“Sharing a Chuckle: John Wayne’s Humor with Robert Mitchum”

In the wild, unpredictable world of filmmaking, even the most ironclad plans can go awry. Such was the case on the set of “El Dorado,” the rollicking 1966 Western helmed by the legendary Howard Hawks and headlined by none other than John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Amidst dust, gunslingers, and rugged landscapes, a misstep became a stroke of cinematic serendipity.

Picture this: Robert Mitchum, embodying the whiskey-soaked lawman JP Harrah, finds himself in a pivotal scene, crutch in hand… but wait, the crutch has mysteriously switched sides! Mitchum’s slip-up could’ve easily slipped through the cracks, but not on the watch of the ever-observant Duke himself, John Wayne, playing the sharpshooting Cole Thornton.

Rather than cry foul, Wayne saw an opportunity to spin gold from the misfortune. He penned a clever quip for Thornton, acknowledging Harrah’s crutch switcharoo within the movie’s dialogue. It was a masterstroke of improvisation, transforming what could’ve been a continuity hiccup into a delightful wink to the audience.


But the tale doesn’t end there. Mitchum, with his trademark wit, recalls a slightly different version of events. Initially balking at the crutch switch for the sake of continuity, he found himself overruled by Hawks, who insisted on the change for visual flair. Yet, as fate would have it, the dailies revealed an unintended comedic twist that even Mitchum couldn’t ignore.

In a stroke of brilliance, Mitchum proposed a solution: let Wayne’s gunslinger cover for the gaffe with some clever banter in the film’s climactic scene. And thus, in the final cut, both characters can be seen hobbling about with their crutches under the wrong arms, a testament to the camaraderie, humor, and ingenuity that thrived on the set of “El Dorado.”

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