"El Dorado": The Dawn of Caan

It takes a lot to stand out when you’re standing between Robert Mitchum and John Wayne. And it surely isn’t easy when you’re also standing in front of the venerable Howard Hawks. But this was the position 25-year-old James Caan found himself in when he took on the role of Alan Bourdillon Traherne, otherwise known as Mississippi, in Hawks’ 1967 Western, El Dorado. Though Hawks was nearing the end of his filmmaking career (this would be his penultimate movie) and Caan was just at the start of his (following two features and about five years of extensive television work), they were each entering the project under similar circumstances. Indeed, it was their shared experience on the disappointing Red Line 7000 (1965) that left them both wanting. It may have been a personal letdown for Caan, but that film’s poor reception wasn’t a deal-breaker as far as his prospects were likely to continue.
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