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El Dorado – 1966 Hawks
- It is impossible to mention El Dorado without mentioning Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). Hawks and John Wayne are back—as is Leigh Brackett with the screenplay. The story has some changes: there are rival families, one needing help from the law (Robert Mitchem in a variation of the Dean Martin role from Rio Bravo is the sheriff). The young James Caan plays Mississippi (the Ricky Nelson character- named Colorado) but instead of being quick on the draw with a gun, he is quick on the draw with a knife. Arthur Hunnicut is Bull- the Walter Brennan role- and John Wayne plays John Wayne of course riding an Appaloosa. This is a Hawks film, so there is a great deal about male bonding and a strong female character (Michele Carey as Joey).
- Gone is the magnificent dialogue-free opening (instead here there is a mess of talky exposition about the background relationship of Mitchum and Wayne instead) from Rio Bravo, but the credits here are an improvement as Hawks’ has chosen to use a collection of Western oil paintings from artist Olaf Wieghorst (who plays a Swedish gunsmith in the film). These are stunning. They are also the last picturesque compositions that the film has to offer.
- Mitchum is a better actor than Dean Martin overall but cannot quite reach Deano’s work as Dude and that level here for this role. Mitchum is still solid- looking like he needs a bath, swollen up eyes, the great shame he carries in his shoulders as he is run out of the bar and laughed at for being a drunk.
- Some of the set pieces, like the bar confrontation, are lifted directly from Rio Bravo– and of course the men are “holed up” together in the jail- even if there are no musicians to sing in this one.
- The tone is relaxed and that is all Hawks and the atmosphere he creates for his story and actors. This is an agreeable film, easy to watch with lines like “Maybe we better get going before we think about it too much”- haha.
- Recommend but inferior in just about every way (outside of those opening credits) to Rio Bravo and certainly misses the top 10 of the year