The Movie: Hondo (1953) is an essential film for any John Wayne fan. The cast is superlative, with Ward Bond, James (Gunsmoke) Arness, and Geraldine Page in her big-screen debut. One of our favorite quotes comes about because of Wayne’s continuing love-hate relationship with young folks, a leitmotif in many of his best films. He can never quite figure out why they don't already know what he figures they should already know!
The Plot: It’s 1870 New Mexico, and Apache warrior-chief Vittorio is threatening to go on the warpath. No settler is safe, including Angie Lowe and her six-year-old son Johnny. Cavalry scout Hondo Lane (John Wayne) has vowed to do everything he can to stop the Indians from beating their war drums, even to the point of risking his own life.
The Scene: In a quiet moment on the frontier, Hondo Lane sees young Johnny fishing at the edge of a peaceful river. Johnny’s having no luck, though, because the sun is behind him, casting his shadow over the water and scaring the fish. Hondo suggests that Johnny swim to the other bank, where the fishing might be better.
Johnny Lowe: I can’t swim.
Hondo Lane (John Wayne): You can’t what?
Johnny: I can’t swim.
Lane: How old are you?
(Hondo picks up the boy by his shoulders and belt loops and heaves him into the river.)
Mrs. Lowe (running to her son’s rescue): Help him! He can’t swim!
Lane: Time he learned. Everybody should swim. (Calling out to the boy.) Just reach out in front of ya and grab a handful of water! Pull it back towards ya! Not too fast! That’s the way I learned.