The 1967 classic starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum airs Saturday on Encore Westerns.
If the plot of El Dorado seems a tad familiar, well it should — director Howard Hawks more or less recycled it from Rio Bravo (1959), and then re-recycled it for Rio Lobo (1970). But never mind: As often is the case with John Wayne westerns, the storytellers, not the story, are what really matter in this 1967 classic, which airs at 11:29 pm ET/10:29 pm CT pm Saturday on the Encore Westerns cable channel. (If you’re an early riser, you also can catch it at 7:58 am ET/5:58 am CT.)
As critic Roger Ebert noted in his original review: “Wayne plays a professional gunman who comes to town to take a job from a rich rancher who wants a poor rancher’s water (who says the plot has to be original?). But the sheriff turns out to be his old buddy, [Robert] Mitchum, and so he turns down the job. Then the rich rancher hires another gunman (Christopher George), and Wayne sides up with the drunk and disheveled Mitchum. Duke’s team isn't exactly made of heroes. Mitchum has been hitting the bottle for two months, his deputy (played with charm by [Arthur] Hunnicutt) is a windy old Indian fighter, Wayne has a bullet near his spine that causes a slight touch of paralysis now and again, and his sidekick ([James] Caan) is a kid who carries a shotgun instead of a pistol because he's such a lousy shot. Hawks fashions scene after scene of quiet, earthy humor from this situation. Without great care, the movie could have degenerated into a put-on, but Hawks plays it straight and never allows his actors to take that last fatal step in overacting.”
Movie buffs, take note: Listen closely, and you’ll hear a sly reference to Shoot the Piano Player, the 1962 film by Francois Truffaut, the great French filmmaker who, during his days as a critic, championed Hawks’ films long before many U.S. critics did.