- Hondo (movie 1953): John Farrow’s 3D Western provided Broadway actress and future Oscar winner Geraldine Page with her first major big-screen role. John Wayne, whose company produced the film, stars as a character with a narrative purpose akin to that of Alan Ladd’s lone stranger in another 1953 Western, George Stevens’ Shane.
- Hondo synopsis: Left to fend for herself, a homesteader (Geraldine Page) is befriended by a hardened U.S. Army scout (John Wayne) who attempts to help her and her young son (Lee Aaker) to remain alive as an Apache raid is all but inevitable.
- Hondo received two Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Geraldine Page) and Best Motion Picture Story (Louis L’Amour; the nomination was later rescinded [see further below]).
Hondo (movie 1953): Filmed in 3D, Shane-ish John Wayne Western ‘introduced’ multiple Academy Award nominee Geraldine Page
A Wayne/Fellows production mostly directed by John Farrow – from a screenplay by James Edward Grant, adapting Louis L’Amour’s short story “The Gift of Cochise” – the 1953 3D Western Hondo stars John Wayne (instead of original choice Glenn Ford) as Hondo Lane, a tough U.S. Army scout who shows up at the homestead of a woman (Hollywood newcomer and up-and-coming Broadway star Geraldine Page) whose husband (Leo Gordon) had abandoned her and their young son (Lee Aaker).
Along the lines of another 1953 Western, George Stevens’ Oscar-nominated blockbuster Shane, the lone stranger develops a close bond with both the homesteader and the boy.
2 noteworthy Oscar nominations
Released by Warner Bros., Hondo would eventually be nominated for two – historically significant – Academy Awards:
- Geraldine Page received the first of her eight Oscar nominations, in this particular case as Best Supporting Actress. Besides, the feature film newcomer became the first individual to be shortlisted for an Oscar in the acting categories for a performance in a 3D release. (Best Actress nominee Sandra Bullock would follow six decades later for her work in Alfonso Cuarón’s 3D space thriller Gravity.)
- Novelist and short story writer Louis L’Amour was nominated in the now extinct Best Motion Picture Story category. The nomination, however, was later withdrawn as L’Amour’s story had not been written expressly for a motion picture, having come out in Collier’s magazine in July 1952. Why the confusion? Hondo’s writing credits read “Screenplay by James Edward Grant based on a story by Louis L’Amour” – the formal credit “story by” generally refers to a treatment or an unproduced screenplay draft. On the brighter side, Oscar nomination or no, L’Amour expanded his readership after his novelized version of the Hondo screenplay was published the same year the movie hit theaters.
Dumbstruck leading man & Hollywood blacklist
The announcement that Geraldine Page was an Oscar contender left leading man John Wayne dumbstruck.
“He couldn’t understand it,” Hondo unit production manager, future filmmaker, and frequent Wayne collaborator Andrew V. McLaglen (McLintock!, The Undefeated) is quoted as saying in Ronald L. Davis’ Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne.
Ironically, neither her Oscar nod nor her landing a role opposite one of the era’s biggest stars in one of the year’s biggest hits ($4.1 million in rentals according to Variety’s estimates) helped the Broadway import launch a Hollywood career. Page would later recall being blacklisted from the industry for seven years (until Peter Glenville’s 1961 transfer of her stage hit Summer and Smoke) for having studied with liberal-minded actress/acting coach Uta Hagen.
Hondo (movie 1953) cast & crew
Director: John Farrow.
Screenplay: James Edward Grant.
From Louis L’Amour’s 1952 story “The Gift of Cochise.”
John Wayne … Hondo Lane
Geraldine Page … Angie Lowe
Ward Bond … Buffalo
Michael Pate … Vittoro
James Arness … Lennie
Rodolfo Acosta … Silva
Leo Gordon … Ed Lowe
Tom Irish … Lt. McKay
Lee Aaker … Johnny Lowe
Paul Fix … Maj. Sherry
Rayford Barnes … Pete, Saloon Card Player
Cinematography: Robert Burks & Archie Stout.
Film Editing: Ralph Dawson.
Music: Hugo Friedhofer & Emil Newman.
Producer: Robert Fellows.
Art Direction: Alfred Ybarra.
Wardrobe: Carl Walker.
Production Company: Wayne/Fellows Productions.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Running Time: 83 min.
Country: United States.
“Hondo (Movie 1953): 2 Notable Oscar Nods” notes
John Ford to the rescue
 After Hondo ran over schedule, John Farrow (Best Director Oscar nominee for Wake Island, 1942) had to leave his post as he was set to direct another movie elsewhere. (His next release was the 1954 Western A Bullet Is Waiting.)
An uncredited John Ford is supposed to have stepped in to shoot the final Apache attack, though in Searching for John Ford, Joseph McBride writes that the filmmaker handled only “two shots of Wayne and a line of cavalrymen.”
Ford vs. Farrow
Star and director had been at odds during the making of another 1953 Wayne/Fellows release, the mystery drama Plunder of the Sun.
Geraldine Page ‘intro’
 Despite Hondo’s “Introducing Geraldine Page” on-screen credit, Page had been previously seen in an uncredited small role in Gregory Ratoff’s 1953 drama Taxi, starring Dan Dailey and Constance Smith.
Geraldine Page’s Oscar nominations
As Best Actress, Page received nods for Summer and Smoke (1961), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), Interiors (1978), and The Trip to Bountiful (1985). She won for the last title.
In 1967, Ralph Taeger and Kathie Browne starred in the short-lived television series Hondo, a Batjac co-production. (According to the American Film Institute Catalog, the series pilot, Hondo and the Apaches, was never shown on U.S. television though it did get released in theaters internationally.)
Established in the mid-1950s following the departure of Wayne/Fellows co-owner Robert Fellows, Batjac Productions operated under the control of John Wayne.
Batjac titles include the Wayne star vehicles Blood Alley, Legend of the Lost, The Alamo, The War Wagon, and The Green Berets, in addition to titles starring the likes of Randolph Scott (7 Men from Now), Victor Mature (China Doll, Escort West), and Kirk Douglas (Cast a Giant Shadow).
Hondo movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.
John Wayne and Geraldine Page Hondo movie image: Wayne/Fellows | Batjac | Warner Bros.
“Hondo (Movie 1953): 2 Notable Oscar Nods” last updated in August 2023.