MovieChat Forums > Hombre (1967) Discussion > John Russell's Uncertain Certainty

John Russell's Uncertain Certainty


SPOILERS

"Hombre" is a good, taut, thoughtful Western drama -- perhaps more drama that Western -- from an Elmore Leonard book.

The film is complex enough, I think, that one can think about the motivations of the film's stoic anti-hero, John Russell (Paul Newman) and wonder:

Was this guy justified in his approach to the crisis postulated in the story?

Let me try to explain:

Near the very end, when Diane Cilento agrees to go down the hill to give the bad guys the money and rescue Barbara Rush, Newman assures her that if she does, both Cilento and Rush will be killed as soon as Cilento turns over the money.

Newman is ALWAYS this certain and pessimistic about how merciless the bad guys will be -- and I, for one, have never quite seen head bad-guy Richard Boone demonstrating that he WILL be that merciless.

Consider:

Grimes' plan, as we see it play out, is to ride-along on the stagecoach and then join his "outside men" in robbing it. He does so, throwing the weapons of the good guys not terribly far away (all of them retrieve the weapons quickly), and taking a "hostage" (Barbara Rush) who just may not be a hostage at all.

David Canary (Lamar) shoots the water bag of his own volition when Boone is gone, but Boone didn't plan on that, and it turns out that the protagonists CAN make it to water (at the abandoned mine) with what's left.

But Newman does these things to mess with Boone's plan:

1. Kills Canary and crooked sheriff Cameron Mitchell, re-taking the money.

2. Counsels against running away from Boone and his men, but in favor of "taking a stand" and fighting them, with the ill-trained Martin Balsam as his only real help.

3. In response to Boone's attempt to "cut a deal" over the money and the hostage (admittedly, a hostage Newman despises), SHOOTS Boone, thus invoking the latter's rage and vengeful fury.

4. Advises Cilento that if she takes the money down to Boone et al, she'll get killed.

All through the film, Newman tells the others that the bad guys will soon kill them, and to never deal with them, but to kill them first if possible.

But I think the movie leaves the question open: Boone would have just taken the money, and given back the hostage, and left the protagonists alone...NEWMAN's paranoia drives the action.

Which brings us to a key point: Newman killed Canary and Cameron Mitchell, for the purpose of getting back the money THAT FREDRIC MARCH CHEATED THE INDIANS OUT OF, starving them in the process.

In short, Newman's John Russell may look like a man who doesn't care about anything or anybody, but actually he cares a LOT: about the Apaches among whom he was raised. He re-takes the money as an act of principle, and from then on, his every move is calulated on the belief that Boone will only kill him and the others if they give in.

You might say that for a "liberal" movie, "Hombre" has a rather conservative hero in Newman's John Russell: he thoroughly distrusts the other side, and elects to shoot them first and ask questions later.

And think of this: honestly, even if Boone and the Mexican were to kill Cilento and Rush as Newman fears -- Boone and the Mexican would then have to take on Newman, Balsam, March, and young Peter Lazer as well, hardly a guaranteed win of a gunbattle for the baddies.

"Hombre" generally suggests that "Newman knows best" about how to handle Boone and the bad guys, but I've always felt that there is something a bit paranoid and crazed about Russell's continual warnings: "They'll kill us."

This makes for a more interesting movie, IMHO. And may give greater weight to Newman's final decision to go down there and put his life on the line with Boone. Maybe John Russell realizes how much he's responsible for how things got where they are.

P.S. A plot point is made that Boone's men will need water, but I don't see that as being reason to kill Newman et al -- especially once everybody, including Boone and his men, can get water at the final mining site.


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"Hombre" is a good, taut, thoughtful Western drama -- perhaps more drama that Western -- from an Elmore Leonard book.

Hombre fits pretty squarely in the Western tradition, although its bitter theme of racism, corruption, and misanthropy gives it a modernist edge that reflects its mid-to-late sixties moment. But the film's sense of violent ethnic conflict and its motif of mixed heritage are clearly Western trademarks, and its narrative setup is as generically archetypal as they come. The idea of a stagecoach carrying assorted, troubled characters who comprise a microcosm of society and must conjure with one another over the course of a treacherous cross-country adventure is pretty much Western 101, dating back at least to John Ford's classic Stagecoach (1939), which lifted the genre to A-movie status. The difference is that unlike in Stagecoach, almost all the passengers in Hombre (aside from Russell) are either corrupt, decrepit, pathetic, or feckless. Even Diane Cilento's "good woman" does not turn out to be a romantic prospect for Russell. This cynical view of society thus reflects the change in Westerns as they developed over the course of the 1960s.

2. Counsels against running away from Boone and his men, but in favor of "taking a stand" and fighting them, with the ill-trained Martin Balsam as his only real help.

But Russell certainly doesn't "rally the troops." Instead, he originally walks away from them and they follow him by default because, as he puts it, "I can cut it, lady."

Overall, Russell's distrust has been justified (at least in his eyes) by his racial experiences. Given their avarice and corruption, he knows not to trust white folks, period. Besides, his character just isn't the sort to comply, compromise, or let down his guard, no matter what, almost making Hombre the inversion of Ford's bitterly conservative The Searchers (1956). Indeed, that same sense of unforgiving misanthropy is ultimately what grants Hombre its distinction among racially liberal Westerns from the 1950s and 1960s. It also reflects an existential perspective that was starting to take hold of international culture and Westerns in particular in the mid-to-late sixties.

In fact, Russell's actions may be less a reflection of pragmatic plotting and more a sign of hardened austerity. He doesn't want to give the money back, and he knows that even if he does, Grimes could pick off the troop later on for fear of eventually being criminally charged. Russell certainly doesn't care if the Rush character dies (at one point, he tells the Mexican bandit to "shoot her" for "she means nothing to me"), and I don't think that he even cares if the Cilento character dies. When he tells her that she'll be killed, he's not trying to protect her, but just expressing his grim, nearly nihilistic view of the situation and trying to prevent her from surrendering the money. What Russell is most concerned with is returning the money to the Apache reservation and saving his own life. The assertion of self-preservation over altruism had been sowed by the Sergio Leone Westerns in Europe, and now it was seeping into the American Western. Russell cares about preserving himself and his sense of righteousness, not the people immediately around him. If he gives up the money there, Grimes could ambush him later on and end any chance of further pursuit from Russell or legal pursuit from law enforcement. Most of all, in keeping with the newfangled existential culture, he just doesn't want to compromise or yield, even for a nanosecond.

You might say that for a "liberal" movie, "Hombre" has a rather conservative hero in Newman's John Russell: he thoroughly distrusts the other side, and elects to shoot them first and ask questions later.

Yes, but in this instance, "the other side" is white society. That's where the film's revisionism and iconoclasm (going beyond classic liberalism) kick in.

And think of this: honestly, even if Boone and the Mexican were to kill Cilento and Rush as Newman fears

Again, I don't think that Russell cares one way or another if they're killed. He just doesn't want to give in.

