captured by McLeod. Subsequently, McLeod trades the injured Thorton for Bart Jason, a trade Harrah agrees to despite knowing that doing so will mean that nothing will stand in the way of McLeod going after the McDonalds.
Sure enough, McLeod and his men shortly thereafter kidnap one of the McDonalds in order to force Kevin McDonald to sign over his water rights to Jason. Thorton and the others are forced to quickly come up with a plan to rescue Kevin McDonald's son and neutralize Jason and McLeod. Despite Thorton's paralysis and Harrah's leg injury, the two of them along with Bull and Mississippi return to town on wagons. While Thorton distracts Jason and McLeod outside of the front of the saloon; Mississippi, Harrah and Bull attack from the rear. The kidnapped McDonald is rescued, Jason, McLeod and his men are killed (with a little help from Joey McDonald) and order is restored to El Dorado. Thorton also begins to imply that he may discontinue his wandering ways in order to stay in the town with Maudie.
- John Wayne as Cole Thornton
- Robert Mitchum as Sheriff J.P. Harrah
- James Caan as Alan Bourdillion Traherne called Mississippi
- Arthur Hunnicutt as Bull Harris
- Charlene Holt as Maudie
- Michele Carey as Josephine 'Joey' MacDonald
- Ed Asner as Bart Jason
- Christopher George as Nelson McLeod
- R. G. Armstrong as Kevin MacDonald
- Paul Fix as Dr. Miller
- Robert Donner as Milt (McLeod gang)
- Jim Davis as Jim Purvis (Bart Jason's foreman)
- Adam Roarke as Matt MacDonald
- Johnny Crawford as Luke MacDonald
- John Mitchum as Elmer (Jason's bartender)
- Chuck Roberson as Jason's gunman
- Don Collier as Deputy Joe Braddock
- Olaf Wieghorst as Swede Larsen
The film maintains a high critical praise, earning a 100 percent perfect rating on review compiler Rotten Tomatoes. Popular critic, Roger Ebert gave the film a near perfect rating at three and a half out of four stars, stating "El Dorado is a tightly directed, humorous, altogether successful Western, turned out almost effortlessly, it would seem, by three old pros: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and director Howard Hawks". Praised film poll, They Shoot Pictures Don't They, put the film at the ranking of 799 out of 1000 for the list of greatest films of all time.
Shot in Old Tucson and Kanab, Utah, from October 1965 to January 1966, the film was Wayne's 138th picture, and had actually been filmed before The War Wagon, but its release was delayed so that Paramount's Nevada Smith with Steve McQueen would not have to compete with a John Wayne film at the box office. El Dorado finally reached the theatres in June 1967, a month after The War Wagon had opened.
Film footage from El Dorado was later incorporated into the opening montage of Wayne's final film, The Shootist, to illustrate the backstory of Wayne's character. Director Don Siegel used no scenes from any film shot before 1948 in The Shootist's frontispiece even though Wayne's career as a leading man began in 1930 with The Big Trail and had continued throughout the following two decades.
In the film, Mississippi gives Sheriff Harrah a concoction meant to deter him from further drinking. The ingredients include (among others) cayenne, ipecac (an emetic), mustard, croton oil (which induces diarrhea), asafoetida (often misspelled acifedida) and gunpowder.
The poem repeated in the film is "Eldorado", a ballad poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Caan continuously mispronounces the verse "Ride, boldly ride" as "Ride, Bodie, ride," confusing audience members unfamiliar with Poe's poem.
In popular culture
The similarity between Rio Bravo and El Dorado gave rise to an amusing exchange in the 1995 film Get Shorty. In this scene, Los Angeles drug dealer Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) breaks into the home of B film and horror film actress Karen Flores (Rene Russo) in order to steal a valuable film script. He accidentally touches the TV remote and switches on a cable channel, which is showing Rio Bravo. This awakens Flores and her boyfriend, mafia enforcer Chili Palmer (John Travolta). The pair confront Catlett and, in an attempt to talk his way out of the situation, Catlett confuses details about the respective casts of Rio Bravo and El Dorado, incorrectly stating that Dean Martin had acted in the latter. Palmer, a film buff and would-be film producer, is appalled at this lack of knowledge. He proceeds to give Catlett a tongue-in-cheek lecture setting the facts straight, pointing out that El Dorado was essentially a remake of Rio Bravo, with Robert Mitchum playing the role of Dean Martin's drunk, James Caan doing Ricky Nelson's role, and that the only person playing the same role in both films was John Wayne: "he played John Wayne".
In the 2007 film Transformers, the character "Bumblebee", when communicating with the film's main characters, pulls on radio/television airwaves to speak; one such set of dialogue being John Wayne's line: "Any more questions you wanna ask?", from El Dorado.
- Dick, Bernard F. "Engulfed: the death of Paramount Pictures and the birth of corporate Hollywood" (p. 105). The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (2001). ISBN 0-8131-2202-3.
- "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
- "El Dorado, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Davis, Ronald L (1998). Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806133294. OCLC 55042114.