El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado (1966)

“Since when did hired guns get choosy?”

An aging gun-for-hire (John Wayne) returns to the town of El Dorado with a young knife-throwing sidekick named Mississippi (James Caan), ready to help the town’s alcoholic sheriff (Robert Mitchum) fight against the henchmen supporting a land-grabbing tycoon (Ed Asner).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Howard Hawks Films
  • James Caan Films
  • John Wayne Films
  • Ranchers
  • Robert Mitchum Films
  • Sheriffs and Marshalls
  • Westerns

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “director Howard Hawks and writer Leigh Brackett reworked their 1959 western Rio Bravo, coming up with a film that just misses equaling that masterpiece.” He notes that “like in other Hawks films, this one deals with professionalism, friendship, [and] grace under pressure; like Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo (1970), it ends with all the good guys still alive.” He adds that “Christopher George, who plays a gunfighter working for bad-guy rancher Ed Asner, is Hawks’s most sympathetic villain”:

… given that “he and Wayne respect each other, since both are professionals with a code of honor.” Finally, Peary points out that the “picture has exciting action sequences and a great deal of humor,” with “Caan… particularly funny.”

There’s not much more to say about this remake of Rio Bravo (yes, that’s essentially what it is) except that it’s competently filmed and handles aging and infirmity with aplomb, not shying away from showing how much harder life is in the rugged west when your body starts failing you. Mitchum’s character is played for laughs rather than pathos, but undergoes a refreshing transformation; and it’s interesting seeing Caan in one of his earliest films, bridging the era of classical filmmaking with a burgeoning new sensibility in cinema. However, this one isn’t must-see other than for Hawks fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Harold Rosson’s cinematography
  • Fine performances by the ensemble cast

Must See?
No, though of course fans of John Wayne or Howard Hawks will want to check it out.


One thought on “El Dorado (1966)

  1. Not must-see. (Rewatch 11/22/20.)

    Fans of Hawks, Wayne or Mitchum will probably want to check it out – but I’m not sure why.

    Frankly, it’s tired. As Hawks’ next-to-last movie, it doesn’t look or feel anything like what he is most-known for. The script is way too talky, and often the talk is not interesting. The way the film is lit, it looks made-for-tv.

    But the major problem is its tone. Early in his career, Hawks was famous for allowing his actors to talk over each other – some of that might have helped here, but everybody waits for everyone else to say what they have to say; tension is consistently sapped out of the conversations. Members of the cast rarely seem genuinely engaged but more like they’re going through the motions, or just not making a convincing effort.

    The effect is that of a bunch of uncommitted people making a movie simply because they wouldn’t know how to spend their time otherwise.

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