"Hombre" generally suggests that "Newman knows best" about how to handle Boone and the bad guys, but I've always felt that there is something a bit paranoid and crazed about Russell's continual warnings: "They'll kill us."

This makes for a more interesting movie, IMHO. And may give greater weight to Newman's final decision to go down there and put his life on the line with Boone. Maybe John Russell realizes how much he's responsible for how things got where they are.


You're correct in that by making John Russell so radically withdrawn, misanthropic, and uncompromising, almost to the point of unreason, Newman and the filmmakers render him ambiguous and extremely difficult to embrace or accept. However, given the film's reflection of existentialism and revisionism, this ambiguity and seeming amorality become attractive and self-justified. To doubt Russell is understandable, because he's almost beyond the human pale. But to doubt him is also naive, for he's harder, tougher, and more knowingly skilled than anyone else in the film or in the audience. In the new culture (Western and otherwise), romantic intimacy was being replaced by hardened austerity, and personal morality was being replaced by personal style. The hardest, coldest, and most cynically acidic were also the smartest, because the spaghetti Westerns had taught us that compromise and trust were foolhardy. Grim existentialism was in, sanguine optimism was out, and although Hombre is an archetypal Western in certain respects, it also reflected the sea change in heroic attitude. As with other anti-heroes of the moment, such as Clint Eastwood's characters or Lee Marvin in Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967), one may not be able to fully reconcile John Russell's misanthropic and compulsive behavior, but one questions his austere cynicism at one's own foolishly naive risk.

In the end, Russell's decision to walk down the hill is, perhaps, a death wish (despite his self-preservationist ethos) and certainly a reflection of fatalism. It may be a sign of existential responsibility (in the sense that everyone else is so weak and pathetic that Russell has no other choice), but it's not a sign of altruism or guilt. Russell, in his mind, is righteous and everyone else is pathetic and not even worthy of salvation (again a marked and spaghetti-influenced revision of the traditional Western where the hero risks his life for the sake of civilization). And really, would you trust the judgment of the nearly chilling yet brutally competent Russell or the cowardly weaklings who reluctantly grovel in his alpha-male shadow? In the end, that's the sort of harsh, unmitigated severity that makes Hombre a significant Western of its time. If Russell risks his life here, it's not because the community is worth saving, but because everyone else is so feeble, naive, and unworthy, thus leaving him no other choice but to grudgingly bear the fatalistic burden. At once, we can look back to High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952) and look ahead to Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971). Hombre may be racially liberal, but it contains strains of deeper pessimism and iconoclasm that would grow in movies in the years ahead.


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I'm glad I drew this analysis from you, joekidd, for "Hombre" merits your kind of insight.

I'll take your points with one possible exception: I think when Newman elects to take the money down instead of Cilento, it IS a noble gesture.

For the duration of the movie, Russell has indicated that if there is one person on that stagecoach he values (with the possible exception of his weak-but-honest friend Martin Balsam), it is Cilento, and that her incessant fight for compassion and integrity does carry some weight with him.

Cilento gets that (slightly overwritten) speech to Russell about "helping people out of need, not merit," and you can tell Russell is willing to at least consider it.

But the kicker comes when Cilento, in response to Russell's litany of humilitating demands of the men to go down there ("You gonna go down there and save her?...he won't. That's his woman, but he won't go down there") says that she'll go down there. She says all she wants from Russell is a knife, but he says, "You want a lot more than that out of me, lady," and rises to take the money down himself, which turns out to be the single truly heroic gesture from John Russell in the whole movie.

And Russell DOES go down there with a plan: the kid's supposed to shoot the Mexican. Fate intervenes.

I think it does well to remember that when Newman had last acted for director Martin Ritt and these screenwriters, it was in the classic "Hud" -- in which Newman played an unregenerate, selfish heel of a guy, and yet was still beloved by young film fans looking for an anti-hero.

John Russell isn't the rat that Hud was, but Newman still seemed to welcome playing Russell's cold and unconnected lack of empathy. What's great about the movie is how he's always saying things like "That's what I say. They say what they say, that doesn't matter to me." or "I didn't care to bleed for him, if you don't mind. Or even if you do." Or his usual parrying of Balsam's need to justify everything he says, with "I don't care." There is something very cool in John Russell's confidence in not caring what others think. But I think the movie also makes a case that Russell's gone a bit psychologically haywire in his lack of caring, too.

Passionate towards the Apaches who raised him, Russell doesn't much give a damn about anyone else -- which is to say, the whites. The movie understands this, but ultimately doesn't support it.

"Hombre" is very much a downbeat seventies movie, a little early in 1967, like "Bonnie and Clyde" of the same year but without that movie's pop-art savagery (indeed, Ritt totally bumbles Newman's shooting of Canary and Mitchell as a bloody action sequence; it is hilariously bad.)

To the extent you ask us to choose between Russell's coldness and the weak corruption of his stagecoach mates -- that's part of the problem with the movie. NOBODY is particularly heroic. It's indeed a very nihilistic Western.

P.S. Newman is great in the part -- and needed it to "sober up" a bit as a screen persona -- but I've oftened wondered: This movie came out in 1967, in the middle of Marlon Brando's "fallow period" as a movie star. It might have been a perfect vehicle for Brando's sentiments, and a great "comeback" for Brando long before "The Godfather."


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I'll take your points with one possible exception: I think when Newman elects to take the money down instead of Cilento, it IS a noble gesture.

For the duration of the movie, Russell has indicated that if there is one person on that stagecoach he values (with the possible exception of his weak-but-honest friend Martin Balsam), it is Cilento, and that her incessant fight for compassion and integrity does carry some weight with him.

Cilento gets that (slightly overwritten) speech to Russell about "helping people out of need, not merit," and you can tell Russell is willing to at least consider it.

But the kicker comes when Cilento, in response to Russell's litany of humilitating demands of the men to go down there ("You gonna go down there and save her?...he won't. That's his woman, but he won't go down there") says that she'll go down there. She says all she wants from Russell is a knife, but he says, "You want a lot more than that out of me, lady," and rises to take the money down himself, which turns out to be the single truly heroic gesture from John Russell in the whole movie.


That final act on Russell's part is an ambiguous gesture in my view, and as a result, it can be fairly read in different ways. To me, the film's tone and the nature of Russell's character suggest that his decision to ultimately stride down that hill is a reflection of existentialism rather than altruism. He knows that the Cilento character (Jessie), while brave unlike the others, would not have a chance in hell of successfully handling the transaction, so he decides to do it himself. In my eyes, it's more a fatalistic expression of contempt for the weaknesses of those around him than a noble act of sacrifice. Russell is the alpha-male, so he has to carry out the dirty duty because the others are just too cowardly or feckless to pull it off. I kind of read it as a misanthropic death wish: there is some nobility to it, but there's also plenty of disdain, too.

For the duration of the movie, Russell has indicated that if there is one person on that stagecoach he values (with the possible exception of his weak-but-honest friend Martin Balsam), it is Cilento, and that her incessant fight for compassion and integrity does carry some weight with him.

