Film Review: Hondo (1953)

Also known as: They Called Him Hondo
Release Date: November 24th, 1953 (Houston premiere)
Directed by: John Farrow, John Ford (uncredited, final scenes only)
Written by: James Edward Grant
Based on: Hondo by Louis L’Amour
Music by: Hugo W. Friedhofer, Emil Newman
Cast: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, James Arness, Leo Gordon

Batjac Productions, Wayne-Fellows Productions, Warner Bros., 84 Minutes

Review:

“Everybody gets dead. It was his turn.” – Hondo Lane

I haven’t watched a John Wayne movie in quite a while. Since I was working on a post about Louis L’Amour’s books, I felt like I should go back and revisit the film adaptation of Hondo, as it is my favorite L’Amour book and it stars the Duke himself, John Wayne.

I love that this movie starts out kind of small and confined but then ends with such a big, epic battle.

Now even though most of the film does take place in wide expanses of Old West wilderness, it was still a small picture for the first two-thirds. A lot of the scenes were on the ranch and in the tight quarters of the ranch home. Other scenes, while outdoors, were usually in smaller secluded places like the creek where the boy likes to fish. I don’t know if this was intentional or budgetary but when the film gets to its climax, the expanse of the open desert and the final battle feel even bigger than it normally would.

And man, I love the final battle in this movie between the white people leaving the Apache land and the angry Apache trying to make their escape impossible. The story also serves to setup the oncoming battle that wiped out the Apache warriors soon after this film. But not without Wayne tipping his hat to the Apache and their way of life.

But that’s what I love about this movie and Louis L’Amour stories in general. Even though they are seen through the eyes of mostly white men in the Old West, there is still a respect for other cultures underneath the chaos and conflict. I feel that John Wayne felt the same way and that’s why he works so well as the protagonist in a L’Amour film adaptation. Well, John Wayne was also the king of westerns but I like how he fits within L’Amour’s literary style.

Hondo isn’t as remembered as some of John Wayne’s other westerns but it is one of his best, even if I think it’s way too short and could’ve been fleshed out a bit more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: ChisumTrue Grit and The War Wagon.

My 20 Favorite Louis L’Amour Novels

A while ago I ranked My 20 Favorite Philip K. Dick Novels. I figured I would also rank the books of other authors that I have read for a long time. The next writer who came to mind was Louis L’Amour, who is probably the writer that I have read the most over the course of my life.

I was introduced to L’Amour by my paternal grandfather. When I would visit him in the summers, we would often times go camping. On the way out of town we would stop at the library and get some books for our journey into the woods. I’d always grab some G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones “Find Your Fate” books and he’d always grab something by Louis L’Amour.

One camping trip, I exhausted my “Find Your Fate” books and picked up one of my grandfather’s L’Amour books, The Quick and the Dead. I was pretty much hooked, as I thumbed through the pages at lightning speed. It led me down a lifelong path of not only loving and respecting the writing of Louis L’Amour, it also led to my love of westerns in film and television.

Being dubbed “America’s Storyteller”, L’Amour has penned 89 novels, 14 short-story collections and two full-length works of nonfiction. Out of his novels, I’ve probably read more than half. Going through the list of what he’s published, here are the twenty that I liked the best:

1. Hondo
2. Flint
3. Fair Blows the Wind
4. Fallon
5. The Shadow Riders
6. Hanging Woman Creek
7. Utah Blaine
8. The Quick and the Dead
9. Dark Canyon
10. Shalako
11. Tucker
12. Under the Sweetwater Rim
13. Lando
14. The Sackett Brand
15. Last of the Breed
16. The Lonesome Gods
17. The Walking Drum
18. Sackett
19. Reilly’s Luck
20. Conagher

Book Review: ‘Fair Blows The Wind’ by Louis L’Amour

*written in 2014.

When I was a young boy in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I would spend some time in the summers at my paternal grandfather’s house. During those summer breaks, we’d do a lot of fun things. Two of my favorite things that we got to do together were camping and going to the library for long periods of time. Before a big camping trip, we’d definitely hit up the library and stock up on some good reads. I always ended up with some G.I. Joe or Indiana Jones “Find Your Fate” books and he’d always pick up books by Louis L’Amour.

On one trip, I ran out of stuff to read, so I grabbed one of my grandfather’s Louis L’Amour books. As was pretty much customary with L’Amour’s work, the book was a western adventure. I read it incredibly quickly, as I found it hard to put down. From that point on, I was a fan of L’Amour’s stories.

When I came across Fair Blows The Wind, I was excited to see that it was a beast of a book for L’Amour, as most of his are right around 200 pages and this was about 375 pages. I thought it was going to be an epic! Reading the description on the back of the book, I discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Louis L’Amour western tale. This one took place on the Carolina coast and involved Spaniards, pirates and a whole new historical world that I hadn’t yet explored through Louis L’Amour’s vivid words.

This book lives up to L’Amour’s standards and in some sense, exceeds them. It is a very different tale than what he usually weaves but it has a familiarity about it in style and execution. It is very much a Louis L’Amour novel and it very much isn’t. Fair Blows The Wind gives the L’Amour die hard a new piece of meat to sink their teeth into. It is as epic and adventurous as one would hope and as smooth as one would expect from him.

I don’t want to say too much because I enjoyed this work immensely and would consider it a disservice to spoil any of the really awesome bits. However, when I look back at the dozens of Louis L’Amour books that I have read over the years, this one sticks out as something special and unique.

Rating: 9/10