John Wayne in El Dorado (1966): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts
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John Wayne in El Dorado (1966): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts

Howard Hawks' classic western El Dorado came to movie theaters in 1966. Amazing El Dorado movie trivia and fun facts encompass John "Duke" Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Paul Fix, Michele Cary, Johnny Crawford, The Rifleman, Harry Brown, Edgar Allan Poe and Christopher George.

Paramount Pictures' El Dorado rode into movie theaters in 1966. John "Duke" Wayne stars as Cole Thornton, an infamous gun-for-hire who gets involved in an Old West range war. Here are 21 El Dorado movie trivia items and fun facts...

1. El Dorado is based on the 1960 novel The Stars in Their Courses by Harry Brown (1917-1986). The 362-page novel was published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York.

El Dorado cast members, l-r: John Wayne, Christopher George, James Caan - Paramount Pictures

2. Harry Brown later petitioned producers that his name be stricken from the movie credits, as El Dorado had very little in common with his original 1960 novel.

3. El Dorado was produced and directed for Laurel Productions and Paramount Pictures by the legendary Howard Hawks (1896-1977). Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) penned the sizzling screenplay.

4. Harold "Hal" Rosson (1895-1988) served as cinematographer on El Dorado. Rosson had retired in 1958, but came back to work on El Dorado. He was married to Hollywood film goddess Jean Harlow from 1933-34.

5. El Dorado's stirring title song is performed by George Alexander with The Mellowmen ( Bill Cole, Bill Lee, Thurl Ravenscroft, Max Smith).

6. El Dorado is actually a remake of the 1959 John Wayne film Rio Bravo. After reading Leigh Brackett's El Dorado script, John Wayne had envisioned himself playing the part of Sheriff J.P. Harrah, which instead went to Robert Mitchum.

7. El Dorado was principally filmed on location in Knab, Utah, and Tucson, Arizona, from October 11, 1965, to January 28, 1966. Knab, Utah, has been a favorite locale for western movie makers. The Deadwood Coach (1924), Fort Apache (1948) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) were all filmed here.

8. Robert Mitchum plays Sheriff J.P. Harrah, the once great lawman who has fallen under the spell of the whiskey bottle. John Wayne as gunfighter Cole Thornton describes the grungy, unshaven Harrah as such: I’m lookin’ at a tin star with a…drunk pinned on it.”

9. James Caan plays Alan Bourdillion Traherne, who is called “Mississippi” by his friends. In one scene, a vengeful Mississippi "outdraws" a gunman named Charlie in a Sonora cantina, planting a knife in the man's chest. Shades of James Coburn's knife-wielding Britt in The Magnificent Seven (1960).

10. James Caan's Mississippi is an awful shot with a six-shooter. Thus, Cole Thornton has gunsmith Swede Larsen (Olaf Wieghorst) outfit his new friend with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun which fits neatly into a side holster. Olaf Wieghorst's exquisite western paintings are seen at the beginning of the film.

11. Johnny Crawford, who played Mark McCain on ABC-TV's The Rifleman (1958-63), appears as young Luke MacDonald, who bushwhacks Cole Thornton. Instinctively returning fire, Cole wounds the boy in the stomach. Believing that he is mortally wounded, Luke commits suicide with his own pistol before Cole can act.

12. Michele Cary plays Josephine "Joey" MacDonald, Luke's vengeful sister who ambushes Cole, leaving the gunfighter with a bullet near his spine.

Michele Cary and James Caan - Paramount Pictures

13. Veteran character actor Paul Fix plays Dr. Miller, a small-town physician who treats Cole Thornton's gunshot wound. Fix had appeared with Johnny Crawford and Chuck Connors in TV's The Rifleman, playing Marshal Micah Torrance.

14. Edward Asner in his pre-Lou Grant days plays villain Bart Jason, a local rancher who initially hires Cole Thornton to settle things in his dispute with Kevin MacDonald (R.G. Armstrong) and his clan.

15. In order to sober up the drunken J.P. Harrah, the enterprising Mississippi comes up with his own hangover recipe: mustard and gunpowder! "Guaranteed to kill or cure," he tells Cole, who sagely replies, "Just make sure you don't blow him up first."

16. Christopher George plays the scar-faced hired gun Nelse McLeod. He first meets Cole Thornton and Mississippi at the same Sonora cantina in which Mississippi plants the knife into one of McLeod's cohorts.

17. Mississippi recites the poem "El Dorado" by Edgar Allan Poe, which wins him the right to accompany Cole Thornton back to El Dorado.

18. When a bloodied Bart Jason is hauled off to jail by Sheriff Harrah, Jason offers Nelse McLeod $1,000 to free him.

19. Arthur Hunnicutt cops one of the best supporting roles in El Dorado, playing an ancient deputy sheriff named Bull Harris. Viewers might recognize Charlene Holt, Miss Maryland of 1956, who plays Maudie.

20. El Dorado was screened for the Hollywood trade on November 15, 1966. Interestingly, the movie then debuted in Japan on December 17, 1966. El Dorado was released in the United States on June 7, 1967, where it grossed $6 million during its first run. Reported The New York Times (6/29/67): "Team John Wayne with Robert Mitchum. Add guns, horses and the frontier, plus director-producer Howard Hawks. The result is El Dorado, a tough, laconic and amusing Western that ambles across the screen as easily as the two veteran stars."

21. El Dorado deceased cast members number John Wayne (1907-1979), Robert Mitchum (1917-1997), Charlene Holt (1928-1996), Paul Fix (1901-1983), Arthur Hunnicutt (1910-1979) and Christopher George (1929-1983).

Top Image

  • John Wayne, left, and Robert Mitchum in El Dorado (1966) - Paramount Pictures

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

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Comments (4)

Never much of a Wayne fan, but I am a Mitchum fan. (Wasn't there another cowboy movie with the same plot but with different players?)

I like John Wayne in anything he played in. thank you for the fun trivia collection.

I think my favorite John Wayne Movie was Big Jake.

I just watched this movie last night. They had a John Wayne marathon on one of our cable channels on Christmas day and I recorded all of them onmy trusty DVR. Great movie! Great trivia.

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