That's true, but to me what's more noteworthy and definitive is how cold Russell is to Jessie. He may listen to her and value her slightly, but he really doesn't show it and he lumps her in with the rest of the group, walking away from her, too, after the stagecoach ambush ("Because I can cut it, lady"). He is completely unresponsive to all her romantic and sexual advances, he doesn't show any interest in her, and he effectively rejects a multitude of opportunities to restore the heterosexual couple, redeem himself, and return to the human fold through her warmth. The film very easily could have compromised and eventually brought Russell and Jessie together in a romantic alliance, but it really never moves an inch. Indeed, Ritt and Newman have to be admired for refusing to mitigate the unmitigated John Russell. Again, connections can be drawn to the Leone Westerns and Dirty Harry, where Eastwood is virtually an asexual figure. The same is true of Newman here, despite the constant offer of a smart, pretty "good woman."

But I think the movie also makes a case that Russell's gone a bit psychologically haywire in his lack of caring, too.

I don't believe that it's a matter of going "haywire" but instead pushing misanthropy to an almost inhuman level. Newman in Hombre is rather like many of Eastwood's Westerners in that he's virtually beyond the human pale and thus impossible to fully embrace, and yet he's also fascinating and ominously attractive. For a comparison piece, consider The Outlaw Josey Wales. In that film, for a long time Eastwood is emotionally cold, detached, and brutally austere, clearly rejecting humanity and trying to escape it. The difference there (given the film's epic nature) is that the supporting characters eventually warm Eastwood up ever so slightly, to the point where he seems to imperceptibly re-enter the human fold, almost against his will. The evolution is brutally grudging and resistant, but it happens.

Passionate towards the Apaches who raised him, Russell doesn't much give a damn about anyone else -- which is to say, the whites. The movie understands this, but ultimately doesn't support it.

I'd judge the movie as ambivalent in its perspective. It doesn't support Russell's contempt, but it doesn't negate it, either. After all, aside from the Cilento character, most of the others are unworthy of sympathy and some are rather disdainful. There isn't much to root for, so Hombre is quite an objective Western, seeming to take its detahced cue from its protagonist. (Many of my favorite directors, including Hitchcock, Huston, Ritt, Leone, Siegel, and Eastwood, tend to be quite objective, come to think of it.) And since you've mentioned Ritt, how about analogizing this film to the director's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965), featuring Richard Burton in a similarly misanthropic part? But even there, Burton's alienated, downtrodden spy grudgingly accepts a girlfriend and a romantic alliance. In Hombre, Ritt and Newman starkly reject that very present possibility.

It should also be noted that although his sympathies lie with the Indians, Russell doesn't appear as an Apche outside of the film's opening. As a result, he seems disconnected from all of the film's ethnic groups—whites, Indians, and Mexicans—even though we know where his sympathies lie.

"Hombre" is very much a downbeat seventies movie, a little early in 1967, like "Bonnie and Clyde" of the same year but without that movie's pop-art savagery (indeed, Ritt totally bumbles Newman's shooting of Canary and Mitchell as a bloody action sequence; it is hilariously bad.)

To the extent you ask us to choose between Russell's coldness and the weak corruption of his stagecoach mates -- that's part of the problem with the movie. NOBODY is particularly heroic. It's indeed a very nihilistic Western.


While not violently nihilistic like Leone's and Peckinpah's Westerns, Hombre is certainly bleak and perhaps psychologically nihilistic. For a film that is stylistically traditional (compare it to the Leone movies or Eastwood's High Plains Drifter), it is almost stunningly grim and bleakly quiet. Hombre is indeed a study in austerity.

P.S. Newman is great in the part -- and needed it to "sober up" a bit as a screen persona -- but I've oftened wondered: This movie came out in 1967, in the middle of Marlon Brando's "fallow period" as a movie star. It might have been a perfect vehicle for Brando's sentiments, and a great "comeback" for Brando long before "The Godfather."

The role certainly would have fit Brando's misanthropic side, and he might have made something memorable out of it. My only concern is that Brando's misanthropy, unlike Newman's here or Eastwood's and Marvin's, sometimes became indulgent, which might have detracted from the character's (and the film's) unnerving sparseness. Also, while Brando was still in decent shape at this point, he'd always had an earthy body (kind of like John Wayne), and his lack of leanness might have countered the sense of elusiveness and ghostly detachment that Newman offers.

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ecarle, you've said that you've been watching some of Hombre on video. Do you have it in wide-screen?

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ecarle points out: "....I think when Newman elects to take the money down instead of Cilento, it IS a noble gesture."

I would basically agree, but since Newman did not want anyone to go down to meet the outlaws, what prompts him to change his mind? Had he reached the point of giving up, knowing that he could be killed, or was he just tired of the uphill battle he had been fighting all his life, as joekidd contends?

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Replying to several posts above at once (I lack your cut-and-paste skills):

1. My tape of "Hombre" is an old pan-and-scan full-screen. Not the best for viewing, but it is, after all, an uncommon Western: one where dialogue and human interaction dominates.

2. joekidd, to debate just a little with you (because I've viewed some scenes recently), I think that Newman does offer some responsive potential to Cilento of a romantic nature.

It's primarily in the dialogue just before the stage is held up; Newman and Cilento are walking up the hill with Boone (slyly) right behind them. The two exchange dialogue about Cilento "fixing dinner" for Newman, and then NEWMAN says something like "breakfast would be fine" -- which strikes me as Newman making somewhat of a positive response to Cilento's pass. (Having breakfast at someone's home used to be a code phrase for "spending the night together" in older movies.) At this precise moment, the bad guys appear and Boone grabs Newman's pistol from his holster, and the romantic possiblities are over. Except that Newman did teasingly say earlier about not clearing his throat when Cilento was disrobing "My heart was in it" (Russell is capable of a few nicely-crafted Leonard one-liners), and, I believe, exchanges a little romantic dialogue with Cilento at night alone on the desert.

It's not enough to break through to "true romance," but it DOES suggest that John Russell, in the right time and the right place -- and with the right woman (and the brave, moral Cilento could be that woman) -- would be a relatively romantic guy. This is probably in the movie to suggest that the "alpha male" here is a sexual male, under the right circumstances.

3. As to Russell going down that hill. Mainly, its ambiguous and open to question -- which makes "Hombre" a movie one can take seriously. But consider this:

On their first meeting at the beginning, Newman is in his "maximum cold" mode with Cilento. He asserts that he can sell the boarding house Cilento runs, and asks her if the old man who willed the building to Newman made provision for her in his will. Cilento says "no." Newman responds: "Then I have no responsibility for you at all."

Comes the very end of the movie, Newman realizes that Cilento WILL go down that hill and -- whatever my personal doubts about Boone's plans -- is sure that she will die. Personally, I think even as nihilistic a hero as John Russell (if played by movie star Paul Newman), would not willingly send a woman to her death. Cilento has been goading people to do the right thing all through the movie; now she will DO the right thing. Russell realizes that this one woman has moved him to take a stand that he would otherwise never take. He takes a stand for HER.

