AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Robin Hood of El Dorado
Alternate Title: Born to Die
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Apr 1936
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 13 Mar 1936
Production Date:   11 Jul--late Aug 1935; retakes filmed intermittently until 22 Dec 1935
Duration (in mins):   84, 86 or 88
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Warner Baxter (Joaquin Murrieta)  
    Ann Loring (Juanita de la Cuesta)  
    Bruce Cabot (Bill Warren)  
    Margo (Rosita)  
    J. Carrol Naish (Three Fingered Jack)  
    Soledad Jimenez (Madre Murrieta)  
    Carlos de Valdez (Jose Murrieta)  
    Eric Linden (Johnnie Warren)  
    Edgar Kennedy (Sheriff Judd)  
    Charles Trowbridge (Ramon de la Cuesta)  
    Harvey Stephens (Captain Osborne)  
    Ralph Remley (Judge Perkins)  
    George Regas (Tomas)  
    Francis McDonald (Pedro, the spy)  
    Kay Hughes (Louise)  
    Paul Hurst (Wilson)  
    Boothe Howard (Tabbard)  
    Harry Woods (Pete)  
    G. Pat Collins (Doc)  
    Harold Goodwin (Slocum)  
    Ivan "Dusty" Miller (Marshal)  
    Tom Moore (Sheriff Hannan)  
    Rychard Cramer (Bartender)  
    Carlotta Monti (Dancer)  
    Perez (Dancer)  
    Charles Stevens (Bandit)  
    J. P. McGowan (Danglong)  
    Nick De Ruiz (Mexican peon)  
    Lew Harvey (Bill Young)  
    Ben Taggart (Rancher)  
    Cully Richards (Juan)  
    Jason Robards (Pancho)  
    Duke Green (Guerrera)  
    Marc Lawrence (Manuel)  
    Frank Campeau (Steve)  
    Robert Perry (Miner at grave)  
    Frank Yaconelli (Peon)  
    Lee Shumway (Deputy)  
    Frank Hagney (Phil)  
    Lee Phelps (Hank)  
    George MacQuarrie (Smithers)  
    Sam Ash (Arriga)  
    Inez Palange (Nurse)  
    Nigel De Brulier (Padre)  
    Mathilde Comont (Señorita Martinez)  
    Lou Yaconelli (Julio Anton)  

Summary: In 1848, California is thought by many to be "El Dorado," the mythical land of overflowing riches. It is there that Mexican farmer Joaquin Murrieta lives. He is engaged to Juanita de la Cuesta, daughter of Ramon de la Cuesta, who owns the rancho on which he lives. When Captain Osborne, the governor's inspector, visits the spanish-speaking village, many of the residents distrust the Americano's motives. After an arrow is fired in Osborne's direction, narrowly missing him, Roman is angered by the deed and demands that the man who shot the arrow step forward. Joaquin bravely accepts the blame for the fired arrow when no one else will. As a result, Joaquin is banished from the village and forced to flee into the country. When gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill, the ensuing gold rush brings in many ruthless fortune hunters. One of the prospectors, Bill Warren, shoots a man named Tomas, who is immediately taken to Joaquin's mother for treatment. Following an attack on Joaquin by the white settlers, who want to force him off his land, Rosita is killed and Joaquin swears revenge upon the men who killed her. When Joaquin and his brother Jose kill one of the Americanos, a one thousand dollar reward is posted for Joaquin's capture. Meanwhile, Pete, an unscrupulous prospector, harasses Joaquin and falsely accuses Joaquin of riding a horse that belongs to him, and a fight ensues. Later, Joaquin kills Pete and tells his men to bear arms and join Three Fingered Jack's band of bandits. Joaquin's camp is set up at Hidden Valley, where a meeting is held to discuss the Americanos' take-over of California. In response to the Americanos' threat, Mexicans under Three Fingered Jack's leadership loot the Americanos and the rich Mexican "hacendados." Joaquin takes part in the raids, and during one such operation, is reuntied with Juanita, the hacienda señorita from de la Cuesta's rancho. Juanita, now a rich Mexican socialite, forgives Joaquin's banditry and joins him in fight against the plundering "gringos." When two Americanos are killed by Mexicans, a posse is organized to punish the Mexicans. Following a bungled stagecoach robbery by the bandits, in which the coach driver and a young bride-to-be are unintentionally murdered, Johnnie Warren, the young girl's fiancé, organizes a posse and goes to Hidden Valley to kill Joaquin. Meanwhile, at Joaquin's camp, Joaquin delivers an emotional speech in which he says that he can no longer be the bandits' leader in the wake of his complicity in the young girl's accidental death. Joaquin then bids the bandits farewell, but before he can flee to Mexico, the posse arrives and a shootout ensues. Three Fingered Jack is killed in the attack, and Joaquin, while attempting to escape, is shot and killed at Rosita's grave. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
  Tom Andre (Asst dir)
Producer: John W. Considine Jr. (Prod)
Writer: William A. Wellman (Scr)
  Joseph Calleia (Scr)
  Melvin Levy (Scr)
  Peter B. Kyne (Contr to dial)
  Howard Emmett Rogers (Contr to dial)
  Dan Totheroh (Contr to dial)
  James Kevin McGuinness (Special seq wrt)
  C. Gardner Sullivan (Contr wrt)
  Lynn Starling (Contr wrt)
  Rowland Brown (Contr to trmt)
  John Thomas Neville (Contr to scr const)
Photography: Chester Lyons (Photog)
Art Direction: David Townsend (Art dir)
  Gabriel Scognamillo (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert J. Kern (Film ed)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Chester Hale (Dance dir of bandit number)
Production Misc: H. O. Bombacher (Tech adv)
  Allan Garcia (Warner Baxter's Spanish accent coach)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the book The Robin Hood of El Dorado by Walter Noble Burns (New York, 1932).
Authors: Walter Noble Burns

