on 2 March 2009
I like Elmore Leonard and this story is one of his best. Thankfully the film retains his simple, terse style allowing events to bring out the stories behind the protagonists and show us their true characters. Its not what people say that counts, its what they do.
Any actor could have been chosen to play the central character. There's no silent brooding but words are just a waste of time for the white boy raised by Apaches. Charles Bronson or Steve McQueen could have done this well but Newman is wonderful, his blue eyes the only white thing about him. Despite the brutality of the Apache they are depicted as being more honest than the white man, lacking sophistication in its most negative connotation.
Watching a movies about conflict one can allow oneself to simply observe, but more sympathetic people are drawn into the characters. Could you be John Russell and be strong and true despite the prejudice and loathing of the ignorantly bigoted people he finds himself saving, or would you give in, take the easy route and its consequences? A great movie and a metaphor for so much more.
This film was of a quality that astonished me, once I put it on. It is the story of a man, who though abducted as a boy by Apaches and re-taken into white society, has chosen to live with the Indians. He shares their struggle for existence, with a keen sense of the mortal insult that their subjugation has brought them. The viewer witnesses this in the first minutes of the film, when Newman waits to capture mustangs with some friends and is summoned to meet a customer with a message for him in a bar. The only thing to indicate he is white are his startling blue eyes.
So begins a muted adventure as Newman gains, through a modest inheritance, the means to quit his home on a stagecoach. The other passengers include a troubled young couple, a woman he disenfranchised when he accepted his inheritance, an ex-administrator of Indian territories, and a mean SOB. Newman is taciturn during the journey, rarely communicating except in single syllables and accepting to be put out of the main car because of his indian ways. It is a masterpiece of under-stated acting, a classic introvert who the others under-estimate. Things don't work as out planed, of course, and I don't want to play the spoiler as to what happens. Needless to say, the passengers are endangered to their surprise, and the resolution is wonderfully unexpected, yet bleak.
I think this is some of the best acting that Newman ever did. His performance is riveting, even if so laconic and circumspect that the viewer is misled as to his true character. There are many echoes of Little Big Man in this film, but coldly grim rather than the tragic, if uplifting comedy in the later film.
Recommended with enthusiasm.
"Hombre"(67) was directed by Martin Ritt who also worked with Paul Newman on other films including the very good contemporary Western "Hud" (62). The film is based on the very good book of the same name by Elmore Leonard who is probably better known these days for his crime writing. The film explores the psychology of racial hatred and is very sombre in mood. Other films like "The Half Breed"(50) starring Jack Beutel and "Broken Lance"(54), which had Robert Wagner cast as the mixed race son of Spencer Tracy and Katy Jurado also explored the same theme, but without the same depth.
In the film Paul Newman plays the taciturn John Russell, a white man who was raised with the Apache Indians. It is soon clear he is far more Apache than white. He turns up in an Arizona town to claim his Father's inheritance which consists of a gold watch and a boarding house. He promptly sells the boarding house and boards the stagecoach to leave town. On board are some of his disgruntled lodgers. They are not long into the journey before Russell starts to experience hatred and irrational prejudice due to his background. Also on board is the respected Professor Favor played by Frederic March and his wife Audra. The always watchable Richard Boone is also on board as the crude Cicero Grimes. Due to the insistence of Audra and the others Russell is forced to sit on the top with the stage driver who is a Mexican. The stagecoach is then robbed by a gang that Grimes happens to be the leader of. It transpires that Professor Favor has stolen a large amount of money from the very Apache Indians Russell grew up with. Russell shoots two of the gang and then tries to lead the group to safety. The very bigots he rode with now depend on him for their survival. We head to a tragic finale where Newman has a difficult choice to make. Should he leave these people to their fate. If he does, then is he any better than these people who have hated him without reason?
"Hombre" is one of Kevin Costner's favorite films and who am I to argue with a person who has done so much to revive this genre. It is certainly a more honest approach to the themes explored than films of the past. It was a good idea to have a white man feel the awful impact of racial prejudice, even though he was of the same skin as his tormentors. This seems to give it an even greater impact. The cast is very strong. The excellent Martin Balsam is very good as the Mexican driver and Frank Silvera is a very vocal Mexican bandit. He is the man who refers to Russell as Hombre. It is clear Russell has more in common with him than the passengers. The film is well acted by all involved and is utterly convincing. It is sad that we have to rely on a Dutch import to get a Region 2 DVD. This fine film deserves better treatment. Highly recommended viewing.
on 29 March 2007
I saw this film first in 1967, and many, many times since, and westerns just don't get better than this. Paul Newman is at his very best, Richard Boone is at his very nastiest (and best), the humour is, like Cool Hand Luke, subtle and funny. If all that is not enough, there is a real story behind it, and the good guy doesn't win. Just like life
What a shame we cannot get it in PAL format
Because I can cut it, lady.
