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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

El Dorado/George Alexander and The Mellomen


Hiatus over. While we were away we had occasion to reacquaint ourselves with the 1967 John Wayne western El Dorado, directed by Howard Hawks. It's entertaining but no classic (if you've seen the earlier Wayne/Hawks collaboration Rio Bravo, you've seen El Dorado—it's essentially a remake). We enjoyed it, but our attention was particularly drawn to the filmmakers' references to Edgar Allan Poe's 1849 poem Eldorado, which can be found in The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

A character called Mississippi, played by James Caan, quotes the poem throughout the film, but the allusions begin with the opening credit sequence, which features a title song performed by George Alexander and The Mellomen. This amiable cowboy ditty reworks Poe's theme of a lifelong quest to attain an elusive goal, and lifts phrases directly from the poem—In sunshine and shadow and particularly Ride, boldly ride, a line that was seemingly made to be used in an amiable cowboy ditty. The lyrics are by actor John Gabriel, who appears in the film as Pedro, with music by Nelson Riddle. Click here to see El Dorado's opening credit sequence, featuring paintings by Western artist Olaf Wieghorst, who also appears in the film as a gunsmith called the Swede.

For a more faithful musical rendering of the poem, see Donovan's 1996 album Sutras, which includes a track called Eldorado that puts Poe's own words to music. Poe scholar Burton R. Pollin, writing in the journal Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism, called the track "outstanding" and said it is "composed and sung well by Donovan." See Donovan performing the song here.


The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (Kindle Edition)

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