Cast & Crew
In the rugged Southwest of 1874, U.S. Cavalry dispatch rider Hondo Lane seeks refuge for himself and his dog Sam at Angie Lowe's ranch, after losing his horse in a battle with Apache Indians. While offering Hondo her hospitality and a horse, Angie tells him that she and her young son Johnny are expecting her husband Ed to return home at any moment. However, Hondo sees through her lie, and she later admits that Ed deserted her in the aftermath of an Indian uprising. After telling Angie that Apache Chief Vittoro has called a war council, Hondo tries to persuade Angie to leave the ranch before the next raid, but she refuses, insisting that the Apaches are friendly. Shortly after Hondo leaves Angie, Apaches surround her ranch and menace her. When Johnny tries to protect his mother by firing a gun at one of the Indians, Vittoro commends the boy's bravery and makes him a blood brother. Before leaving, Vittoro promises Angie that no harm will come to her now that Johnny is his blood brother. Meanwhile at the frontier post, Hondo is challenged to a fistfight by a poker player, who he later learns is Ed Lowe. Vittoro, who believes that Angie's husband is dead, returns to the Lowe ranch and demands that Angie choose one of his braves to be her new husband. Angie protests Vittoro's order, but the chief is determined to see Angie marry an Apache if her husband does not turn up. While Hondo makes his way back to the Lowe ranch, he discovers that Ed is following him. Hondo later saves Ed's life when they come under attack by the brother of Indian sub-chief Silva. However, Hondo kills Ed when he tries to shoot him in the back. Hondo then resumes his journey, but not before taking a tintype of Johnny from the dead man. Back on the trail, Hondo is captured by the Indians, and is tortured by Silva. When Vittoro discovers the tintype, he believes that Hondo is Johnny's father and orders a halt to the torture. Before freeing Hondo, though, Vittoro orders that he engage Silva in a knife fight to give Silva the opportunity to avenge the killing of his brother. Hondo is injured in the fight, but is delivered to Angie, who tells the chief that he is her husband. Before leaving the Lowe ranch, Silva exacts his revenge on Hondo by killing Sam. When a Cavalry unit arrives at the Lowe ranch, Hondo keeps his promise to Vittoro and refuses to help the men save the remaining settlers. Vittoro is killed in a battle with the Cavalry, and afterward, Silva becomes the new Apache chief. After killing Silva, Hondo takes Angie and Johnny to his ranch in California to begin a new life.
Nate H. Edwards
James Edward Grant
Major Philip Kieffer
Joseph La Bella
Robert E. Morrison
Nicolas De La Rosa
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
Interestingly enough, Wayne was not the first choice to play Hondo; it was Glenn Ford but the actor backed out when he realized John Farrow was slated to direct. Ford had previously had an unpleasant working experience with the director on Plunder of the Sun (1953). Wayne took the part instead and traveled down to Camargo, Mexico, where Farrow had assembled his cast and crew. Being a remote location, miles from anywhere, Camargo presented its share of production challenges but none were more daunting than the problem facing cinematographer Robert Burks, who was told to shoot the film in 3-D, a special visual process that enjoyed a brief craze in the early fifties. Shooting in 3-D required two cameras mounted side by side and they were often temperamental and unpredictable machines which could break down at the worst possible moments. It took much more time to set up the shots in 3-D and the situation turned volatile when Warner Bros. ordered the crew to return one of the cameras which was on loan. Wayne exploded in anger, "We're spending around $30,000 a week down here keeping this troupe running. If you don't want to cooperate in this, just call me up and tell me to bring the camera back, and I'll bring it back and cancel our relationship." (From Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne by Ronald L. Davis, University of Oklahoma Press). The tense situation was quickly resolved in Wayne's favor but he was bothered by other things besides the cumbersome 3-D cameras and one of them was his co-star Geraldine Page, who made her film debut in Hondo.
Wayne had wanted an unknown actress to play the part of Angie Lowe, a pioneer woman with a handsome but slightly weathered face. Page, an acclaimed stage actress, was perfect for the part. In fact, she might have been too perfect. According to Randy Roberts and James S. Olson in their biography, John Wayne: American (University of Nebraska Press), her "teeth looked as if she had already spent a lifetime on some frontier where toothpaste and dentists were unknown." The actress was immediately sent to "a Beverly Hills dentist who crammed twenty years of dental work into three days - cleaning, picking, filling, pulling, and capping away until Page's mouth could stand the scrutiny of a zoom lens." Page also alienated some cast and crew members with her bad table manners (eating mashed potatoes and gravy with her fingers) and poor hygiene habits (she loathed to bathe) but she certainly didn't deserve the cruel treatment she received from her director and co-star. According to Roberts' and Olson's aforementioned biography, "John Ford showed up suddenly on the set and observed Farrow shooting a love scene. He told Farrow that audiences would not believe that John Wayne on screen had fallen in love with such a homely woman. Farrow had the lines rewritten, requiring Page to say: "I know I'm a homely woman, but I love you." [John's wife] Pilar Wayne later wrote that "it never occurred to Ford, Duke or John Farrow...to consider how she would feel about having to redo the love scene with the additional lines they wanted her to say."
