Hondo (1953)

Hondo (1953)

“We’ve always gotten along splendidly with the Apache.”

Synopsis:
When a horseless Army scout (John Wayne) stops to rest with a homesteading woman (Geraldine Page) and her young son Johnny (Lee Aaker), he helps them understand how to navigate ongoing tensions with neighboring Apache tribes. Meanwhile, after unknowingly kills Page’s no-good husband (Leo Gordon) in self-defense, Hondo (Wayne) must determine how to share this awkward news with her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cavalry
  • Geraldine Page Films
  • John Wayne Films
  • Native Americans
  • Romance
  • Westerns

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this John Farrow-directed adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s short story as “perhaps the best John Wayne western not directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks.” He notes that it “has the simplicity present in L’Amour as well as the power, and it expresses his love of the land and its beauty, his respect for those who tried to civilize the savage West, and the sense of danger that was always present.”

He points out that “Wayne and Page are well cast,” and that Page “proves to be one of Wayne’s best leading ladies — she doesn’t overmatch him despite her theatrical acting experience.”

Finally, he notes that “Wayne, who didn’t get to play with children very often, is quite good with Aaker as well” — and “particularly memorable” (if perhaps traumatizing for kids at the time whose parents followed Wayne’s suit) “is the scene in which he teaches the boy to swim.”

I’m in agreement with Peary’s review of this simple yet powerful western, which manages to portray both an authentically budding romance between seasoned adults, and a reasonably nuanced perspective on Apache members, whose way of life Hondo can relate to given that he lived with them for years.

Wayne’s final lines in the film speak to the (welcome) complexity of his views on white settlement of Indian land.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Wayne as Hondo Lane (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
  • Geraldine Page as Angie Lowe (nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a fine western.

Categories

  • Good Show

Links:

2 thoughts on “Hondo (1953)

  1. Agreed; a once-must – as a fine, classic western, and for the performances by Page and Wayne. As per my 12/2/20 post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “A man oughta do what he thinks is best.”

    ‘Hondo’ (1953): Geraldine Page made her luminous (of course) debut in this sturdy western based on a Louis L’Amour story which was given a surprisingly authentic-sounding screen treatment by ex-newspaperman James Edward Grant. It’s actually a rare thing when you listen to a film of this type and it sounds this real; it almost sounds like it doesn’t care whether the audience gets it or not (even though it’s crystal clear).

    Page, a fiercely liberal New Yorker, soon found herself “horrified” in the working company of staunch right-wingers (director) John Farrow, Ward Bond, James Arness and co-star John Wayne (though she said Wayne was the most “reasonable” of the four).

    At a lean 84 minutes, the film bizarrely includes an intermission midway. Did producer Wayne think that the Apache Indian activity was just too much at that point for unsuspecting audiences and choose to give them a breather?

    There are many twists and turns in this economic flick. It’s all-too-easy to be sold on Page from the start but I found myself a bit shocked by Wayne. Though I’ve never thought much of him as an actor, this might be my favorite of his performances (linked with his work on ‘The Quiet Man’).

    Sidebar: When it came time to shoot the climactic battle sequence, Farrow had to leave the film for another commitment. Wayne asked John Ford to take over for the finish – and, as a favor to Wayne, Ford did.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Very good film with tight production and good performances; no fat on its bones. However, a relatively minor film in the grand scheme and not must see.

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