“Everybody gets dead. It was his turn.” – John Wayne in Hondo (1953),” posts the John Wayne Estate to Instagram Tuesday. Within, they include a fantastic shot of The Duke himself in character as the titular Hondo Lane.
It’s a tough-as-nails black-and-white photo that sets the tone immediately. Beyond it, fans need no introduction for Hondo, honestly, as it remains an absolute classic. But what sort of John Wayne fans would we be if we didn’t delve a little deeper into this fantastic Western? Check out the photo for yourself, courtesy of the John Wayne Estate, then we’ll get into one of the most fascinating stories from Hondo’s production below.
“My favorite quote from hondo was “man outta do what he thinks is best”,” comments fan Ryan. There’s quite a few excellent lines to be found in Hondo‘s screenplay – penned by James Edward Grant. Yet sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and that’s exactly the case when it comes to this classic.
How ‘Hondo’ Led to John Wayne Owning Lassie
How does such a thing come to be? It would only take one final, incredibly high-stakes poker game to do it. Within, John Wayne and Rudd Weatherwax, a prolific Hollywood dog trainer, would spar in the oft-ungentlemanly card game. Weatherwax’s male collie, Pal, was the original Lassie in 1943’s ‘Lassie Come Home.’
As Hondo fans will know, there’s a collie in the film, Sam. Sam meets a tragic end as an act of revenge against Wayne’s Hondo, which left many a young Western fan scarred for life.
To bring Sam to the screen, Rudd Weatherwax would provide the collie for Hondo. A gent by the name of Frank Inn trained Weatherwax’s collie to become Sam, and it is Inn himself who recalls the unbelievable poker game that led to it all – in striking detail.
‘Hondo’ was the name of the picture…’
“Hondo was the name of the picture,” Inn begins in an older Archive of American Television interview. “During that time, Rudd got in a poker game with John Wayne and it went [all the way]. Rudd had a beautiful hand, and he just knew he was going to win. But they had table stakes, and [Rudd] didn’t have the money in his pocket.”
Indeed, Rudd Weatherwax was a gambling man – much to his own detriment as we’ll find out. Weatherwax may have had full faith in his hand – but he never should’ve offered up what he did next.
“So John Wayne says, ‘Well look, you know you’re gonna win… Put your dog up,” Inn recalls of the striking deal. And that’s… Exactly what Rudd Weatherwax did.
“So they wrote out a deal there about Lassie and all the dogs in his kennel… And sure enough, John Wayne won,” Inn says with a smile.
What a tale. The full story is even more unbelievable – and a must read for all John Wayne fans.