El Dorado
Genre: Western and Adaptation
Running Time: 126 min.
Release Date: June 7th, 1967 (Theatrical); May 19th, 2009 (DVD)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Howard Hawks
Actors: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Arthur Hunnicutt
"'They don’t look tough enough to me to stomp a stringy jackrabbit.'"
El Dorado, like Howard Hawks’ earlier film Rio Bravo, dwells heavily upon an enthralling camaraderie between three heroes who lightheartedly brave a serious predicament, and along with several supporting players form a family-like bond that helps prevail over antagonism. To take comparisons a step further, Ricky Nelson plays a character named Colorado, while James Caan plays the equivalent character, named Mississippi. The similarities don’t stop there, especially with several other roles being almost exactly duplicated by different actors (perhaps not surprising since writer Leigh Brackett penned both screenplays and many consider it to be a loose remake). But like most of John Wayne’s films, his stalwart stagger, confident mannerisms and humorously biting dialogue never tires. Add to that the only teaming of Wayne and unforgettable actor Robert Mitchum and El Dorado becomes a western well worth visiting.

Cole Thornton (John Wayne) strolls into town to take a job with Bart Jason (Edward Asner) until he’s confronted by longtime friend J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum), who is now the sheriff of El Dorado. When Cole learns that his talents with a gun are meant to stop J.P., he rides to Jason’s ranch to personally turn down the man who has been plotting to swindle neighboring family the MacDonald’s out of their land.


El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum


El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

El Dorado - John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

Months pass and Cole finds himself in a saloon in Sonora and helping a young man named Alan Bourdillion Traherne (James Caan), dubbed Mississippi for short, who is on a mission of revenge. Cole discovers that one of the most notorious gunfighters, Nelse McLeod (Christopher George), has been hired to dispose of J.P., now a broken-down drunk after having irreparable woman troubles. Cole once again journeys back to El Dorado, this time with the help of Mississippi, to stop Bart Jason and his men and to sober up the sheriff.

El Dorado doesn’t stray too far from standard John Wayne western formula (and at the time a Hawksian template), using rather silly schemes and none-too-serious plans to thwart the very serious villains. A theme song sung by George Alexander permeates the film based on Harry Brown’s novel “The Stars and Their Courses,” and the heroes take quite a beating without ever taking a breather. This film in particular has more violence than previous Wayne films, especially when Mississippi unleashes his destructive miniature shotgun. El Dorado excels at character development, taking its time fleshing out every single role so that each action and line of dialogue is fully supported. While even the minor characters get plenty of screentime, occasionally the film loses sight of all gravity, falling back on odd bits of humor (including some completely unnecessary racism), parody and playful verbal battles, dragging out the time between more suspenseful shootouts.

Wayne’s name and lighting fast gunslinger capabilities always precede him, gutsy taunts continually escape his weathered face (“they don’t look tough enough to me to stomp a stringy jackrabbit,” Cole scoffs at Jason’s hired guns), everyone has nifty nicknames (Bull, Mississippi, The Swede) and the villains are above typical lifeless cardboard cutouts (George is especially calm and menacing, while Asner is underhanded and overconfident). It isn’t the best of Hawks’ westerns, but missing the teaming of The Duke and the unflinching, uncaring Mitchum would be too much of a shame.

- Mike Massie


El Dorado - Centennial Collection DVD


The El Dorado two-disc DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with Dolby Digital English, French and Spanish Mono and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus material includes:

Disc One
• Feature film
• Commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (new)
• Commentary with critic and film historian Richard Schickel featuring actor Ed Asner and author Todd McCarthy (new)
Disc Two
• Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey of El Dorado (new)
• The Paradigm of an Entertainer
• Stealing from Himself
• A Taciturn Man
• Professional Courtesy
• Spotlight – James Caan
• The Duke, the Grey Fox and Pappy
• An Old-Age Masterpiece
• The Artist and the American West (1967) – Vintage Featurette (new)
• Behind the Gates: A.C. Lyles Remembers John Wayne (new)
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Galleries:
• Lobby Cards
• Production Part 1
• Production Part 2
• Production Part 3

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