There are of course only so many stories and this one is really Admirable Crichton. that is an outsider or social inferior is relied on by everyone when they are in a fix.
In Crichton it was the butler who on a desert island came to the fore and saved all the posh people who did not know how to look after themselves.
Interestingly Diane Cliento is was in Crichton and is in Hombre.
I saw the film not long after it came out and have not seen it for over forty years. Paul Newman was always a a great actor.
This film was shown before we got used to seeing gritty films such as the Dollar films. Cowboy films had gone out of fashion and the cop films were coming in.
John Russell ( Newman) is a white man brought up as an Apache then civilised but went back to the Apaches.he inherits a boardinghouse run by Diane Cliento. He then goes on a stage coach trip with a collection of characters some of whom despise him because he has lived with the Apaches.
They get held up and the people who previously despised him now rely on his skills
Newman does this with a minimum of dialogue and showing always no emotion. When asked why they should follow him Newman answers because I can cut it lady.
When the baddy comes to negotiate he gives away his hand by saying whatever the outcome those being besieged are not going to get out alive.
Newman says . "How are you planning to get back down that hill?'
Newman then blasts him but he is not dead
The hostage is the wife of someone who stole money from the Indians and had been of the opinion that even if she was starving she would not eat dog.
Newman replies "Eaten one and lived like one. "
The husband does nothing to help his wife but Newman relents and helps the person who previously despised him
A classic cowboy film and a must see.
on 22 May 2014
Having been disappointed by Charlton Heston in "Major Dundee," I thought I would try another movie with a big star who isn't particularly associated with Westerns -- Paul Newman. This is a much better movie -- based on a story by Elmore Leonard, with a fine script, distinct characters, and clear plotting, it is also not a standard Western. (I suppose "Butch Cassidy" wasn't either!) Here Newman plays John Russell, a white man who has lived with Indians (in his case, Apaches) since childhood and has come to appreciate the ways in which white men have made life all but impossible for them. (The opening titles play poignantly against some famous photographic images of Native American life, some of which are almost iconic.) When Russell inherits a hotel from the white man who had adopted him (and from whom he had run back to the Apaches), he has to confront his being white to some extent. Clearly, his preference is to sell the hotel, take the money, and go back to live with the Apaches, but on a coach out of town, with a motley crew of passengers, complications occur. It turns out that some of the passengers aren't who they seem to be, and circumstances arise in which a number of them are dependent on Russell's Indian skills to get them safely back to civilization.
Their difficulties aren't simply those of a barren hilly land -- they have money which bad guys (led here by Richard Boone, taking a break from "Have Gun, Will Travel") want, and they have a hostage to bargain with. Since I'm trying to avoid spoilers, let me just say that the bargaining sharpens ethical dilemmas, although not everyone sees the dilemmas in the same way. The ending is tense and powerful and, like the movie as a whole, directed with clarity and economy. While one or two of the characters verge on stereotypes, the dialogue has a freshness and frankness that make us take them as individuals first.
Newman is splendid as Russell -- realistic, laconic, composed, he's seen worse in his Apache life (extremes of danger and hunger) than anything he sees here. It becomes clear, though, that, composed as he is, some of the insulting ways in which some passengers refer to Indians have wounded him, and in his mind there's a real question of whether he owes them any help at all. The quite long, wordless opening scene, with the horses, marvelously foreshadows the patience, quietness, and, when push comes to shove, decisiveness of Russell. Diane Cilento is Jessie, the tough woman who has been managing the hotel that Russell decided to sell, and in a great scene in which the other two women are running down their men, Jessie claims to like them, "although they've put some grey in my hair." Martin Balsam is a very credible Mexican friend of Russell's who, like Jessie, speaks up for reasonableness and "civilized" behaviour in a situation where it is neither appropriate nor safe to be "civilized." The other actors are fine, and Richard Boone does a great job as a sleazy but attractive villain. To sum up: I hadn't heard of this movie before, but I'm impressed by it. It deserves to be better known. Martin Ritt, best known perhaps for "Hud" and "Norma Rae," directs economically and effectively, and the cinematography does justice to a distinctive landscape.
on 19 December 2006
Paul Newman at his best with an excellent supporting case. It follows the conventional story of an outsider who is drawn back to help his fellow travellers on a coach trip.
The landscape is bleak and unforgiving, the acting taut and blistering. Newman is at the height of his powers. Supreme wwestern, leaves most others in the shade.
An Apache policeman John Russell (Paul Newman) inherits a boarding house and is off to sell it. He must travel by the last stage coach out of town. Naturedly we are introduces to each of his traveling companions and given the general background of their life stories. We have the standard mix of exadurated stereotypes.
