DATELINE: Western Heroes
The similarities are unmistakable for these 1953 Western movies, which are classics of their type.
Alan Ladd was Shane, a pint-sized gunfighter, and John Wayne was a giant gunfighter. Each had a shady past, though Wayne carries a Winchester ’73 rifle he won in a contest in 1870, thus trumping James Stewart in his movie of the same name.
Jean Arthur played the married woman with a little boy in Shane, though she was over 50 at the time in her last movie; Geraldine Page made her first movie (Oscar nomination, thank you) playing a plain pioneer wife (bearing a startling resemblance to the woman Wayne later hired for The Alamo—who was promptly murdered in real life).
The boys are respectively Brandon DeWilde and Lee Aaker. One was a bona fide stage actor and film star, and the other was Rin Tin Tin’s sidekick.
Hondo is interesting because the ranch where Mrs. Lowe and her son reside is a Mexican desert during the day. At night, there are lush vegetation, a pond, and big trees.
There are no native Americans resembling Cochise in Shane, which takes place in the Tetons where the villains are businessmen with cattle ranches, not displaced Apaches.
Wayne’s Hondo has great sympathy for the Indians, whereas Ladd’s Shane has no sympathy for the cattlemen.
Wayne felt his movie did not do well because of its comparison to Shane—though George Stevens created a masterpiece whereas John Farrow had to be replaced by John Ford for the final Indian attack scenes, shot in 3-D.
When you finally boil it down, Hondo is heroic beyond Shane—and John Wayne has it all over Alan Ladd. Give us Hondo, please.