Newport film fest continues tributes to John Wayne with screening of ‘El Dorado’

When it comes to ranking Hollywood’s ties to Orange County, John Wayne swaggers at or near the top of the list.

It should come as no surprise then that the Newport Beach Film Festival, which opens Thursday for its 17th year, has made a habit of paying tribute to the legendary actor known as the Duke, who lived in Newport Beach and is buried there.

This year is no exception.

Festival organizers will screen Wayne’s film “El Dorado” on Saturday at the Island Cinema.

Orange County may not have a lot of classic film history, but it does have Wayne, and paying an annual tribute to him is a nice aspect of Newport’s festival, said Cade Russell, its associate director of programming.

“He’s a legend and icon in the film industry,” Russell said of Wayne, who died in 1979 at age 72.

Even the festival’s offices on Quail Street have a Wayne connection — they’re about a block from John Wayne Airport, which was named in the actor’s honor in 1979. Three years later, the airport erected a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of Wayne dressed in Western garb.

Previous Newport film festivals have had events benefiting the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, also based in Newport. In 2007, festival leaders, who called Wayne “one of Newport’s favorite sons,” celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday.

To mark the occasion, they held a news conference aboard the Wild Goose, a 136-foot yacht and former Navy minesweeper that Wayne owned from 1962 until his death. Conference attendees included four generations of the Wayne family.

The following year, the festival launched a “tribute series” that included screening Wayne’s 1948 film “Red River.”

Gregg Schwenk, the festival’s executive director, said at the time that he hoped the series would “introduce younger audiences to one of the great Hollywood legends of all time while attracting older audiences who will enjoy seeing John Wayne once again back on the big screen.”

Other Wayne films the festival has screened include “The Searchers” and “Rio Bravo.”

Ethan Wayne, one of Wayne’s sons, said Tuesday that his father would have been touched by the festival’s continuing tributes.

“I’m sure my father would be humbled, appreciative and warmed by the fact that, 37 years after he passed, the community he loved and chose to live in honors his personality, career and impact by featuring one of his films, ‘El Dorado,’ a great movie for any generation,” Ethan Wayne said in a statement. “I was on the set with him, and the memories of ‘El Dorado’ are some of my earliest and fondest.

“Here’s to you, Dad. You are loved and missed.”

“El Dorado,” directed by Howard Hawks, was released in the United States in 1967. It features Wayne as a gunslinger and Robert Mitchum as a sheriff. Leigh Brackett, also known for her work on “The Big Sleep,” wrote the screenplay.

The film maintains a 100% “tomatometer” approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website. After its release, Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert called it “about the most entertaining Western to turn up” that year.

“You could call it, of course, a ‘John Wayne Western,’ ” Ebert wrote. “I guess that means it has the Duke in the saddle once again, drawl and all, making his laconic comments on the state of the universe and marching through old Western cliches. But ‘El Dorado’ is more than that. It is a very good John Wayne Western.”



What: “El Dorado”

When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Island Cinema, 999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

Cost: $5

Information:, (949) 253-2880

What: Newport Beach Film Festival

Where: Seven theaters in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana

When: Thursday through April 28

Cost: $15 general admission for most film screenings; $12 for students, senior citizens and military; some screenings are $5 general admission. Call or check the website for prices for other special events and parties.


Twitter: @BradleyZint