Funny thing about Westerns…
Sometimes you seen ’em, but you done FORGET you seen ’em.
And this one is that type of affair.
Except that it’s a masterpiece.
This here film takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate the craftsmanship at work.
Because back in those heady nouvelle vague days, it seems that the Cahiers crowd were known as the Hitchcocko-Hawksians.
I may be borrowing a term from Richard Brody’s book on Godard.
But he may have been borrowing it from elsewheres.
I don’t rightly know.
But El Dorado is certainly the spitting image of another film…by the same auteur.
Yes, Rio Bravo was the first incarnation.
It’s the one that gets all the praise.
But if my eyes and heart don’t deceive me, Robert Mitchum is a better actor than Dean Martin.
[as much as I love Dino]
And James Caan bests Ricky Nelson as well.
But it’s hard to replace Walter Brennan.
Damn near impossible.
That said, Arthur Hunnicutt is pretty darn fabulous in El Dorado.
But let’s get back to those Hitchcocko-Hawksians.
The first part is probably pretty self-explanatory.
These Cahiers du cinéma film critics revered Alfred Hitchcock.
Above all else.
Before Truffaut did his book of interviews with Hitch (1967), Chabrol had written a monograph on the master (1957).
To be more exact, Chabrol cowrote the book with Rohmer.
Might as well say Rivette (“Rivette!”) just to round out les cinq.
Like the Mighty Handful (Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Borodin), and one short of les six (Auric, Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Tailleferre), the Cahiers crew were the Hitchcocko-Hawksians.
But what of that second seme?
Indeed, it was Howard Hawks.
The director of our film.
And an auteur which Jean-Luc Godard has gone on about at length…in a profusion of praise.
But why are we even talking about these Westerns?
What do El Dorado and Rio Bravo have in common besides diagesis and director?
Ah yes: John Wayne!
In El Dorado, our villain is Ed Asner.
Quite rich when considering that he was one of the very few to be a true hero in America after 9/11.
Ed Asner was on the front lines of getting the truth.
And we never got the truth.
Not from any official source.
But that’s ok.
Because we have gathered the general gist of the situation.
And so Ed Asner’s most important performance was what he did in real life.
To try and honor those 3000 souls who perished and were draped in a lie.
But we’re in Texas.
And Texas is a lonesome land.
And we aim here to mainly talk about the examples of the silver screen.
“details…deliberately left out” says Wikipedia…
Ah yes…something David Ray Griffin spotted with his razor-sharp mind.
“Omissions and distortions”, he called it.
That is the beauty of film.
It gets deep.
And it fuses to what we have experienced as visceral verities.
Charlene Holt was actually from Texas.
And she is every bit the female lead here.
Charming. Strong. Sexy.
I won’t go comparing her to Angie Dickinson, but let’s just say that Ms. Holt fit the bill.
To a T.
T for Texas.
And Ms. Holt passed on (God rest her soul) in Tennessee.
We get horses and streams.
Rifles and pistols.
And a lot of earthy talk.
As you can tell.
Gets under your skin.
Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?
[Oops, wrong funnyman. And Hemingway.]
Pound born in Idaho. And Papa H died there.
Because the pain was too much.
You can’t turn your back in these parts.
Gotta waddle out backwards.
On yer horse.
In high heels.
And keep your peripheral sharp.
Cardsharp, not shark.
Anyone missing Angie Dickinson likely ogled Michele Carey for the better part of El Dorado.
Though the appearances were brief.
John Wayne turns the other cheek.
Smears blood on the cowhide.
Get outta here.
Tough guy gets back on his horse.
Always guns in the river.
But you gotta retrieve it.
Dr. Fix (Paul Fix) isn’t up to the procedure.
Doesn’t wanna bungle a good man.
Tells him take care uh that whens you get tuh proper chirurgien.
Christopher George looks spitting Willem Dafoe.
But the real story is Diamond Joe.
It seems under the bridge.
Gotta git your own justice.
Around these skillet lickers.
Like the freaks from Octopussy, knife to a gunfight.
Had to saw off a holstered piece at the Swede.
If the top is a high hat, Mississippi’s is low.
I think Tom Petty adopted one.
Mine never fit quite right.
From crown to gun butt…soft wobble with every bump.
But enough phrenology.
Only love can break your heart. Neil Young said that.
And I know all too well.
Stuck behind an 18-wheeler from Dallas.
And the rains set in.
And Górecki just makes you cry even more.
Feels like an addiction.
And sometimes you substitute one addiction for another.
Because you got an empty place there in your ribcage.
Friendship rides in least expected.
Professional killer don’t have no friends.
Can’t get too connected.
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long. Bob Dylan said that.
And I think maybe he meant Robert Johnson.
When the poison of whisky ain’t enough. I said that.
Not enough holes in the world get a rise outta me at Royal Albert.
But I’m not too worried about it.
Just modulating grammar.
Because El Dorado is filled with sine qua non dialogue.
Seeming hapex legomenon with every breath.
A lot of soap.
The others’ll come to me.
High low, do-si-do.
My uncle died with a stack of VHS Westerns on his TV set.
That smoking’ll kill you.
But only one owned a square dance barn.
So that no matter how Cahiers I get, I’ll always be from Texas.
Not even aware how much of a rube I really am.
It’s a concoction you gotta pinch the nose to force down.
A medicine resembling asphalt.
Alcohol, 4 days
I’m just lucky to never have done more’n cowboy tobacco.
But Texas is lonesome.
Unless you’re riding with John Bell Hood.
In which case you’re shitting yourself with fear.
Itch on the back of your neck.
But learn to play a good bugle.
Close quarters combat.
In the Wild West.
Two walk forward, two reverse.
To slap a RICO charge on a greasy bastard.
Like the goddamned Great Gate of Kiev.
And back to the five.
A gamelan of adobe marksmanship.
Deputy was just the courage. Pin on “I do”.
We think Pecos.
And to have a leg up.
Old wounds and creaky bones.
Been knocked down too many times.
Fallen off my horse.
We don’t negotiate with terrorists.
But do we terrorize negotiators?
Turns out the whole thing was about water.
When it’s dry.
And you gotta wake up.
And you didn’t just win the Super Bowl.
Why you can’t take a giant leap in chess.
Because your plan sucks.
Just showing up is pretty damned brave.
[And I didn’t even get to Edith Head and Nelson Riddle]