Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2024 March 11 • Monday

The 821st Soundtrack of the Week is Nelson Ridddle's music for Howard Hawks's El Dorado.

The main title song is in 3/4 and has lyrics that refer more to the myth than to the movie’s story. (The movie stars John Wayne and Robert Mitchum and legend has it that when Hawks approached Mitchum about doing the movie and Mitchum asked what the story was about, Hawks replied, "No story, just you and Duke". Perhaps Hawks meant that any number of stories would do with two such actors in the leads because El Dorado actually has a very impressive story, courtesy of great writer and frequent Hawks collaborator Leigh Brackett.)

A tenebrous and tender cue comes next, the miniature masterpiece of “Hasta Luego”, which blends harmonica, strings and guitars.

Tension begins “Luke’s Life Lingers” and gives way to a more journey-appropriate mood before ending on a narsh note of danger.

Percussion and strings provide an ominous and dissonant background for winds in “Come Get Your Boy/Ambush/Cole’s Misery”.

Beautiful acoustic guitar playing starts “Hasta La Vista/San Miguel”, soon joined by harmonica and bass before the orchestra enters with the second theme, a more upbeat and exciting section.

Then it’s time for some pleasantly laidback mariachi music for “La Cantina”. So glad it’s not saloon piano!

“Charlie's Demise/The First Stroke” initiates the second action scene of the movie and the introduction of James Caan’s character. It starts with grim suspense before moving to a sunnier and happier place, which itself is intruded upon by the reappearance of blaring horns again signaling danger.

“Ride, Boldly Ride” is an instrumental version of the main title theme, followed by the slow dance sound of accordion and guitar playing “The Night and the Stars”.

After that comes a reverby and percussive electric guitar accompanied by drum set and bongos, bringing a surf sound to “Maria Informs/Outmaneuvered”.

Then it’s electric bass guitar for “Message from Maudie/McLeod Catches Cole”, another slow-burn suspense piece that would have worked well in an episode of Danger Man as well as here.

Staggered ascending lines begin “The Farewell”, which also gets a lot of milesge out of the percussive capabilities of the electric guitar.

Action music writing bubbles up in “Bugle Call/Shootout”, which is about energetic horns and more relaxed strings.

The main theme gets a reprise for the “El Dorado Finale”, followed by two alternates for the same theme.