Year – 1967
Decade – 1960s
Cinematographer – James Wong Howe (imdb credits)
Director – Martin Ritt (imdb credits)
Aspect Ratio – 2.40
Distributor – 20th Century Fox
Genre – Western
Lenses – Anamorphic
Format – 35mm
Other Key Words:
Click on any link to view other films featuring frames from that category.
“What do you figure your (tombstone) is going to read?” – Jessie (played by Diane Cilento)
“Shot dead, probably.” – John Russell (played by Paul Newman)
“Don’t people like you, Mr. Russell?”
“Only takes one who doesn’t.”
Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, Hombre stars Paul Newman as a misanthropic white man raised by Apaches who reluctantly helps his fellow stagecoach passengers after they’re held up and stranded in the desert. The movie was a significant hit when first released, but its reputation now is minimal compared to its more stylish contemporaries. It’s one of my favorite westerns and is ripe for rediscovery.
1967 was a year of sea change for the industry, documented wonderfully in Mark Harris’ book Pictures at a Revolution. All three of the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone “Dollar trilogy” Spaghetti Westerns hit U.S. theaters that year. The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid followed in 1969. Hombre is certainly not a dustily antiquated 1950s-style oater. It’s morally ambiguous, subverts genre conventions in interesting ways, and features tersely poetic Elmore Leonard dialogue. But aesthetically it was out of step with an era of Westerns differentiated by snap zooms, slow-motion bloodshed, and anachronistic pop songs. In Hombre, the great James Wong Howe (Hud, Seconds) never moves the camera unless there’s a functional reason. The beauty of Howe’s work here is entirely in the lighting and composition. There is no flourish or excess, only invisible craft.
Groups of Frames
(Below) A minute-plus tracking shot up a hill. The shot begins with multiple stagecoach passengers in frame, but eventually characters walk past the camera and it settles into a medium shot of Newman and Cilento. When they reach the top of the hill, both actors stop and react – we then cut to their point of view of the bandits awaiting them.
(Below) A camera move used to reveal information in the background as a parched Fredric March, playing an unscrupulous Indian agent, greedily gulps down water. The shot begins with the camera dollying back as March approaches a water bag and then panning left as he begins to drink. As the camera pans we see the stagecoach robbers, led by Richard Boone, approaching over the hill in the far distance.
Location – Stagecoach
Scene Breakdowns (SPOILERS)
Be forewarned, the following frames reveal the film’s ending. Below is a shot-by-shot breakdown of Hombre’s climactic shootout. Newman and the stagecoach passengers are holed up in a shack atop a hill and Boone and his bandits wait for them below, with one of the passengers tied in the hot sun as trade bait in exchange for a saddle bag of stolen money.
Scene length – 4 minutes and 12 seconds
Total shots – 35
Average Shot Length – 7.2 seconds