“Bandits of El Dorado”

June 24, 2008

At last! A title which actually relates to the film. I mean, beyond giving us a general geographic location of the action (“West of Cheyenne”, “West of Abilene”, “West of Dodge City”, “South of Arizona”, “South of Death Valley”, etc.)

Check it out: part of the film is set in El Dorado, and the plot involves the search for a bunch of bandits who have mysteriously disappeared.

In fact, the 1949 film starts with a lengthy prologue which lists these bandits: “Ace Dawson, Sam Milton, Luke Holden, John Rackim, Bill Drake, Kurt Dixon, and Sam Milton (again)” I wonder if these were the names of crew members, or friends of the writer.

We meet Charles wearing a different mask than we’re accustomed to seeing him in — he’s an outlaw, robbing a stagecoach. He unshaven, dressed in dusty clothes, and tosses around some good tough guy lines like “Everyone in favor of staying alive, raise your hands.”

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It’s all play acting, of course. He’s Steve Carson, Texas Ranger, and he’s committing a very public crime so he can go on the lam and find the underground railroad to “El Dorado”.

These are my favorites, where Charley gets to play a bad guy. Partly because he’s good at it, and partly because it provides a rare chance for Steve’s adoption of the Durango Kid identity to make sense!

That said, Durango makes a very late appearance. Nearly 22 minutes into the film.

As we’ve discussed before, sometimes Smiley meets Steve during the action of the picture. In this, he already knows Steve. “I’ve known him from way back.”

He doesn’t know Steve’s the Durango Kid, however. He asks Durango if he lives in a cave. In some footage shot when he was in his 80’s (see blog entry “Charles Starrett’s Last Public Appearence”), Charley talks about Durango hiding in a cave, “always ready!” Personally, I’ve seen Durango appear out of a lean-to, and from behind some rocks, but this is the first cave I’ve seen.

The action of the film takes us from Copper City down to El Dorado where Steve is trying to discover the boss of the operation providing the escape for these bandits. He’s helped by his Texas Ranger Captain, in disguise, who is played by our old friend Fred Sears.

Smiley down there too, and in disguise as well.

Courtesy of Les Adams

When Steve finds out Smiley is in Mexico, he’s bummed. “Aw, we’re sunk. I can handle outlaws, but I can’t handle that Smiley.” Me neither. Not on a full stomach, I can’t.

There’s not alot of discussion of Ray Nazarro in these pages, despite the fact that he directed a lot of these films. He is a competent director and an adequate storyteller. And he does frame a nice shot from time to time, which he does here.

There’s also a nicely staged fight scene in a darkened room.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The big stand-out in this film (other than the fact that there is not one woman in the entire film) is Mustard and Gravy. These two guys were a hillbilly music novelty act which Smiley brought into the fold. Imagine Tenacious D made up of two Kyle Gasses. They appear here dressed as wrestlers, as bullfighters and as black-faced minstrels.

We’ll be seeing more of this duo in future films, so look for a more extended discussion on them then.

Oh, and Clayton Moore appears here in his last film before climbing onto Silver and donning a mask of his own.


3 Responses to ““Bandits of El Dorado””

  1. Through contact with Smiley’s adopted son Stephen, I learned that Mustard and Gravy were friends of Smiley who had worked with him on personal appearances. Stephen did not know their actual names. He did say that while Smiley did do blackface routines a few times, he did not particulary enjoy them.

  2. Luciano M. Decusati said

    This is one of my favorite entries in the Durango Kid series. I especially like it because of the air of mystery about it, and also because it takes place in Mexico and has a convincing bad guy.

  3. Erin (Rice) Likovetz said

    Mustard and Gravy’s real names were Frank Rice (Mustard) and Earnest Stokes (Gravy). I am the great-grandaughter of Frank Rice. The duo originated in Wilson, NC and became friends with Smiley Burnette when they began recording their songs with RCA’s Bluebird label. They also worked with “Colonel” Tom Parker, whom you may know as Elvis Presley’s infamous agent, on a few of their recordings.

    I’m actually in the process of doing some additional research on my great-grandfather and his musical and film career. I would appreciate any additional photos you may have of Mustard and Gravy from this or any other films.

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