El Dorado

"Extraordinary"

El Dorado Review


Howard Hawks's penultimate film is a canny reshuffling of his own Rio Bravo as he performs a loose and extended mediation on his favorite themes of loyalty and professionalism.

John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun for hire claiming a job with a land-grabbing cattle baron (Ed Asner). Cole accepts the job until he finds out that his old pal J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum, in one of his finest late career performances) is the town sheriff. Cole switches sides but not before being shot by a put-upon rancher's daughter, Joey (Michele Carey), who thinks Cole is still working for Jason. With the bullet lodged near his spine, Cole rejects a risky operation and leaves town looking for work. A year later, Cole returns to town with a young, firebrand partner, Mississippi (James Caan), in tow to find that Jason has hired a legendary gang of gunslingers to force Joey's family off their ranch. Cole also discovers J.P. has deteriorated into a pathetic joke of a drunk after being thrown over by a dame (and Mitchum is not short of harrowing in his efforts to fight back his demons). But Jason's hired guns won't quit, so Cole along with Mississippi and J.P.'s obnoxious deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) try to head off the gang of hired guns. At the same time, Cole helps J.P. to pull out of his drunken stupor and regain his professionalism.

As in Hawks's previous films, there is a marked emphasis on experience and talent in order to "get the job done." But in El Dorado another aspect of professionalism is called into question: What does it mean to be a professional when you discover that you are growing old and your powers are waning? Infirmity, disability, aging -- these are Hawks's obsessions in El Dorado.

Mitchum brackets the film with remarks encapsulating these concerns. At the film's opening, he greets the paunchy Wayne with a rifle pointed at him. When Wayne gets ready to draw his gun, Mitchum says, "I just wanted to see if you slowed down." Towards the end of the film, Mitchum tries to reassure a paralyzed Wayne by telling him, "Last night your whole side was dead. Now it's just your arm." Hawks plays through these interests in a series of lighthearted and stoic verbal exchanges between Wayne and Mitchum that leave the not-so-old Rio Bravo plot in the lurch.

Hawks, 70 at the time of El Dorado's filming, accentuates aspects of Rio Bravo that were brushed off in the wake of that film's taut atmosphere, pointing to the importance of friendship and loyalty in the wake of age. In order to cover these themes on an elemental level, El Dorado is much looser and relaxed, expanding upon the characters and slackening the tale like a fat man loosening his gun belt. Rather that the dark and foreboding opening of Rio Bravo with Dean Martin skulking through dark streets in search of a drink, El Dorado starts out in the brilliant noon sun and only proceeds into darkness and confinement as the film progresses. And as the darkness closes in, the characters talk and form bonds of friendship and loyalty, which is sorely needed when you have aging characters who collapse into paralysis or shriek with the DTs.

Even the young whippersnappers get in on the act. James Caan's Edgar Allen Poe-quoting Mississippi agrees to hang around and help Cole and J.P. by remarking, "Maybe I could help you. You saved my life twice." To which Wayne replies, "Yeah, but I'll be too busy to keep doing that!"

But the film is so entertaining and unfettered that it is not until it is over and after the final shot of Wayne and Mitchum limping their way down Main Street that the realization kicks in that Hawks is dealing in a stark and unblinking way at physical deterioration and morality, and you begin to visualize yourself heading "over the mountains of the moon" and "down the valley of shadow" -- to quote Poe and Caan.

Filthy cowboy.



El Dorado

Facts and Figures

Run time: 126 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 7th June 1967

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Laurel Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 13

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Cole Thornton, as Sheriff J.P. Harrah, as Mississippi, Charlene Holt as Maudie, as Dr. Miller, Arthur Hunnicutt as Bull Harris, Michele Carey as Josephine MacDonald, R. G. Armstrong as Kevin MacDonald, as Bart Jason, Christopher George as Nelse McLeod, Marina Ghane as Maria, as Milt, John Gabriel as Pedro, Johnny Crawford as Luke MacDonald, as Matt MacDonald

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Advertisement
Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.