3.5 2
Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Howard Hawks, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan


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One has to hand it to John Wayne and director/producer Howard Hawks -- they took the same story and made it three different times for three different studios. El Dorado was ostensibly based on Harry Brown's novel The Stars in Their Courses, but it's so similar in just about every way possible to the earlier movie, Rio Bravo, that it's impossibleSee more details below


One has to hand it to John Wayne and director/producer Howard Hawks -- they took the same story and made it three different times for three different studios. El Dorado was ostensibly based on Harry Brown's novel The Stars in Their Courses, but it's so similar in just about every way possible to the earlier movie, Rio Bravo, that it's impossible not to think of it as a remake and even more so as Hawks and Wayne did it a third time for Cinema Shares in 1971. El Dorado is a more leisurely movie than its predecessor, to be sure, and is also filled with little mistakes that one hardly cares to notice since it's such an enjoyable movie overall, if not as sharply focused as Rio Bravo. It's also the first of the three versions of the story to show up on DVD. Paramount has generally done well by the movie, in a beautiful transfer that makes the wide-open vistas of the MacDonald land being fought over every bit as seductive as the gorgeous title song by John Gabriel and Nelson Riddle (sung by George Alexander) promises. The color tones in the scene of Wayne's initial confrontation with villain Edward Asner (in his pre-Mary Tyler Moore Show days) are so beautifully sunlit, and so carefully transferred, that it's like seeing this old chestnut of a movie for the first time. The viewer buying this disc will get every cent of value from Harold Rosson's cinematography, just in the shadows crossing over Asner as he watches Wayne ride off in that scene (a shot, incidentally, that echoes Lee Garmes' work in Hawks' Scarface, made 34 years earlier). If there's a problem, it's that the resolution is so good that it's impossible to miss Michele Carey's anatomical charms, try as the actress does to hide them in her role as a sharpshooting, hard-riding girl. It's little details like that, along with some very strong performances in a complex script, that are delineated on this release. Wayne is good, Robert Mitchum is deceptively good, James Caan may never have been better, Arthur Hunnicutt steals every scene he's in, Christopher George gives the best performance of his career, and the supporting players, including Michele Carey, Johnny Crawford, and R. G. Armstrong, are some of the best in any '60s Western, adding startling vitality to a tale that's otherwise paced a little leisurely. It all looks so good, and sounds so clean and sharp, that the disc makes it easy to bask in the story's assembly of interlocking personal tragedy, accidents, and revenge, all leading to a surprisingly satisfying resolution. Charlene Holt, though she's no Angie Dickinson, makes a just-about-convincing love interest in a surprisingly secondary role -- this transfer brings out the texture of her hair and her skin, and her dark eyes, better than any presentation of the film since it opened in 1966. In other words, until High-Definition Television becomes a reality, this is as good as the movie is likely to look. Paramount thought enough of this movie, in contrast to some of its other DVD releases, to have included the original preview trailer, all of three minutes, which emphasizes the action and violence, making the movie seem more exciting and less humorous and good-natured than it actually is for much of its length. The menu pops up automatically on start-up and is very easy to manipulate. The only drawback is the unaccountable decision to break this two-hour plus movie into a mere 14 chapters, which makes locating specific scenes a little more difficult than it ought to be.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Essentially the same plot that Hawks had previously used in Rio Bravo (1959) and would return to in Rio Lobo (1970), El Dorado deals with his characteristic themes of friendship and professionalism. John Wayne plays aging, wounded gunfighter Cole Thornton, who joins forces with his old friend J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum), a sheriff turned alcoholic, and young knife-thrower Mississippi (James Caan), to fight off cattle baron Bart Jason (Ed Asner). Much more a film about relationships than it is an action piece, like Rio Bravo it focuses on Wayne's efforts to help his buddy overcome his drinking problem and restore his self-respect. Hawks also implies the depredations of age, intimating that, although this might not be their last stand, these two are approaching the end of their journey, and now need help from younger people. Yet, as always with Hawks, these themes are stated with humor, using the oblique "three-cushion" dialogue he claimed to have learned from Hemingway. The film's best scenes take place in the jail where the two friends, along with Caan and the deputy (Arthur Hunnicut), exchange insults -- the only way that they, and Hawks, know how to express love. Since, for the veterans, these parts virtually play themselves, it's Caan who gives the best performance as an intense young stud trying to get a handle on these old guys. Made when the director was nearly 70, El Dorado may not stand with the best of his work, but it remains a solid, entertaining Western.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Wayne Cole Thornton
Robert Mitchum Sheriff J.B. Harrah
James Caan Alan Bourdillon Trehearne (Mississippi)
Charlene Holt Maudie
Michele Carey Joey MacDonald
Paul Fix Doc Miller
Ed Asner Bart Jason
Arthur Hunnicutt Bull Harris
R.G. Armstrong Kevin MacDonald
Christopher George Nelse McLeod
Marina Ghane Maria
John Gabriel Pedro
Robert Rothwell Saul MacDonald
Robert Donner Milt
Adam Roarke Matt MacDonald
Victoria George Jared's Wife
Anne Newman Saul MacDonald's Wife
Johnny Crawford Luke MacDonald
Olaf Wieghorst Gunsmith
Anthony Rogers Dr. Donovan
Charlita Actor
Don Collier Deputy Joe Braddock
Chuck Courtney Jared MacDonald
Nacho Galindo Mexican Saloonkeeper
Betty Jane Graham Actor
Buzz Henry Actor
Riley Hill Actor
Rodolfo Hoyos Actor
Frank Leyva Actor
Ruben Moreno Actor
Lee Powell Actor
Dean Smith Charlie Hagan
Rosa Turich Rosa
Ralph Volkie Actor
Christopher West Actor
Danny Sands Actor
Linda Dangcil Actor
William Henry Sheriff Tod Draper (uncredited)
John Mitchum Jason's Bartender
Chuck Roberson Jason's Gunman
Jim Davis Jim Purvis

Technical Credits
Howard Hawks Director,Producer
Carl Anderson Art Director
Robert R. Benton Set Decoration/Design
Leigh Brackett Screenwriter
John R. Carter Sound/Sound Designer
Farciot Edouart Cinematographer
Charles Grenzbach Sound/Sound Designer
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Paul Helmick Producer
Paul K. Lerpae Special Effects
Ray Moyer Set Decoration/Design
Hal Pereira Art Director
Nelson Riddle Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Harold Hal Rosson Cinematographer
Wally Westmore Makeup
John M. Woodcock Editor

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Taking Sides [13:19]
2. Doing a Man's Job [12:34]
3. Settling Scores [13:17]
4. Shooting Straight [8:17]
5. A Sobering Recipe [11:21]
6. The Drunken Sheriff [8:22]
7. Church Shootout [:13]
8. Regaining Respect [10:13]
9. Joey McDonald [8:04]
10. Cleaning Up [5:15]
11. McLeod's Deal [11:10]
12. Getting the Job Done [7:20]
13. Being Nice [12:01]
14. End Credits [4:23]


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