The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

El Dorado (1967) Classic Movie Review 107

El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado (1967)

He ain't put that stopper back in that bottle in a coon's age.


Today’s movie is El Dorado (1967). It is another in a series of John Wayne formula and posse movies.Hey but it is a lot of fun and has a great story and a lot of action. This film is basically a remake of Rio Bravo (1959) with different actors. Except for John Wayne. Of course, he’s in it.

So let’ jump right into the actors, many of whom of show veterans.


John Wayne played the role of Cole Thornton, a gunman for hire. Wayne was first covered in Episode 2 – Chisum (1970).

Paul Fix plays the town sawbones, Dr. Miller. Fix was covered in Episode 15 – The Undefeated (1969).

Arthur Hunnicutt plays Bull, the bugle blowing deputy of Sheriff J.P. Harrah. Hunnicutt was covered in Episode 71 – Cat Ballou (1965).

Christopher George plays Nelse McLeod, the toughest of Bart Jason’s hired guns. George was covered in Episode 2 – Chisum (1970).

Robert Mitchum plays El Dorado Sheriff J.P. Harrah but he has a problem. Robert Mitchum was covered in Episode 54 – Out of the Past (1947).

Chuck Courtney was uncredited as Jared MacDonald Courtney was covered in Episode 12 – Billy the Kidd Versus Dracula (1966).

James Caan plays the role of Mississippi, a New Orleans gambler out to find the man that killed his foster parent. Caan was covered in Episode 105 – The Glory Guys (1965)

Robert Donner played the role of Milt. Donner has been in a couple of the movies we have already covered; The Undefeated (1969) and Chisum (1970). However, until this point, he never made the cut.

Donner was born in New York City in 1931. He was raised in Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas. Following high school, Donner spent almost 4 years in the Navy. Following his discharge from the Navy, Donner stayed on the west coast where he worked at various jobs and attended college.

Donner had the fortune to live in the same building as Clint Eastwood and the pair became friends. Eastwood recommended that Donner study acting. This lead to a career with 135 movie and television credits. Donner was an avid golfer and a motivation speaker.

El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado (1967)

Donner’s movie credits include uncredited roles in Rio Bravo (1959), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Disorderly (1964). He has a good collection of credited roles including Cool Hand Luke (1967), El Dorado (1967), the horrible Skidoo (1968), Rio Lobo (1970), Vanishing Point (1971), The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), High Plains Drifter (1973), The Last Hard Man (1976), Damnation Alley (1977) with giant cockroaches, Under the Rainbow (1981) about a murder plot during the filming of The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Hoot (2006) which is one of the 6 greatest Jimmy Buffet movies.

Donner’s main work was on television, including a long-term gig on “Mork & Mindy” 197801982. Donner died in 2006 at the age of 75.

Charlene Holt played Maudie. Holt was born in Texas in 1928 and had a modest career. Most of her work was television but her movies include El Dorado (1967), Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964), Red Line 7000 (1965), and Melvin and Howard (1980). She died in 1996 at the age of 67.

Michele Carey played tom-boy Josephine (Joey) MacDonald. Cary was born in Maryland in 1943. She was mostly a model that turned to acting. A lot of her work was on television but her movie roles include How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), El Dorado (1967), Live a Little, Love a Little (1968), Dirty Dingus Magee (1970), The Animals (1970), The Choirboys (1977), and In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1986).

Edward Asner played bad guy Bart Jason. Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1929. Following high school, Asner attended the University of Chicago. He worked on the GM assembly line before joining the US Army.

Following his time in the military, Asner made his way to New York where he fairly quickly became involved in 1950s television. His shows are too prolific to list but he is best known for playing Lou Grant, first on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” 1970-1977 and later on “Lou Grant” 1977-1982.

Asner played an art smuggler on the original “Hawaii Five-O” 1975 and returned to play the same role on the new “Hawaii Five-O 2012. By my count, he has played Santa Claus at least five times.

Anser still makes movies and is doing a lot of voice work. Two of his more recent successes include Elf (2003) and Up (2009).

El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado (1967)


The Sheriff, J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) walks down the main street of a western town. He walks into a saloon looking for a man that came in riding an Appaloosa. When Harrah finds the man in the back washing up, even though they are old friends, the Sheriff holds a gun on him. Cole Thornton (John Wayne) wants to know why his old friend has a gun on him. Harrah explains he needs to know if he is working for Bart Jason (Ed Asner). Harrah explains the entire problem. Bart Jason showed up at the end of the Civil War with a lot of money and started buying up land. The fact that he had money means he is a carpet bagger, traitor, or some other type of scoundrel. Jason needs more water but that is controlled by Kevin MacDonald (R. G. Armstrong) and his large family. Cole explains that he had been offered a job by Jason but had not accepted. Cole says he will turn the job down. Then Cole asks about rifle Harrah has, saying it looks familiar. Harrah replies that he had it fixed up like Cole’s and I take this to be an homage to Stagecoach (1939) and the shortened Winchester that the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) could twirl under his arm.

