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In El Dorado, James Caan Refused to Play It Cool

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The way to make a good movie, according to El Dorado director Howard Hawks, is to have a couple of good parts and not to annoy anyone. Exercising this restraint was what guided Hawks’ career, and it’s most visible in El Dorado, a virtual remake of his hit Rio Bravo . This time, it’s Robert Mitchum instead of Dean Martin, and James Caan in for Ricky Nelson. But rather than mimic the pout and snarl of Nelson’s Rio Bravo teen rebel, Caan is so insolent, he refuses to even play it cool.

Hawks can be credited for discovering Caan: El Dorado is
often thought of as Caan’s first starring role, but his actual first
major role was the year before, in Hawks’ underappreciated Red Line 7000. We can thank the director for introducing Caan’s  enthusiastic
insolence, a character trait that would come to define Caan in later roles such as Sonny
in The Godfather , Mr. Henry in Bottle Rocket , or the dude in Rollerball .
Caan would play similar parts in real life, whether living at the Playboy
mansion in the ’70s, or spending nine years on the Pro Rodeo circuit, getting into all kinds of scrapes.

Watch Caan becoming Caan. For a full schedule of El Dorado on AMC, click here.

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