As for working with Wayne, Page later revealed that due to the slow 3-D filming process, "we had lots of time to sit under the broiling Mexican sun. I sat and listened to Mr. Farrow and Mr. Wayne in horror. Everybody tried to be Duke's right-hand man and his favorite. It was like the stories you hear about the old court days. Everybody was trying to slice everybody else's reputation in the Duke's eyes. There was tremendous, tremendous competition." Yet, the actress grew to respect Wayne, stating, "He hates all kinds of hypocrisy and folderol. He's a terribly honest man, and that comes across on the screen, underlined by the parts he plays. One of his first mottoes, I think, is always to be the hero to the people around you. Wayne has a leadership quality, so that people revere him."
When it came time to release Hondo, the 3-D craze was starting to die so a week after the film opened nationally, the studio recalled the special process prints and replaced them with flat versions. Despite this last minute change of plans, Hondo still proved to be a hit with moviegoers but it couldn't compare with the phenomenal box office success of Shane which was released the same year and had a very similar storyline. Ironically, Geraldine Page had the last laugh when she scored an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Hondo, the only nomination the film would receive. It completely baffled Wayne who had made sarcastic comments to the actress about Stanislavsky, stage actors and Page's lack of film experience during the making of the movie. Seen today, Page's performance holds up beautifully but so does Wayne's and you can see the influence Hondo had on future filmmakers like George Miller, who duplicated the look of the barren landscapes and the character of the lone scout in his Mad Max series, particularly The Road Warrior (1981). Hondo also inspired a short-lived 1967 TV series starring Ralph Taeger in the title role.
Producer: Robert M. Fellows, John Wayne
Director: John Farrow
Screenplay: James Edward Grant; based on the story “The Gift of Cochise” by Louis L’Amour
Art Direction: Alfred Ybarra
Cinematography: Robert Burks, Louis Clyde Stouman, Archie J. Stout
Editing: Ralph Dawson
Music: Hugo W. Friedhofer, Emil Newman
Cast: John Wayne (Hondo Lane), Geraldine Page (Angie Lowe), Ward Bond (Buffalo), Michael Pate (Vittorio), James Arness (Lennie).
by Jeff Stafford
Hondo (Special Edition) on DVD
Based on Louis L'Amour's short story "The Gift of Cochise," this beautifully re-mastered rendition of Hondo exemplifies the strong spirit of the Hollywood Western. As a man and his dog trek across the desert, laboring their way through blistering heat, the viewer immediately recognizes the tough demeanor of one Hondo Lane (John Wayne) and his loyal companion Sam. Creatures of the West, both man and beast appear at home in this hostile environment, unlike those who waged war with both the land and its native inhabitance. Separated from his horse during an Apache raid, Hondo confidently makes his way to the homestead of Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page in an Oscar® nominated performance) and her young son Johnny (Lee Aaker). With her hot-tempered husband away, Mrs. Lowe extends Hondo the kind of hospitality he has come to miss, hospitality he once knew while living peacefully among the Apache people. Angie's pleasant way proves engaging to Mr. Lane, resulting in an attraction that binds this rogue hero to a married woman and her endearing son. Thus, as danger looms just over the horizon, tempers flaring between the Apache and the American settlers, our protagonists find themselves caught between the proverbial "rock and a hard place."
In the midst of these struggles, a predictable romance develops between Hondo and Angie as circumstances draw this couple together. Dedicating himself to protecting the family, Hondo sacrifices his own well being in order to keep Angie safe from the Apache. Despite confronting such threats as Vittorio (Michael Pate), a renowned Apache leader, and Ed Lowe (Leo Gordon), Angie's abusive husband, Hondo remains true to his unwavering sense of right and wrong. Hondo sums this ideology up best when he states, "A man oughta do what he thinks is right" and by golly he does just that.
Although the above synopsis seems to classify Hondo as just another installment in a long line of formulaic westerns, this film actually remains one of the more innovative examples, not only for its progressive narrative, but also for its inventive use of technology. In the vein of films such as Broken Arrow (1950), Hondo portrays the Apache people in a rather sympathetic light. Michael Pate's heroic role of Vittorio displays the unfair treatment of the Native American people during western expansion. Vittorio lives by the aforementioned code of survival, defending his people from the devastating invasion of American settlers. Both Hondo and Angie respect this stoic leader, despite the threat he poses to themselves and the other settlers in the area. This is not to say that Hondo avoids all of the trappings of a stereotypical "Cowboys and Indians" storyline, but the film certainly makes inroads. John Wayne demonstrates this appreciation for the Native American culture when after defeating the Apache in the climatic battle scene at the conclusion of the film (shot by second unit director John Ford), Hondo Lane ponders, "The end of a way of life. Too bad. It's a good way." To its credit, the DVD bonus features also compliment this progressive narrative with a short documentary entitled "The Apache," describing the plight of the Native American people through a retelling of historical accounts.
