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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
7:00 p.m. El Dorado
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1967)

Hawks’s follow-up to Rio Bravo pushes both the humor and the violence of the first film to extremes. John Wayne and Robert Mitchum are old comrades once again allied with a youngster (James Caan) and a saloon girl (Charlene Holt) to defeat the machinations of evil land-grabbers. The comedy ranges from the broad—in sheriff Mitchum’s prolonged drunk and its bizarre cure, or in Caan’s ineptitude with a gun—to the black, as in the superbly wry finale in which the two aging, dilapidated heroes are carted on a wheelbarrow to the scene of the showdown. For all the film’s slapstick flamboyance, as Robin Wood pointed out, “The Edgar Allan Poe poem from which the film takes its title (functions) in the film . . . mainly to point by contrast to the absence of any El Dorado in the characters’ lives—or their hopes.”

• Written by Leigh Brackett, from the novel The Stars in Their Courses by Harry Brown. Photographed by Harold Rosson. With John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt. (126 mins, Color, 35mm, From UCLA Film and Television Archive, permission Paramount Pictures)