Russell -- who, in Newman's performance, always retains a little of Newman's then-trademark wise-guyism -- is fatalistic about what he must do, but he at least tries to even the odds by giving the kid orders to shoot the Mexican. Indeed, in the final gunfight, what's sad is that you can see that Newman's gunfighting strategy is to take out Boone first (he does easily), hoping that the kid will take out the Mexican. The kid can't -- and Newman still manages to mortally wound the Mexican before being mortally wounded himself by the Mexican. In short, Newman's final gunfight was not a suicidal one.

Anyway, those are some thoughts, and I very much appreciate being able to exchange views with y'all.

P.S. joekidd, the other night "Joe Kidd" was on my local cable channel. I watched a little of it, but I don't intend to post on it (or "High Plains Drifter") with you around until I see them all the way through.

However, "Joe Kidd" was, like "Hombre," ALSO from an Elmore Leonard novel, and though the movie was a more lackadaiscal affair than "Hombre" (it seemed to me), Eastwood in the early scenes I saw seemed to be playing a much more "laid back" version of Newman's John Russell. Joe doesn't much want to get involved in the fight, but eventually, has to. That's on the basis of only a few scenes. I liked one where a posse leader wants Eastwood to join up, and says "What're you doing?" and Eastwood responds "14 days, at your your request," referencing jail time that prevents him from joining the posse. Funny moment (and I liked Eastwood's derby hat in this scene.)











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I think Russell went down in part to finish the job. With Grimes dead, the party would proably be over. Given that Grimes was hurt he would be easy to outdraw. He just put too much faith in the kid.

Wolf
Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

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Agreed.

And I wanted to correct my earlier comment here:

"Personally, I think even as nihilistic a hero as John Russell (if played by movie star Paul Newman), would not willingly send a woman to her death."

---

In the film, it is clear that Russell would willingly send MRS. FAVOR to her death -- she starved (indirectly killed?) some of his adopted people, and she's no prize.

But not the Diane Cilento character. She breaks through his veneer of not caring. She's too good to send to her death.

Plus: this is a movie. It's a good thing that Cilento forces the issue by agreeing to go down the hill. Otherwise, we'd be treated to the slow death of Mrs. Favor and hours upon end of Russell and the others trying to outwait Grimes while he bled to death. Just kidding -- movies have to move to climaxes. They're not like real life.

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Plus: this is a movie. It's a good thing that Cilento forces the issue by agreeing to go down the hill. Otherwise, we'd be treated to the slow death of Mrs. Favor and hours upon end of Russell and the others trying to outwait Grimes while he bled to death. Just kidding -- movies have to move to climaxes. They're not like real life.

Sharp point. We forget sometimes that movies follow different logic than real life.

I'll respond to the rest of your comments a little later.

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ecarle....joekiddlouischama: Guys. A new level of insight achieved! Much appreciated! What a pleasure to read your discourse on one of my favorite subjects. While freedom of speech (within limits) reigns on the Boards, it's a pity that there aren't more postings of this level. Thank you, guys.

route661....did you read what these guys said about your movie?

CmdrCody

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ecarle: "I think the movie leaves the question open: Boone would have just taken the money, and given back the hostage, and left the protagonists alone...NEWMAN's paranoia drives the action."

- The fact that Grimes might have taken the money, given back the hostage and left Hombre alone is moot. Newman's character was wronged (again by a white) and the money belonged to 'his' people. Just because Grimes would have let them live didn't make everything else ok. Yes, his actions drive the film, but justifiably? I think so.

ecarle: "Newman assures [Diane Cilento] that if she [goes down the hill to give the bad guys the money and rescue Barbara Rush], both Cilento and Rush will be killed as soon as Cilento turns over the money.

Newman is ALWAYS this certain and pessimistic about how merciless the bad guys will be -- and I, for one, have never quite seen head bad-guy Richard Boone demonstrating that he WILL be that merciless."

- Then you are forgetting that Hombre witnessed Grimes threatening to gun down the unarmed soldier for a stagecoach ticket. Grimes can afford to be easy going, he will kill his way out of any jam that gets sticky and Russell knows it. And we don't know Lamar shoots the water bag of his own volition.


ecarle: "Hombre" generally suggests that "Newman knows best" about how to handle Boone and the bad guys, but I've always felt that there is something a bit paranoid and crazed about Russell's continual warnings: "They'll kill us."

- I disagree, but it is an interesting veiwpoint.





DZV


A movie is not a unique idea, a movie is a unique representation of an idea.

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Good points, all.

John Russell clearly knows what he's doing and (reluctantly) guides folks to safety.

I think one of your best points is that, as a matter of principle, Russell won't STAND for Grimes to re-take the money, even if Grimes leaves everybody safe and sound. (That principle holds when Russell takes nothing but "dirty laundry" down to Grimes in the saddlebags.)

I suppose the bitter irony of the movie lies in the presentation of the Diane Cilento character. She is ALWAYS for doing the right thing, for treating people decently, for "helping": even helping bad old Mr. Favor find water(Favor's is a brilliant and somewhat forgotten performance in this film, by one of the greatest movie actors, Fredric March.)

Cilento stands for "caring for everyone," while Newman stands for "caring only for yourself -- or caring for those who meet your standards." When Newman finally DOES follow Cilento's righteous dictates, he gets killed for it. Is this some kind of message for us? A bitter one, to be sure.

Thought I'd toss in a couple of trivia bits here:

1. 4 years later, Richard Boone would again play the bad guy, opposite John Wayne, in "Big Jake" (1971.) This is a far more routine and lightweight Western than "Hombre," though quite good entertainment. Anyway, at the end of THAT movie, Richard Boone's baddie -- who holds a kidnap hostage boy instead of "Mrs. Favor" -- is again given worthless "filler" (paper instead of "dirty laundry") by the hero instead of the ransom money he demands, again leading to a final gunfight.

2. As one who lived through the time, I recall "Cool Hand Luke" being Paul Newman's more famous movie of 1967 than "Hombre." But over the years, I think "Hombre" has risen in estimation OVER "Cool Hand Luke." "Hombre" is, overall, a more suspenseful story, with some fine supporting stars for Newman (March, Boone, Cilento, Balsam) and a story which folks seem to remember years after "Cool Hand Luke's" rather tedious chain-gang tale has left our memories (despite that film's great line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate.") They are BOTH good movies, and Newman is fine in both of them (his Oscar nomination that year was for "Luke"), but I think "Hombre" has better stood the test of time.

Time changes things. (As did cable TV, video, and DVD, which got "Hombre" into better circulation.)






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ecarle: "I suppose the bitter irony of the movie lies in the presentation of the Diane Cilento character. She is ALWAYS for doing the right thing, for treating people decently, for "helping": even helping bad old Mr. Favor find water"

- Agreed. She goes as far to overcompensate as Russell does to undercompensate. Indeed. I think Russell may very well have been seen as your previuos post suggested were his ideas not offset by Jesse's.

ecarle: "Favor's is a brilliant and somewhat forgotten performance in this film, by one of the greatest movie actors, Fredric March"

- Yes! "It's a shock to grow old, Mr. Russell."


ecarle: "When Newman finally DOES follow Cilento's righteous dictates, he gets killed for it. Is this some kind of message for us? A bitter one, to be sure. "

- The genius of Elmore. I believe it is meant to present a different message than usual movie fare, albiet a bitter one.