You guessed it the stage is held up. Luckily for the other passengers John Russell, also know as Hombre was raised by the Indians. He is cool, calm, and decisive. The others are just a tad too pansy for reality. However it makes for a good story as they start to learn or not from John what it takes to survive. What they do not realize before it is too late is that John is doing more than just surviving. What on the surface seems like John is changing his ways in reality is an extension of what he was always about.
Classic tale with no surprises. But well told and well acted. There are plenty of "one liner's", quasi philosophy, and a fair amount of gun play. In all a very satisfying movie. Richard Boone's characterization of Cicero Grimes was better portrayed than in his characterization "Have Gun Will Travel" series.
Some actors get type cast and all I could think of when watching Margaret Blye was her character in "Waterhole #3" (1967).
on 4 November 2002
Old blue eyes is at his best in this film. His eyes express his feelings first, then the words come. The film covers old themes such as racism, prejudice, greed,love and courage, the ingredients of a classic Western. As a white boy raised by Apaches the hombre( you don't learn his name until the end when a dying Mexican asks in admiration "At least let me know his name")faces prejudice and indifference, catching you out initially as he is a white man who sits quietly in the corner like an Indian, as if afraid to assert himself in the white man's world. But when the time comes to assert himself he steps forward as the only man capable of opposing the bandits (an evil Richard Boone leads them) who hijack the stagecoach.But at the very end it is the stupidity of others which leads to his death. A classic film, which grabs your emotions and stirs you up as a good film should.
We all die, it's just a question of when?
Hombre is directed by Martin Ritt and adapted to screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr from the Elmore Leonard novel. It stars Paul Newman, Richard Boone, Fredric March, Diane Cilento, Cameron Mitchell and Barbara Rush. Music is by David Rose and cinematography by James Wong Howe. Plot finds Newman as John Russell, a white man who has been raised by the Apache. Travelling on a stagecoach after collecting his inheritance, Russell finds himself ostracised by his fellow white travellers. That is until something goes wrong and the group find they now need Russell's skills in order to survive.
If it's all right with you lady, I just didn't feel like bleeding for him.
One of the best things about 1960s Westerns was that writers and directors were now more comfortable in portraying the Native Americans more honestly. Yes there were some excellent ones in the 50s as well, but as the 60s wore on things started to get more gritty, characterisations had more daring depth to them and darker human thematics drove the narratives on. One of the finest of the decade is Hombre, a literate and often bleak story that thrives on truisms as it spins off about racism, tolerance, corruption, selfishness, hypocrisy and vengeance. Crucially here the makers aren't just about kicking the white man for injustices against the Native Americans, Russell, too, is not being portrayed as a stoic, moral, defender of the Apache. He too has major flaws, his bile consistently rising, he's one cold fish. The film does indeed have a liberal slant, but it's also kinked in places and ultimately plays out as a complex morality piece, while there's not much to like about any of the characters here, this is down and dirty stuff.
You wagged your tail in the mans face and got his attention.
The dialogue is sparse, but what there is is to be savoured. The script has intelligent barbs and rough edged ironies dotted within the exchanges, the group dynamic is frayed from the off and Ravetch and Frank's script keeps the mood sombre. And with Ritt unhurried and pacing it on the simmer, it's a film begging to be heard and understood. Filmed in Panavision on location in the Coronado National Forest area and the Helvetia Mines in Pima County (a real ghost town), film has a beauty that belies the tone of the story. Photographer James Wong Howe composes some striking images for the scenery and deals in memorable deep-focus shots for John Russell's telling moments. Howe, Ritt and Newman were a great team, four years earlier they had made Hud, with Ritt and Newman getting nominated for Academy Awards (Best Director/Actor respectively), and Howe winning for Best Cinematography (Black & White). Their understanding of each other is evident in Hombre, it's a lesson in how to get three of your key Western elements right (direction, photography and leading actor).
Cast are led superbly by Newman, piercing blue eyes with an icy cold demeanour, there's a boldness to the role that brings out a wonderfully simmering bitterness to Newman's acting. Perfect foil to Newman is Boone (The Tall T/Rio Conchos), who is nicely restrained in an uncouth bully boy role. Balsam (Psycho/Cape Fear) is one of the few character actors of the time who could get away with playing a Mexican without inducing cringes, and March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde/A Star is Born) scores well in a two fold character portrayal of some shiftiness. Of the girls it's Cilento (Tom Jones) who leaves the lasting impression, she has Jessie as a lady not for turning, who has taken her knocks but ploughs on with strength of mind and a tongue as sharp as a tack. Rush (It Came from Outer Space/Bigger than Life) is the weak link, never once looking or sounding right in a Western setting, she compounds this by looking hopeless on a horse. A decent actress in the right genre, but an Oater? No way.
That gripe about Rush aside, this is a cracker of a Western. Not one for the all action guns a toting brigade for sure, but one for the adult who likes a bit of moody cranial splendour in their Western diets. 9/10