El Dorado was directed and produced by Howard Hawks. Hawks, who had directed John Wayne previously in Red River and Rio Bravo (some say El Dorado is a remake of Rio Bravo) cast 58 year old Wayne as Cole Thorton a gun for hire who has come into the town of EL Dorado at the request of Bart Jason, a wealthy rancher who wants to drive out the McDonald family. The McDonalds had worked the land for a number of years and had slowly built their ranch into a prosperous enterprise.
Robert Mitchum stars as J.P. Harrah the sheriff of the town of El Dorado and a close friend of Cole Thorton. Meeting Thorton in the saloon Harrah convinces Cole to not work for Bart Jason. Thorton rides to Jason’s ranch to deliever the bad news that he won’t take the job. Unbeknown to Thorton a rider has been sent to the McDonald family to warn them that the hired gun Cole Thorton has come to town to drive them out. The father of the McDonalds sets his youngest son to watch for Thorton and fire a shot if he sees him coming. The boy falls asleep at his watch and when Thorton coming back into town after turning down Bart Jason’s offer the boy awakes and seeing Thorton fires a shot. Thorton thinking he is being ambused returns fire gut shooting the young man. By the time Thorton reaches the boy the pain is too great for the boy and shoots himself after telling Thorton his name. Thorton takes the dead body of the boy home to his parents where he tells the family what happened. The hot-headed sister of the boy calls Thorton a liar and rides off the ranch. Later as Thorton rides back to the town the sister shoots Thorton in the back saying that he won’t be killing little boys any more.
Thorton while wounded isn’t dead as he knocks the feet out of the young girl and throws her rifle into the stream. He leaves town with a bullet in his back and troubled by the events.
James Caan stars as Mississippi (his real name is Alan Bourdillion Traherne) a young man who is handy with a knife but hopeless with a gun.
This is my favorite western, I admit that I am a John Wayne fan and have most of his westerns in cluding Rio Bravo. Which has almost the same plot as El Dorado (or since Rio Bravo came before El Dorado reverse that statement). The chemistry between Way, Mitchum, and Caan is enjoyable and there is many classic lines such as:
Wayne: “Tell him your name Mississippi”
Caan: ” Alan Bourdillion Traherne”
Mitchum: “Well no wonder he carries a knife.”
This is a great movie and very enjoyable to watch.