As for technical innovations, the filming of Hondo took place during the height of the 3D craze in 1953. Although a cumbersome process, many still viewed 3D as a means of combating the popularity of television in the early 1950's. By offering an experience unique to theatrical film going, studio heads such as Jack Warner of Warner Bros. hoped 3D would draw audiences out of their homes and back to the theater. The strategy was short lived and by the close of 1953 the use of 3D was already waning on the patience of American audiences. In spite of this Hondo's use of 3D went on according to plan, minus the "awe" factor gimmicks common in other films such as the notorious paddleball in House of Wax (1953). The 3D camerawork in Hondo instead accentuates the picturesque landscapes; particularly those scenes shot under a striking Mexican sky. To shoot 3D film in these remote locations was no small feat (due to the unwieldy nature of the two camera process) and in turn led to delays in the production. This extension proved a determent, as setbacks forced Warner Bros. to release the film in November of 1953. By this point 3D had run its course and the majority of the country would therefore see the film via conventional 2D prints. The DVD follows this same approach and does not offer a 3D option, but does present the film in vivid Warnercolor at the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Either way, viewers should still appreciate those characteristic moments that play to the 3D effect.
The Collector's Edition DVD also includes two other features worth mentioning, each of which highlight noteworthy collaborators within John Wayne's career. The first documentary profiles James Edward Grant, a prolific screenwriter who routinely worked with John Wayne. This partnership included such famed titles as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Flying Leathernecks (1951), and McLintock! (1963), simply put Grant had a superb knack for writing succinct dialogue that favored Wayne's minimalist style of acting. The second documentary discusses one of the most productive character actors in Hollywood history, Ward Bond. Noted for his role as Major Adams on the television series "Wagon Train," Bond worked together with John Wayne in over twenty films, including Hondo. Best of friends until Bond's untimely death in 1960, John Wayne and John Ford frequently teased the gruff character actor, but their love and admiration for this man was undeniable. Bond remains a legend in the industry and his report with Wayne always shined through on screen. Each of these features along with commentary by Leonard Maltin, Frank Thompson (western historian), and Lee Aaker make this John Wayne classic a pleasure to watch. We may have had to wait quite some time for the release of this western on DVD, but in all honesty, Hondo: Special Collector's Edition is well worth that wait.
For more information about Hondo, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order Hondo, go to TCM Shopping.
by Christian Pierce
Hondo (Special Edition) on DVD
That dog don't take to pettin', son.- Hondo
A man oughta do what he thinks is right.- Hondo Lane
Louis L'Amour's short story was also published in a 1954 collection entitled Bar 3; Round-up of Best Western Stories. A novelization of the film, titled Hondo, was published in 1953 and released simultaneously with the picture. Information contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film indicates that the picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story, but that the nomination was disqualified by L'Amour, who asserted that his short story was not an original motion picture story. This picture marked the first starring role of Broadway actress Geraldine Page (1924-1987). Although reviews claim that Page made her motion picture debut in Hondo, she had appeared in small parts in two previous films. Warner Bros. publicity materials note that John Ford directed second unit battle scenes. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, some filming took place in Camargo, Mexico.
Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add to the cast Martin Diaz, Jay Scott, and Margaret Fellows, who was the daughter of producer Robert Fellows. Modern sources add Chuck Roberson to the cast. Page was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress. Hondo was televised in 1989 on a syndicated network as part of a benefit honoring the National Easter Seal Society's 75th anniversary. The film was shown in 3-D, with money from the sale of special 3-D glasses donated to the Easter Seal Society. In 1991, a similar television airing of the film benefited the Leukemia Society of America. In 1967, M-G-M made a television pilot inspired by L'Amour's story, titled Hondo and the Apaches. The pilot, which was directed by Lee H. Katzin and starred Ralph Taeger and Kathie Browne, never aired on American television, but was released theatrically overseas. Taeger and Browne also starred in Hondo, a television series based on L'Amour's story, which ran from 8 September-December 29, 1967 and aired on the ABC network.
Released in United States 1953
Released in United States June 1991
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1953
Screen acting debut for Geraldine Page.
Released in United States 1953
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1953
Released in United States June 1991 (Premiere broadcast in 3-D in USA June 1991.)