I'll check out 'Big Jake', thanks for the heads up.

I agree that Hombre has more staying power than CHL. I doubt CHL would have been as popular as it was were it not for Newman's performance. I,too, like both films.
Hombre offers more for those who care to invest in a great subtext.


Wolf
Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

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WolfishHeart: "The genius of Elmore"

- That kind of says it all.

I agree with your last post, ecarl.
Jesse is the key to making Russell's charater work. Just genious!

Can't wait to watch 'Big Jake'.




Glad you like my posting style, Wolf (wink).




DZV
A movie is not a unique idea, a movie is a unique representation of an idea.

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DarkZenVoid: "Glad you like my posting style, Wolf (wink).

- It's true I copped it. But, hey, it works and it's clear.



Wolf
Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

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2. As one who lived through the time, I recall "Cool Hand Luke" being Paul Newman's more famous movie of 1967 than "Hombre." But over the years, I think "Hombre" has risen in estimation OVER "Cool Hand Luke." "Hombre" is, overall, a more suspenseful story, with some fine supporting stars for Newman (March, Boone, Cilento, Balsam) and a story which folks seem to remember years after "Cool Hand Luke's" rather tedious chain-gang tale has left our memories (despite that film's great line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate.") They are BOTH good movies, and Newman is fine in both of them (his Oscar nomination that year was for "Luke"), but I think "Hombre" has better stood the test of time.

Time changes things. (As did cable TV, video, and DVD, which got "Hombre" into better circulation.)


Form what I've gathered, here on the IMDb boards and elsewhere, Cool Hand Luke remains the far more iconic and memorable film. But ecarle, perhaps you know people (aside from yourself) who saw both movies back in 1967 and have remembered Hombre better? Overall, I do think that Newman's work is a little more impressive and disciplined in Hombre.

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WolfishHeart et al.
The first part of your statement was correct and insightful.
BUT, saying Russell "put too much faith in the kid" is not correct.
He couldn't get a shot off because Mrs. Favor was in the way after Russell cut her loose.
As she was slowly climbing up the steps "The Kid" was pleading "please get out of the way!" to get a shot at the Mexican Bandit. He would have shot him if he could.

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2. joekidd, to debate just a little with you (because I've viewed some scenes recently), I think that Newman does offer some responsive potential to Cilento of a romantic nature.

It's primarily in the dialogue just before the stage is held up; Newman and Cilento are walking up the hill with Boone (slyly) right behind them. The two exchange dialogue about Cilento "fixing dinner" for Newman, and then NEWMAN says something like "breakfast would be fine" -- which strikes me as Newman making somewhat of a positive response to Cilento's pass. (Having breakfast at someone's home used to be a code phrase for "spending the night together" in older movies.) At this precise moment, the bad guys appear and Boone grabs Newman's pistol from his holster, and the romantic possiblities are over. Except that Newman did teasingly say earlier about not clearing his throat when Cilento was disrobing "My heart was in it" (Russell is capable of a few nicely-crafted Leonard one-liners), and, I believe, exchanges a little romantic dialogue with Cilento at night alone on the desert.

It's not enough to break through to "true romance," but it DOES suggest that John Russell, in the right time and the right place -- and with the right woman (and the brave, moral Cilento could be that woman) -- would be a relatively romantic guy. This is probably in the movie to suggest that the "alpha male" here is a sexual male, under the right circumstances.


I've recently re-watched the scenes in question myself on the DVD, and I'd say that such responses that Russell offers are merely ironic and acerbic. For example, in that scene where Jessie and Russell are walking up the hill with Grimes trailing them, Jessie talks about how she'd like to marry a rich old man and just relax, allowing servants to cook and clean instead. Russell then says, "Glad to buy you dinner," but he says it with flat, ironic self-consciousness, almost as if he's stating the line because that's what a leading man (or a man of any kind) is supposed to do in such a situation. Indeed, he almost says the line as if he's asking a question or speaking against his will. His line, "Breakfast would be fine" is intoned with similarly flat and ironic self-consciousness. There's an incongruity between the tone of voice that Newman employs and the lines themselves, as if there's something off-kilter at work. In potentially romantic situations, sometimes a response is actually a sign of unresponsiveness and feigned or jested interest. Subtle sarcasm marks Russell's tone in the scene where Jessie starts to undress ("My heart was in it"), and in the desert dusk conversation, where Russell certainly seems to be speaking with acerbic jest. His flat wisecrack, "You asking for a demonstration?" to Jessie is a perfect example of his romantically austere attitude, which might be labeled "unresponsive responsiveness." Instead of suggesting that John Russell, in the right circumstances, could be a "relatively romantic guy," these exchanges, in my eyes, indicate his self-conscious irony. Indeed, he recognizes the incongruity between his misanthropic essence and his perfunctory potential for romance. To me, Russell is fundamentally anti-romantic in character and spirit, and as a result, he mutes the potential restoration of the heterosexual couple.

Also keep in mind that after the stagecoach robbery and shooting, Russell abandons the entire crew of passengers, including Jessie. He doesn't take her by the hand, but instead walks away from her, too.


3. As to Russell going down that hill. Mainly, its ambiguous and open to question -- which makes "Hombre" a movie one can take seriously. But consider this:

On their first meeting at the beginning, Newman is in his "maximum cold" mode with Cilento. He asserts that he can sell the boarding house Cilento runs, and asks her if the old man who willed the building to Newman made provision for her in his will. Cilento says "no." Newman responds: "Then I have no responsibility for you at all."

Comes the very end of the movie, Newman realizes that Cilento WILL go down that hill and -- whatever my personal doubts about Boone's plans -- is sure that she will die. Personally, I think even as nihilistic a hero as John Russell (if played by movie star Paul Newman), would not willingly send a woman to her death. Cilento has been goading people to do the right thing all through the movie; now she will DO the right thing. Russell realizes that this one woman has moved him to take a stand that he would otherwise never take. He takes a stand for HER.

Russell -- who, in Newman's performance, always retains a little of Newman's then-trademark wise-guyism -- is fatalistic about what he must do, but he at least tries to even the odds by giving the kid orders to shoot the Mexican. Indeed, in the final gunfight, what's sad is that you can see that Newman's gunfighting strategy is to take out Boone first (he does easily), hoping that the kid will take out the Mexican. The kid can't -- and Newman still manages to mortally wound the Mexican before being mortally wounded himself by the Mexican. In short, Newman's final gunfight was not a suicidal one.


Russell's decision to stride down that hill may not have been ostensibly suicidal, but inside, I'm sure that he recognized its potentially suicidal nature. Yes, he instructs the kid, but deep down, he has to know that this callow, cowardly, inexperienced youth probably won't be able to pull off the action. At best, he's hoping against hope.

