Hondo (1953)

Hondo (1953), directed by John Farrow.

An Army dispatch rider walks into an isolated homestead, bearing news of the Apache uprising. He finds a woman and child with the husband mysteriously absent. It becomes a fatherhood competition: who is going raise the boy, and in what culture? Turns out the kid admires the Apache war chief, as does Hondo himself. But that won't prevent them from fighting.

Hondo lived with the Apache and had an Indian wife. "It was a good way of life", he says, but knows that when the Army arrives that will end. Still, he won't lose sleep over it. Quick wrap-up and on to California.

This is imitation "John Ford" with big overlap in cast and crew. It must have been a complicated production: three cinematography credits, two for the music, and Wayne took over directing sometimes. As was his wont, except with tough directors like Ford, Howard Hawks and William A. Wellman.

Then Ford himself showed up and Wayne got him to direct the final action escape and battles with the circled wagons.

First major film credit for Geraldine Page, better known for theater work then. She later costarred with another Western icon in The Beguiled (1971).

The location shooting was in Mexico, which everyone remembered as being Very Hot. You can tell.

From a story by Louis L'Amour; the movie helped put him on the map.

A 3D production made just as the craze was collapsing. Most people did not get to see it in that format at the time. It has been shown in 3D since but is not available on home video as such.

As I noted with Dial M For Murder (1954) (also photographed by Robert Burks) the focus often seems "off", probably a struggle with the 3D cameras. There are only a few "gimmicks" with the photography: the titles are in your face and there are some into-the-lens fight moves.

Available on Blu-ray with a happy commentary track by Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson with inserted reminiscences by Lee Aaker, who played young Johnny.

The two scenes he gets asked about: did they really cut his thumb for the blood brother scene? He has a scar there for something else so he always says "yes". And getting thrown into the river by John Wayne, "teaching" him to swim.