Directed by John Farrow
Action / Adventure / Western
John Wayne as Hondo Lane
Geraldine Page as Angie Lowe
Ward Bond as Buffalo
Michael Pate as Vittorio
James Arness as Lennie
Rodolfo Acosta as Silva
Leo Gordon as Ed Lowe
Tom Irish as Lt. McKay
Lee Aaker as Johnny Lowe
Paul Fix as Maj. Sherry
Rayford Barnes as Pete
Set in the rugged wilderness of New Mexico in 1874, Hondo Lane is a U.S. Cavalry dispatch rider who has lost his horse in a battle with Apaches. As he is making his way back to the Cavalry post he comes across Angie Lowe’s farm. More accurately, her son Johnny comes across Hondo as he is drinking from a river on their property. Hondo and the boy travel to Angie’s farm. Hondo introduces himself only as Lane, and asks where her husband is. Angie, obviously concerned about telling a stranger that she and Johnny are out in the wilderness alone, tells Hondo that her husband is out hunting and will be back shortly. Hondo offers to buy a horse from them with U.S. Army script. Instead, she tells him of a horse that has not been broken yet, and Hondo decides to take on the task. Johnny watches in admiration as Hondo sets about his task, accomplishing it with ease. Taking a look at the ranch, Hondo notices a lot of chores that have not been done in quite a while and comes to the conclusion that her husband has been gone for a while and probably isn’t coming back. He confronts Angie about this and she tells Hondo the truth. Hondo stays to help out with some of the chores, and warns Angie that the Apaches are gathering for a war party and attacking settlers. Angie insists that the Apaches have always been friendly to them and they will have no problems with them. Originally having Hondo sleep outside, she invites him into the house during a stormy night. Her affection growing for this rugged and mysterious stranger, she quietly looks at some of his things and notices the engraving on the butt of Hondo’s rifle states his full name. Angie remembers the name Hondo as being a criminal who lived with Indians and becomes scared, drawing a pistol and telling Hondo to leave. Hondo complies with her wishes and heads out to the U.S. Cavalry post.
After Hondo leaves, an Apache band led by Vittorio and his lieutenant, Silva, arrives at Angie’s farm. They have been friendly before so she lets Silva and his men use their water. However, some of the Apache start getting rough with Angie, and Johnny gets the now loaded pistol from the house and fires to defend his mother. His shot hits Silva’s weapon and breaks it. Vittorio is impressed with the youngster’s bravery and makes him a blood brother by cutting their hands and pressing the wounds together. He then informs Angie that if her husband does not return, she will have to take an Apache brave for a husband, so that Johnny can be raised properly.
Once Hondo arrives at the Cavalry outpost, he presents his report that the Apaches are on the move, attacking settlers and assembling for a war party. Later, Hondo is involved in a fistfight with a poker player at the bar on the post and overhears one of the man’s friends address him as “Lowe”. Hondo believes that this man is Angie’s missing husband, who shows no sign of concern for his family, or returning to them. Hondo goes to return Angie’s horse, and perhaps let her know that he found her husband, and notices he is being followed. Sure enough, it is Lowe and his friend. Lowe is angry at the beating he took from Hondo the night before and is thirsty for revenge. As Lowe confronts Hondo at Hondo’s camp later that day, all there are attacked by Apaches. Lowe’s friend is killed and Lowe is wounded. Even though Hondo just saved Lowe’s life, Lowe is planning to shoot him in the back, but Hondo guns him down when Lowe makes the attempt. Searching Lowe’s body he finds a picture of Johnny, confirming for Hondo that this is indeed Angie’s husband, and now he certainly won’t be coming home.
The gunfire attracts the attention of Vittorio and his war party and when they investigate they find that Hondo has killed Silva’s brother. They quickly capture Hondo and take him to a mesa to be tortured because Hondo will not tell them where the soldiers are. They begin torturing Hondo by putting hot coals in his bound hand. Before they can go much further a scout hands Vittorio the picture of Johnny that was in Hondo’s belongings and Vittorio mistakenly thinks that Hondo is Angie’s husband. Vittorio goes to cut Hondo free, but Silva invokes his right to an honor duel because Hondo killed his brother. Silva manages to stab Hondo in the shoulder, but Hondo still overpowers him and tells him to relinquish his blood feud instead of outright killing him. Vittorio and his men ride to Angie’s ranch and throw the wounded Hondo in the mud. Vittorio asks Angie if Hondo is her husband, and she says yes, saving his life. Vittorio tells Hondo that Johnny should be brought up right, and taught the way of the Apache. Vittorio will be watching like a hawk and threatens Hondo if he fails. Before they leave, Silva shows off one final cruelty, the speared body of Hondo’s dog and companion, Sam.
Hondo stays at the ranch, recuperating from his wounds when a U.S. Cavalry company comes through and requests that Hondo join the unit and lead them to Vittorio. Hondo refuses, keeping an earlier promise to Vittorio. After the battle the unit comes back by Angie’s ranch. There are many casualties, but the unit has been successful, Vittorio has been killed. The soldiers are gathering up all the farmsteaders in the area and taking them back to the outpost. Lenny, an old rival of Hondo’s, is also with the unit, and has discovered Lowe’s body and knows that Hondo killed Angie’s husband. He tries to bribe Hondo, but Angie overhears the discussion and doesn’t blame Hondo. Hondo takes Angie and Johnny and travels back to the outpost with the soldiers, but on the way they are attacked by the rest of the Apache, now led by Silva. Hondo helps defend the caravan, and in doing so, kills Silva. Hondo, Angie, and Johnny leave for a new life in California.
Hondo is based on a short story by Louis L’Amour called The Gift of Cochise. The rights to the story were purchased by John Wayne’s Batjac production group in 1952.
Hondo was shot to take advantage of the new 3-D technology that was available, as can be seen particularly in the knife fight between Hondo and Silva, and several battle scenes where spears and guns are shot right at the camera. The new cameras proved to be particularly problematic when shooting in the desert of Chihuahua, Mexico. Partially due to problems with the 3-D cameras, the shooting went beyond schedule, and John Farrow had to leave to start shooting another movie. Wayne went to his friend John Ford and asked him to finish the picture. The final battle with the wagons at the end of the film was entirely directed by Ford.
Geraldine Page was previously unknown to Hollywood, but was an accomplished theater actress. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her role in Hondo, but the award went to Donna Reed for From Here to Eternity.
Hondo - Trailer