I agree that there's some nobility in Russell's final act, but I believe that he's going down the hill in spite of Jessie rather than for her. He knows that despite her intentions, she's too feckless to successfully complete the transaction, and that as the alpha-male, "A man's got to do what a man's got to do." This woman is too weak for the job, as are the rest of the individuals. It's true that Russell doesn't want to send Jessie to her death, but it's also true that he's acting out of spite and contempt for white society and its corrupt cowardice. And while Jessie may be neither corrupt nor cowardly, she is a member of that deplorable white society.

Hombre is an uncompromising film, and I don't believe that it would suddenly swerve towards nobility and romanticism at the last moment. In a sense, even John Russell's final, ostensibly heroic act is a reflection of misanthropy and Nietzchean disdain for the weaklings around him.

ecarle, I was wondering why you felt that the stagecoach shootout was so poorly handled. Was the visual construction too simple and the editing too quick in your eyes, or was the timing off?

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ecarle, I was wondering why you felt that the stagecoach shootout was so poorly handled. Was the visual construction too simple and the editing too quick in your eyes, or was the timing off?

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I may re-post this discussion as a separate topic, but as much as I very much like "Hombre," I've always felt that the handling of the shooting of Canary and Mitchell by Newman is a "case study" in how hard good action-filmmaking is. Or at least was. This was a botched job.

Martin Ritt did not come to "Hombre" with a record as a director of action. Frankly, "action movies" were generally looked down upon back then, as the province of B directors or Western/gangster genre specialists.

Consequently, the results on screen indicate that Ritt had some sort of "technical difficulties" in staging the shoot-out, with some things needing to be "handled in the lab" to make up for them.

It's not really a gunfight. In a nicely "pre-Eastwood" set-up, Newman's goal is to simply execute the two baddies with as little chance for them to fight back as possible -- though he does give Canary a nicely vengeful "heads up": "Let's go to Delgados and drink some Mescal." Canary realizes who Newman is now, and dies knowing it.

Anyway, what's bad:

Canary's death: a close-up of Canary's face, with "animated blood" splashed indiscriminately onto a few frames of film. I'm all for expressionism, but this simply looks like red paint landing on the frame and not on Canary's face or neck at all.

Mitchell's death: Here, Ritt evidently didn't have full coverage of Mitchell riding up to get shot. The film turns blurry and grainy, because a wide or medium shot has been "blown up" in the lab to "fake" a close-up. Perhaps because of this lab work, the shot is "sped up" so that Mitchell falls off his horse with comical "superspeed." (Ritt is unclear as well on something he reveals later: Newman shot Mitchell's HORSE to death with the same rapid gunfire.)

These shootings unfortunately drew laughter in the theater, especially Mitchell's slapstick superfast falldown.

Given how well Ritt handles the later brief gunbattles (Balsam and Newman vs. the Mexican; Newman vs. Boone and the Mexican), I can only imagine that something went wrong with the time available for preparation for this shooting of Canary and Mitchell. One thing that is noticable: the two victims are both on horseback, and Ritt has trouble properly framing the shots "above the horses."

I think it was Howard Hawks who said, "staging a gunfight realistically is real hard to do." Modernly,we've raised a Devil's Army of directors who can handle gun action expertly. Martin Ritt was not one of them back then.

No matter. "Hombre" is still a great film even with this 20-second flaw.



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It's true that Russell doesn't want to send Jessie to her death, but it's also true that he's acting out of spite and contempt for white society and its corrupt cowardice. And while Jessie may be neither corrupt nor cowardly, she is a member of that deplorable white society.

Hombre is an uncompromising film, and I don't believe that it would suddenly swerve towards nobility and romanticism at the last moment. In a sense, even John Russell's final, ostensibly heroic act is a reflection of misanthropy and Nietzchean disdain for the weaklings around him.

---

I would tend to agree with all of that -- even as I still think the movie "plays it both ways" as to the efficacy of Russell's plan for dealing with Grimes.

Even in his first appearance when he threatened the Army officer with death over his stagecoach ticket, Grimes seemed to be acting like a guy who knows when and how to negotiate a situation. (In short, I don't think Grimes thought the Army guy would ever draw on him -- he just wanted to get the ticket.)

What's also interesting in the "lesson" of "Hombre" (not that there is just one), is the ultimate outcome of the character of Jessie.

All through the movie, Jessie stands for doing what's right, and, as I said, she "goads" others to do it. But Jessie knows she's a woman, she can get away with hassling Grimes (on the stagecoach) and Russell without too much consequence.

Near the end, Jessie screws up (maybe) when she leads Dr. Favor to the water and he is therefore seen by Grimes' team. (The movie says: CLEARLY she screwed up -- Newman is angry with her -- but who's to say Grimes wouldn't have found the group minutes later, anyway?)

To some extent, Newman never sees Jessie as a woman CAPABLE of doing the right thing on her own -- she just nags others to -- but when she volunteers to go down that hill, I think Newman at least feels: "OK, she is willing to put herself on the line, now I have a decision to make."

And he makes it. And he dies -- as likely for all the uncompromising reasons that you've enumerated.

And Jessie is left -- I think -- with a lifetime of wondering: "Should I have shown Dr. Favor where the water was?" "Should I have forced Russell to take action when I said I'd go down the hill?"

Jessie is, in short, the "well meaning do-gooder" whose actions sometimes get good people killed. And that's another bittersweet lesson of "Hombre."

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To some extent, Newman never sees Jessie as a woman CAPABLE of doing the right thing on her own -- she just nags others to -- but when she volunteers to go down that hill, I think Newman at least feels: "OK, she is willing to put herself on the line, now I have a decision to make."


Yeah, that makes some sense.

Jessie is, in short, the "well meaning do-gooder" whose actions sometimes get good people killed.


A metaphor for Lyndon Johnson, perhaps? Well, maybe not ...

Still, your point recalls your earlier observation of a "liberal" movie featuring a "conservative" hero—not in his politics, but in his aesthetic approach to life.

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Now, my head hurts.
Think I'll drink some Mescal!
route661

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Now, my head hurts.
Think I'll drink some Mescal!


If one wanted to, one could create a Vietnam subtext out of Hombre. Consider the possibility that the stagecoach passengers are akin to the American "advisors" whom JFK ushered into Vietnam by the thousands in the early 1960s. They are ambushed by some wilderness "guerillas" (akin to the Viet Cong), who takes Mrs. Favor hostage (she serves as the South Vietnamese peasants caught in the crossfire). Then Jessie (LBJ) demands that the American military (John Russell) go down and rescue the peasants from the grip of the Viet Cong. Reluctantly, the soldier goes down into the quagmire and never makes it back.

Well, it's a flimsy possibility, but it's fun to think about, anyway.

PS: Diane Cilento is easier on the eyes than Lyndon Johnson.

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P.S. joekidd, the other night "Joe Kidd" was on my local cable channel. I watched a little of it, but I don't intend to post on it (or "High Plains Drifter") with you around until I see them all the way through.

