This movie was much better than I expected, in that it has some real human beings dealing with some genuinely touching issues, mainly about honesty. Hondo is primarily a character study, focusing on John Wayne, Geraldine Page, and an Apache war chief, and their bizarre triangle of friendship and honor during the Indian wars. Hondo is one of the Duke's most macho roles - he's tougher and more unbending than I've ever seen him before. Countering this is Page's terrible performance in a typically sexist role for a 1950's western ("A woman should know how to cook," booms the Duke like a commandment). As their love grows, they argue about honesty... Wayne in typical Duke-ish fashion refuses to tell even a white lie. Yet, in the end, 3 lies are told, one to save Wayne's life, one to save their love, and another to prevent Page's son from growing up with the true knowledge of his scoundrel father (which we today know is a bad idea). Still, Hondo's unbending honesty also saves their lives from the Apaches, so we are left with a well-rounded, *adult* view of honesty that still holds its relevance today.
I'm not sure why people complain about "realism" in these old movies - the Duke shoes his own horses right on film, no detail missed, as if he'd been doing it for years. You'd never see that from an actor today! The Apache indians are all played by Apache indians (including the leading roles) and their characters are all faithful to history. Perhaps our modern "notion" of realism has changed. The film has that washed-out nostalgic look in its coloring, but that was due to the technology of the time. Of course, bad actors from the 1950's all seem to perform with the same annoying pace and vocal style, but I'm sure our modern equivallents will become apparent in 50 years, too. A fine Wayne film.