About this time the saloon owner, Maudie (Charlene Holt) comes in and she is very friendly with Cole. It turns out she was Cole’s girl before she was Harrah’s girl. Awkward. Cole heads out to tell Jason that he is not going to take the job. The route out leads him next to the MacDonald Ranch.

Kevin MacDonald gets word that Jason has hired Cole as a gunfighter and is heading their way. MacDonald leaves his youngest son Luke (Johnny Crawford) on a large rock to serve as a lookout. Crawford played Mark on “The Rifleman” 1958-1963. Cole makes it out to see Jason and gives him the advance back. Cole tells Jason that his hired guns couldn’t stomp a stringy jackrabbit, much less J.P. Harrah. He then has his horse do some fancy back walking as he keeps an eye on the hired guns.

On the way, back to town, he passes the big rock where Luke has fallen asleep. When Luke hears Cole, he jumps up and shoots, and Cole fires back. Being more experienced, Cole’s bullet finds its mark. Cole goes and finds the boy and determines that although he is hurt bad it is not necessarily fatal. Luke, having heard stories from his father about gut shot men, pulls another gun and kills himself while Cole is distracted.

Cole takes Luke’s body to the MacDonald Ranch and explains to Kevin how his son was killed. The father accepts the story and thanks Cole for returning the body. Cole chews him out for leaving a boy to do a man’s job and for the gut shot stories. Luke’s older sister, Joey (Michelle Carey), a leather clad wild cat rides away after in a huff say she doesn’t believe Cole’s story.

As Cole goes back to town, Joey ambushes him with her rifle. Cole is laying on the ground by a stream when Joey goes down to see the body. Cole is alive and disarms her, but she did hit him in the back with her shot. Cole makes it back to Maudie’s saloon where Doc Miller (Paul Fix) does the best he can. He tells Cole that the bullet is too close to the spine for him to remove, but he will need a surgeon.

Cole spends some time recovering and leaves El Dorado. Maudie is very sad to see him go. Cole goes to Mexico to work a job. Six or seven months later Cole is back in Texas and is having dinner in a little cantina, when a young fellow, wearing a stovepipe hat, named Mississippi (James Caan) comes in and accuses one of four men at a table of murdering his gambling friend and mentor. They reference Natchez under the Hill in Mississippi. He tells the man he has killed all the murders.

El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado (1967)

Mississippi doesn’t have a gun. When the killer draws, Mississippi pulls a knife out of his collar, al la Britt in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Two of the men from table stand up to face Mississippi and Cole shoots the gun out of the man’s hand. The last man at the table Nelse McLeod (Christopher George) asks Cole and Mississippi to join him for a drink. McLeod offers Cole a job, working for Bart Jason and Mississippi is in a hurry to leave. Cole keeps delaying him. McLeod says that because of a woman Harrah had crawled inside a bottle. Cole has McLeod call off the two men that were waiting outside to ambush Cole and Mississippi.

Since Cole has saved Mississippi they go for a meal. Mississippi says he can’t use a gun at all. Cole won’t let Mississippi tag along so he follows along, ala Chico in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Cole has a spasm because of the bullet in his back and falls off his horse. Mississippi joins him for the trip to El Dorado.

On the trip, Cole tries to teach Mississippi to shoot. He realizes it is hopeless and stops by a gunsmith to get him a sawed off double barrel shotgun with a pistol grip. When Cole and Mississippi make it to El Dorado they go see Maudie and ask if any strangers were in town. It wasn’t Maudie, but some girl that just got off the stage that broke his heart before she ran off with a drummer.

At the Sheriff’s office, bugle blowing deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) is guarding the jail while Harrah is drunk inside. Cole wakes the drunk Harrah and the two have a little spat. Cole says he is looking at a tin star with a drunk pinned on it. Mississippi makes a black drink that will make someone sick if they drink. They water-board Harrah with the liquid and lock him in a cell.

In the morning, Harrah has a drink and his guts explode. That afternoon Bart Jason and his men ride into to meet McLeod. The same time the MacDonald clan rode into town. Bull goes on watch and says he will blow his bugle if there is any trouble. When Harrah wakes up he looks for whiskey but it is all been thrown out. Harrah puts on his ratty hat to go with his torn and stained long-john shirt and heads for the saloon to get a drink. McLeod and his bunch show up and join Bart.

