Two of the finest screen entrances ever filmed are from Stagecoach (1939), directed by John Ford, and Hondo (1953), directed by John Farrow. Take a look at the two clips below, then let's compare!
STAGECOACH John Wayne as the Ringo Kid is in his youthful prime--handsome as all get out, big and strong, full of feistiness. He's wearing a traditional white cowboy hat, an ultra-cool bib-front shirt, suspenders AND a belt with a huge buckle, and a patterned neckerchief. He's John Wayne every step of the way. In his left hand he carries his saddle, which tells a story in itself (and not, one imagines, a happy one). In his right hand he carries a Winchester repeating rifle, which he flips around like a jazz drummer twirling his sticks. The b/w cinematography is thrilling. At just the right moment, as the stage approaches, the camera zooms in for a classic Hollywood close-up. There's not much to dislike in this clip.
HONDO Something ominous this way comes. Wayne, in the opening moments of Hondo, is scary as heck. There's only one word for the expression on his face: grim. True, he's no longer the stud muffin of 24 years earlier, but his hardened visage, firmly set jaw, and seen-it-all eyes are more than compensation. His clothing, too, is less pretty boy and more authentic--a dust-covered fringed buckskin shirt, a completely out-of-place (but oh-so-perfect) jaunty multicolored neckerchief, and a hat that could probably hop off his head and throw a punch on its own, if it had to. The dramatic build-up is palpable as Duke stomps his way across the desert floor toward the pioneer homestead.
VERDICT The better scene, by a nose, is Hondo. While each entrance is exquisitely composed, photographed, and acted, there is one tiny moment in the Stagecoach scene that diminishes its intensity. Go back to the Stagecoach clip and notice Wayne's expression change at 5 seconds from the beginning. He looks...well, the only way to describe his expression is startled, as if he's momentarily afraid the stage won't stop and he might get run over. Now imagine if a stage had appeared over the horizon in Hondo, heading straight for Hondo Lane. He would have squinted, turned squarely to face the oncoming team of horses, and watched as the stage veered to one side or the other. It was a close call in this shootout, but Hondo gets the final nod.