However, "Joe Kidd" was, like "Hombre," ALSO from an Elmore Leonard novel, and though the movie was a more lackadaiscal affair than "Hombre" (it seemed to me), Eastwood in the early scenes I saw seemed to be playing a much more "laid back" version of Newman's John Russell. Joe doesn't much want to get involved in the fight, but eventually, has to. That's on the basis of only a few scenes. I liked one where a posse leader wants Eastwood to join up, and says "What're you doing?" and Eastwood responds "14 days, at your your request," referencing jail time that prevents him from joining the posse. Funny moment (and I liked Eastwood's derby hat in this scene.)


Yeah, earlier I was going to mention the similarities between Hombre (Martin Ritt, 1967) and Joe Kidd (John Sturges, 1972), each originating from Elmore Leonard source material (a novel in the former case and an original screenplay in the latter). Both films posit disinterested loners into the middle of a violent conflict and force them to take up sides when they don't really want to and defend a group of people whom they have no vested interest in. The difference is that in Joe Kidd, Eastwood's Kidd, unlike Newman's Russell in Hombre, is not contemptuous of the people whom he winds up leading (the Mexican-Americans in this case). But like Hombre, Joe Kidd concerns itself with racial injustice and corruption from the white ruling class towards a repressed native minority population. Here's what longtime Village Voice critic J. Hoberman has to say in his The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties (2003), page 376:

In his prior film, Joe Kidd, released during the campaign summer of 1972, the star had played an insolent, inner-directed gunsligner who, although employed by a brutal white establishment, is ultimately radicalized—coming to identify with the local Mexicans as their one-man avenger. It is as though the Dirty Cowboy were attempting to assimilate the lesson of Billy Jack. In effect, Eastwood cast himself as a fantasy RFK, a tribune for Chicanos as well as hard hats. The internal Third World still smoldered.


I wouldn't call Joe Kidd lackadaisical—it's certainly a tenser, tauter, more focused work than many of John Wayne's late Westerns, which really are lackadaisical—but it's certainly less austere and grave than Hombre. It's a more relaxed film with an aural, liberated, almost dream-like quality. Of course, it also lacks Hombre's profundity and bitter edge. But combine the main atmospheric streams of Hombre and Joe Kidd and you have Eastwood's self-directed and jaw-dropping High Plains Drifter (1973), which fully takes the Western towards brutal surrealism.

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I thought my head hurt before.
This is taking it to a new level.
BUT, one thing.
You peeps know what yer talking about.
Something about the soundtrack too.
Not award-winning, but its just there.
More Mescal.

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Take two aspirins and drink up at Delgado's on us...surely you triggered something, didn't ya? Thanks.

A good movie like "Hombre" -- where the story means something, affects the viewer emotionally at the end, and leaves us with a few questions -- does have that tendency to drive a good discussion, don't ya think?

Hell, I'm sitting here wondering why "Hombre" didn't win Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay and Director of 1967!

Oh, yeah: Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner...

...but "Hombre" was just as good in its own way.

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Did someone say, "...Mescal at Delgado's?" Oh man! I'm there! Does he have a ATM? I'm a little light right now....

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It's a tossup.
"Cool Hand Luke" vs "Hombre".
I'll go with "Hombre" for one reason only.
Not that many people have seen the flick.
There it is.
More Mescal.

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Cody, I'll buy at Delgados.
First round of Mescal is on me, for all my "Hombre" fans.

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Good man! I'll buy the next round when that guy Favor pays me for the cattle he bought from me!

CmdrCody

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joe...this thread is interesting...ive always loved westerns...actually i think hombre is one of, if not the best, western ever made...but i can see how a lot of people (both older & younger than me) might not give it its due as a western...may not even think of it as a western...growing up in the fifties/early sixties a western, for me anyway, was defined by what was on television...the lone ranger...maverick...rawhide...cheyenne/bronco lane...the cisco kid!!!..."ooohh pancho...ooohh cisco"...and hombre was certainly not that...but the tv western that stood out in my opinion was have gun will travel...it was always my favourite...richard boone...guy was mesmerizing...i hadnt seen it since then til a couple of years ago & then cable started showing it back to back with wanted dead or alive...have gun will travel still stands up...mainly because of boone (scripts werent bad for the time either)...and the guy definitely didnt look or act like the lone ranger or bret maverick...i think the scenes that richard boone has in hombre are some of the most quietly menacing/riveting scenes youre ever gonna see...the ticket scene...dont remember it exactly...but in my mind's eye it is perfect...as for somebody else playing john russell??...charles bronson?...brando?...cant really see that...script however may be good enough that it wouldnt matter that much who played who...i could see the movie made with boone as russell & newman as grimes...and joe, i think the grimes character could be considered as much an existentialist as russell...maybe even more so...and the hud/hombre/cool hand luke thing...saw cool hand luke and hud a couple of months ago...both for the first time in about 20 years...again, just my opinion but i think hombre is the best of the three with hud close behind (id forgotten how good that movie was)...and clint eastwood?...i saw the 3 leone ones when they came out & i liked fistfull of dollars the best...thought for a few dollars more wasnt bad...but i didnt think much of the good the bad & the ugly...maybe because i only paid 25 cents to see the first two but good/bad/ugly cost 65 or 75??...but i do like eastwood...bird & rawhide stand out

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Ran into a guy at the Rio (Las Vegas) pool a couple of years ago.
He said he was a star in a TV show called "The Big Country".
Only ran for a couple of seasons in the fiftys/early sixtys.
Anybody remember that show?
route661

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only big country i can think of was the gregory peck movie in the fifties...there was a pretty bad western called the big valley with barbara stanwyck in the mid-sixties...sorry, maybe somebody else might remember it though

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I think you're right True.
It was "The Big Valley".
Ah poop, did I screw that up?
Whatever.
Geeze. Musta been the mid sixties, before cable and all....
route661

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joekiddlouischama, you make some excellent points, except for this:

The spaghetti westerns weren't released in the U.S. by the time the film was written then filmed. THey didn't hit the states until '67, the year HOMBRE came out.

The spaghetti Westerns are based on Kurosawa's YOJIMBO and SANJURO, and John Russell has to be seen as related to Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the Bodyguard of those two Kurosawa classics. In both, Sanjuro goes to a "shootout" and prevails (one a melee, the other a ritualized stand off, kind of like the one in HOMBRE). Sanjuro prevailed in both and John Russell didn't walk down there to die. He expected the kid to get off the shot.

He should never have untied Mrs. Favor, but he didn't want her to get killed in the gunfight.

He had already wounded both Boone and Silvera's characters (he would have needed to reload his ammo with hotter loads if he had lived). He had a chance. It was the Mexican bandit, his doppleganger (double), who killed him. As the kid didn't get off the shot.

One thing, joekidd, you missed with your very right-on analysis of EXISTENIALISM is that John Russell was Albert Camus's Sissyphus. The rock ahd rolled down, but he was expecting to go back up the hill, with a smile (pushing the rock back up, the rock being his war against The White Man).