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 4/3/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6214 Yes

PCA NO: 1707
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Bandits
  False accusations
  Land claims
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Attempted murder
  Class distinction
  Fathers and daughters
  Fortune hunters
  Gold rushes
  Government agents
  Mothers and sons
  Sutter's Mill (CA)

Note: Working titles for this film were Born to Die , I Am Joaquin , In Old California and Murrieta . The film is loosely based on the life of legendary Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta. For more information on Murrieta, see the entry above for The Avenger , which was also about him. A Jan 1936 HR news item noted that although this picture was nearly completed in late Aug 1935, M-G-M held up its release in order to "get the full effect of the serialization of the story." The novelization of the film was written by Peter B. Kyne and appeared serially in 130 newspapers throughout the country. The studio set an Apr 1936 release date; however, a Mar 1936 HR article stated that M-G-M decided to rush the release of the picture due to a temporary shortage of M-G-M pictures ready for release in the New York area. The article also indicates that the studio planned to "roadshow" the film in Boston and Miami Beach one week after the New York showing. The Miami Beach booking was reportedly designed to "grab off business" before the end of the Florida tourist season. According to an Apr 1936 HR news item, the release of the picture in England was held up due to objections raised by the British censor board to three aspects of the film: scenes showing horses falling; the depiction of a man being shot to death following a fighting scene; and references to the slicing off a Chinese man's ears. The British release was postponed until M-G-M completed protection shots for those scenes. A HR pre-production news item stated that actor Leo Carrillo was to star in this film, and that Raoul Walsh was sought to direct. Subsequent HR news items noted that Joseph Calliea, who was originally signed to play "Three Fingered Jack," was moved to the starring role. Calliea was later pulled from the lead because the studio decided he was too old to play the part of a man who died at the age of twenty-three. Ironically, his replacement, Warner Baxter, was forty-four at the time of the production, six years older than Calleia. HR pre-production news items also noted that actress Margo replaced Jean Parker as "Juanita," and was later shifted to the role of "Rosita" after a young Brooklyn College student named Anita Kurtin won a Hollywood screen test and the starring role in the film. Following Kurtin's assignment to the part, her name was changed to Ann Loring. In addition, HR notes that William Henry was originally set to play "Johnny Warren," and Bradley Page was set for the part of "Slocum." HR news items list actors Lucio Villegas, Elizabeth Wilbur, George Chandler and Gayne Whitman in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to HR , one month prior to the start of production, M-G-M sent a troupe of twenty-seven carpenters, painters and art directors to Sonoma County, California, to reconstruct several old mining camps, including the local landmarks Angels Camp and Sawmill Flats. HR news items also relate the following information: Chester Hale prepared the bandit dance number, featuring Carlotta Monti and Perez. (Perez's first name has not been determined). H. O. Bombacher, one of the oldest residents of the ghost town of Springfield, California, was hired as a technical adviser on the picture. Director William Wellman planned to use three hundred cowboys in the film. Warner Baxter suffered from a "nervous strain" which was attributed to having to wear a noisy pair of forged iron spurs for twelve weeks. The actor was advised by his physician to recover in the quiet of his home. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   12 Mar 36   p. 3.
Film Daily   13 Mar 36   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jan 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Mar 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Mar 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Apr 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   24 May 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   31 May 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 35   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jun 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jun 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jul 35   p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jul 35   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jul 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 35   p. 1, 4, 18
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jul 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Sep 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Sep 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Oct 35   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Oct 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Nov 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jan 36   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 36   p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily   9 Mar 36   pp. 10-11.
Motion Picture Herald   7 Mar 36   p. 69.
New York Times   14 Mar 36   p. 10.
Variety   18 Mar 36   p. 17.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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