Bart and McLeod start mocking and laughing at Harrah. The besotted sheriff walks back to the jail in shame. Harrah is having a moment of clarity and breaks the bottle before trying to put on his gun. Just then a shot rings out and Bull blows his bugle. One of the MacDonald boys is shot, but not dead, in the street. The three Bart Jason men that did it ran up an alley and Bull has it covered. Harrah shows up to help. Cole, Harrah, Mississippi, and Bull heads down the street looking for the shooters. A lady opens a window and tells Mississippi that the men headed towards the church. This scene was spoofed in Blazing Saddles (1974).

The church, which looks more like an adobe mission. The three shooters start firing from the bell tower and Bull starts ringing the bell with rifle shots. Cole and company make it inside and kill two of the three men. One gets away but Mississippi hits him with a shotgun blast. The church fight is a great scene with shoot men falling tangled in bell ropes and one man falling directly toward a camera.

They follow the wounded man into the saloon. Cole and Mississippi go in the back door and Harrah goes into the front. Bull comes in as well. There is a blood trail on the floor. Harrah shoots into the piano and the wounded man runs out and Harrah shoots him down. The bartender reaches for a gun and Harrah shoots the bar fill the man’s hand with splinters. Harrah but strokes one of the men in the gut that laughed at him. He then smacks Bart Jason across the face with the flat of the rifle.

On the way to the jail, Mississippi sees a gun barrel pointing at them from the stable. Mississippi sneaks around and captures the gunman! It is the girl Joey MacDonald waiting to shoot Bart Jason.

McLeod and his men ride out of town. Cole and Mississippi go out to patrol the town. McLeod and his men come galloping back into town shoot wildly. Mississippi dives into the street and the horses jump over him. They kill three of the four rides but Harrah is hit in the leg. Cole asks why Mississippi dove under the horses and he replies that a man can shoot right when his horse is jumping and a horse won’t step on a man. I wouldn’t try it.

Doc Miller comes with a new doctor. The new doctor says he can fix the bullet in his back. Harrah is just nicked.

As they wait for the federal judge to come, Harrah gets the shakes. They decide to hold up in the jail for four or five days until the US Marshall arrives. They get some soap and food and Harrah starts washing up. Joey shows up with more soap and some new clothes. Maudie shows up with a basket of food and another bar of soap. Cole chews her out because Bart Jason’s men might see her and use her to free their boss from jail.

Later that night, one of Maudie’s saloon girls brings a note presumably from Maudie saying Jason’s men are hanging around. Cole and Mississippi get shot at and the man runs out the back door. He sees the two men he tangled with saving Mississippi. He shots and forces them out the back but suddenly has another attack. Mississippi shoots the last of the two but is knocked out from behind. McLeod comes down the saloon hall with Maudie in tow.

Mississippi and Maudie are let go and make it back to the jail. The lock on the office door is shot away and a tied-up Cole falls in. They want to trade Cole for Bart Jason and Harrah is forced to agree. They let Bart Jason out of jail. McLeod lets Maudie, Cole, Harrah, Bull, and Mississippi leave town and hold-up at Bull’s house.

Joey turns up at the house and lets the group know that their brother Saul has been kidnapped by Jason’s men. Janson wants her father to sign over his water rights in exchange for the boy. Cole is still partially crippled and he takes the Winchester and twirls it just like the Ringo Kidd did.

Maudie, the two injured men, with the old man Bull, and youngster Mississippi ride into town in wagons. The MacDonald’s arrive early but Maudie holds them back for a bit. Harrah, Mississippi, and Bull head for the back of the saloon. In some real racist crap, Mississippi puts on a flower pot on his head and a shawl around his shoulders and pretends to be Chinese. Anyway, he knocks out the guard and the three enter the back of the saloon.

As Cole arrives out front in the wagon, Bull shots one of Jason’s men with an arrow and blows his bugle. Cole dives off the wagon and shots McLeod down. Cole is hit in the leg but kills Jason’s foreman. Bart Jason grabs a gun but Joey shoots him with a rifle. The MacDonald boy is free by Bull and company.

Cole thanks Joey for saving him. A dying McLeod says you never gave me a chance, to which Cole says you are too good to get a fair chance.

The doctor comes to fix Cole and says it’s buckshot and they realize it came from Mississippi’s shotgun. Mississippi goes to court Joey. Cole goes to make peace with Maudie. Harrah tells how much he needs Bull as his deputy. They have a drink. Wait! What about the problem?

Harrah and Cole walk down the street, each on crutches, and Harrah says Cole has to leave because they don’t need his kind around.

World-Famous Short Summary – Lovelorn buddies spend some time together.

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Beware the moors

El Dorado (1967)

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