-----------------------------------------------
"Why do people always laugh in the wrong places?"
--Simone de Beauvoir

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NONONONONO
There was no water at the abandoned mine.
Witness Dr. Favor's attempt at the pump.

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Toward the end of the movie...Dr. Favor at the pump. He's directed to the water bag which is in a nearby shed. Why did John Russell's party decide that was a good place to keep the H2O, since they were holed up in the upstairs office?

Ideas?

CmdrCody

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Well Cody.
There is no such thing as a "perfect movie."
Outside of "Chinatown".
That, to me, was as perfect as you can get.
But I digress...
Did did it make any sense to put the water in the shed? No.
As a "fallback position" it might have made some sense.
You might as well ask how Dr. Favor (Fredrick March) stumbled on to the exact same place everyone else did.
"You have put a hole in me! HAHAHA!"

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661: Thanks. I was worried that I'd missed something big in the plot....like Mrs. Favor making secret off-screen plans with the unsavory Mr. Grimes.

CmdrCody

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Well CmdrCody
I'm thinking about it.
Can't you smell the wood burning?
There is a thing, at the beginning of the movie, where Cicero Grimes (Boone) is bound and determined to get on the stage, even going as far out to call the soldier out.
"He would have helped you."
"I didn't feel like bleeding for him. If that's OK with you. Even if it's not OK with you."
Is that OK with you?
Even if it's not.

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ecarle
If you were suggesting that Boone and the Bandit would try to storm a fortified defensive position almost straight uphill....
Well, you know better than that.
IF, on the other hand, they had the money, it's all over.
They had the horses, remember?

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I've been gone from here a long time...I forgot to check up.

Boone and the Bandit wouldn't storm the position to try to get the money. Agreed.

But if they got the money from Cilento, why would they kill Cilento and Rush?

It seems to me that Boone and the Bandit didn't have much chance of killing EVERYBODY up in that mining shack. Take the money, leave.

But you're saying, they'd take the money, take the horses, leave everybody to die of thirst?

All these months later, it remains murky to me, Newman's surety that Boone would kill Cilento and Rush. But then I'm sort of slow on these things.

All these months later, Hombre remains one of my favorite movies, too.

One possibility does occur: early on, when Boone is holding up the stage, Balsam (stupidly, I thought) says Boone won't get away with it, because "there are witnesses." Boone says something funny like "I don't see any witnesses."

If Boone IS now worried about witnesses, I guess he would kill Rush, Cilento, everybody he can.

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What IS the matter with you guys? John Russell 'inhuman'? He owes white folks nothing, and yet, in good liberal story-telling tradition (albeit earned in this film by some admirable sternness) he is finally unable to square his conscience with letting a white woman –– one he understandably loathes – die. But you, who have hitherto declared Russell interested only in self-preservation (and the Apache cause) now have to attribute this to... what? A death wish! On the part of an 'existentialist' motivated by, er, self-preservation. Look. It's an old-fashioned liberal heroic movie - and a fine one - with a traditional 'unbending' hero-with-a-grievance who is finally forced to trade in his grudge for his innately noble self (don't you get ANYTHING? –– this nobility is what is ultimately less eroded in the oppressed than the oppressor). This is a thoroughly conventional form, well rendered here. Where have you guys been doing your living/movie viewing? In a film class?

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Terrific analysis!

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"Why do people always laugh in the wrong places?"
--Charles Champlin

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CmdrCody: "Toward the end of the movie...Dr. Favor at the pump. He's directed to the water bag which is in a nearby shed. Why did John Russell's party decide that was a good place to keep the H2O, since they were holed up in the upstairs office?

Ideas?
"

-Maybe it was the water that Billy left behind. Remember Hombre telling Billy that Mendez would skin him for it?


A movie is not a unique idea, a movie is a unique representation of an idea.

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An intriguing possibility, that.

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Briefly, EC (for a change): I haven't seen Hombre in ages. It is an excellent film, seems to get better with time, yet so far as the character of John Russell is concerned, I can't separate him in my mind from the actor who plays him. It's always Paul Newman to me. Better than usual, yet had someone less, shall we say, pretty than Newman, Charles Bronson, for instance, played Russell, wouldn't it be a different movie altogether? Even if they made it exactly the same, it would be a different picture, and maybe,--just a guess--a different discussion of the Russell character. Food for thought or just a thought?

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Hello, telegonus.

This was a pretty detailed, at times intense thread, on a pretty good movie. As you can see, I CAN talk about other movies. Joekidd was a most detailed writer, route661 was a wry saddle buddy, others were great,and we explored the issues of John Russell's character pretty well here.

As to Newman's casting, there are interesting aspects to it.

Charles Bronson might have made more sense, but in 1967, Bronson wasn't "bankable" as a leading man in an American movie. He was still a name or two down -- in "The Dirty Dozen" of that year, he had to yield to Lee Marvin.
Clint Eastwood was just breaking through with his Spaghetti Westerns.

John Russell is a "white man raised by Indians" so he didn't have to be particularly ethnic. Newman's friendly rival Steve McQueen could have played this role -- he had played a half-breed in "Nevada Smith."

I had/have some misgivings about Paul Newman's work in this film. It seems to me like Newman had to "try" at generating the kind of laconic cool that just came natural to Steve McQueen. Newman, through much of the sixties at least, was a bit of a wise-guy and a mugger, sometimes to his detriment, though sometimes in perfect accord with the character. One feels Newman "tamping down on his natural personality" as John Russell. But here's the thing: he's very good in the part, he works in this new cooled-down state, and, occasionally, the wise guy DOES show up here.

(Note in passing: the movie got poor reviews, but Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" of 1966 found Hitchocck going to great pains to "knock the wise-guy mugging" out of Newman. I think Newman came to "Hombre", his first movie after "Torn Curtain," with Hitchcock's lessons learned.)

What's most important is that "Hombre" was from the same writers and directors of one of Newman's biggest hits -- "Hud" of 1963. That team came to Newman with "Hombre" as a follow-up to "Hud," and, indeed, it was intended as a " Paul Newman vehicle" from the start. I'm not sure what John Russell looked like in Elmore Leonard's novel, but he is clearly Paul Newman in the movie. ("Hud" was from a novel by Larry McMurty of "Last Picture Show" fame; Leonard is now a living legend -- these were great works to base movies on.l)

Funny thing: at the time of release, for some reason the critics felt that "Hombre" was not up to the class of "Hud." Too melodramatic or something like that.

But year after year, "Hombre" grew in stature in Newman's career; its fans are legion, we can quote it line for line.

And when Paul Newman died a couple of years ago, "Hombre" was invariably mentioned as among his best films, along with the usual suspects like The Hustler and Hud and Butch Cassidy.

We got it there!

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Time for a bump.

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And over two years later, time for one more.

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I watched Hombre a couple of nights ago after seeing it many years ago. This entire analytical, substantial thread is why the IMDb people are insane. This has been a joy to read.

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