“Darmok and Geladd at Tanoglah–arms open.”
–Captain John-Luc Picard.
RB= RIO BRAVO (1959)
ED= EL DORADO (1967)
John Wayne straddled the two films like a trick rider with his legs wide standing on two horses at the rodeo, the big man in the battered hat, Sheriff John T. Chance in RB, that cavalry hat first seen in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON and then again in HONDO, using a tricked out Winchester carbine that had an enlarged shell lever, copied later for THE RIFLEMAN, and sawed off and strapped to the lean right hip of Steve McQueen in WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE; as Duke became the bigger man, gunfighter Cole Thornton in ED, his girth widened, making his pearl-handled pistol seem smaller.
Howard Hawks at the helm of both westerns, the bold retelling with new faces, yet plotted parallel, an audacious tribute to this film pioneer, former pilot and race car driver, who started fresh-faced as a best boy in the silents before he forged on to become the master of twice-told tales.
Dean Martin graced RB as the former gunfighter,
Dude, who became the drunken Borachon, the deputy undone by a love affair gone bad, and his character morphed into Robert Mitchum in ED as Sheriff J. P. Harrah, once feared and then mocked as a drunken hulk undone by an unforgiving and malicious siren of the saloons and backrooms.
Walter Brennan stole RB flat-footed as deputy Stumpy, perfecting his whine and limp in preparation for his TV series THE REAL McCOYS, and he was nearly matched and checkmated by the folksy and comedic skills of Arthur Hunnicutt in ED as deputy Bull Harris, carrying a bugle and a Sharps rifle, struggling to maintain order as Mitchum sank to depths of degradation, rags, vomit, shame, and filth.
Teen-aged Ricky Nelson got to stand up with the big boys as gunfighter turned deputy “Colorado” Ryan in RB, wearing two pistols, two fisted and blazing, but still found time to sing one song with Dean Martin, and Ricky’s rattlesnake character became the young James Caan as the wayward avenger Alan Bourdillion “Mississippi” Traherne, who wore an easterner’s hat, was better with a knife than a gun, and as the new deputy had to resort to using a sawed off shotgun to compensate.
Fetching young Angie Dickinson played Feathers in RB, asserting her sexuality, nervous as a cat, too young for the Duke but didn’t give a damn as the saloon girl with the thighs of gold, who disappointingly became Marina Ghane as Maria in EL, a minor love interest for Mr. Morrison, a lovely buxom actress who had a film career shorter than mine.
Tall man John Russell was the heavy, Nathan Burdette in RB, with presence both commanding and lethal, just before he played THE LAWMAN, and the villian became Ed Asner in ED as cattle baron Bart Jason, who had both a hired gang of cutthroats and a Napoleonic complex.
Yes, the showdowns were different but the outcomes were identical, with the Duke triumphing and alcohol defeated, bad boys buried, hung, and incarcerated, saloon girls getting laid, and sidekicks chortling, as the end credits rolled and the Technicolor red curtain closed as these Hawksian fraternal twins of celluloid rode arm in arm, stirrup to stirrup, haunch to haunch, into either a sunset or rise.
Glenn Buttkus October 2010