El Dorado (1967): Movie Critics Response to Hawks Western. Teaming for the First Time John Wayne and Robert Mitchum

Most film critics singled out the autobiographical themes of El Dorado for both director Howard Hawks and particularly movie star John Wayne, who had collaborated before on the far superior Westerns, Red River in 1948, and Rio Bravo in 1959.

Grade: B (**** out of *****)

However, the Western’s self-referential and self-reflexive qualities were not necessarily considered assets.

“Humor and affirmation on the brink of despair are the poetic ingredients of the Hawksian Western,” wrote eloquently the movie critic Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice (July 27, 1967). “And now memory. Especially memory. Only those who see some point in remembering movies will find El Dorado” truly unforgettable.” Sarris liked the film’s message, namely, that life is hard on heroes, but they must go on in good humor, even if they have to walk on crutches to gunfights.

Time magazine (July 28, 1967) also praised John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, who “with crutches as swagger sticks, they limp triumphantly past the camera–two old pros demonstrating that they are better on one good leg a piece than most of the younger stars are on two.”

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However, the British critic Philip French found it repetitious that “about every five minutes someone says, “Because I’m not good enough,” and did not like the film, because “it is inordinately slow and so talkative.”

Similarly, in the New Yorker, the critic Pauline Kael thought that John Wayne and Robert Mitchum parodied themselves, looking, just as the film itself, exhausted, like a late episode of a television series. Nor did critics like the idea that except for the opening scene, the movie was shot on the studio lot.