The Film: Hondo (1953)
The Principals: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, James Arness
The Premise: Hondo (Wayne) protects a widowed woman and her son who live in Apache territory.
Is it Good?: Hondo is a good mixture of Cowboys and Indians with a romance thrown in for good measure. In fact, the romantic aspect of the movie is what became a pleasant surprise. Considering that I’ve never regarded John Wayne as a romantic lead, the chemistry between Wayne and Geraldine Page sweet and the one thing that left an overall impression.
Hondo, who is half Indian, is a message carrier who narrowly escapes a group of Apache’s. He makes it to a homestead where he finds Angie (Page) and her son. Angie explains that her husband it out on a hunt but Hondo quickly sees that she is lying and is in fact alone and later finds out that her husband has abandoned his family. This part of the movie did a terrific job at setting up the narrative of Hondo and Angie’s relationship throughout the rest of the movie. Hondo does his best to persuade Angie that she must leave the territory because it is not safe due to the treaty between the Government and the Apache’s is quickly falling apart. Angie is determined to stay put because she gets along with the Apache’s and does not feel threatened even with the pending treaty falling apart. This is where the Apache’s come into the story.
As was typical in the early days of Hollywood, Indians are the protagonist in this film yet there is something different in how they are portrayed here. Instead of featuring them as a bunch of grunting savages, in Hondo they are shown to be men who can be reasoned with and are not hell bent on killing every white skinned person on the screen. That part was a refreshing departure.
Wayne’s performance is not the typical bravado and swaggering cowboy that he became known for in a lot of westerns. In Hondo he is reserved, shows compassion and his overall demeanor is close to his brilliant performance in The Searchers.
Random Anecdotes: Hondo originally appeared in a magazine as a short story by Louis L’Amour. John enjoyed the story so much that he hired a script writer to adapt it. Worth mentioning: Hondo was filmed in 3D and considering this movie was released 59 years ago I just don’t understand all the hoopla today over 3D and why some act like that format is something James Cameron invented!
Cinematic Soulmates: The Comancheros, Rio Grande, The Searchers