Hondo has become one of John Wayne’s most beloved films over the decades. However, the Duke took issue with his leading lady’s dental state.
The classic film tells the story of Army scout Hondo Lane (played by Wayne) who stumbles upon an isolated homestead in Apache territory. The inhabitants, a woman named Angie (Geraldine Page), and her son, believe they are safe under the protection of a treaty with the Apaches.
However, Lane is aware that the treaty has been broken by the Army, triggering the Apaches’ thirst for revenge against settlers. As a scout for the US Army, Lane empathizes with the Apaches because of his previous marriage to a Native American woman and his five-year immersion in her culture. Now, torn between conflicting loyalties, Lane walks a delicate line.
According to reports, John Wayne preferred a talented and relatively unknown actress for the role of his love interest in Hondo. One actress who fit these criteria perfectly was Page. Although she had achieved some success on Broadway, her on-screen experience before being cast in Hondo was limited to a few television appearances and uncredited film roles.
The Issue John Wayne Had with His ‘Hondo’ Co-Star
However, upon her arrival on set, Wayne and Farrow were instantly taken aback by her appearance. Particularly her teeth. In John Wayne: American, authors Randy Roberts and James S. Olson wrote that her “teeth looked as if she had already spent a lifetime on some frontier where toothpaste and dentists were unknown.”
This could have been fine on stage, with the audience far away. However, it wouldn’t work with her image blown up for the big screen. Wayne and Farrow forced Page to see a dentist, “who crammed twenty years of dental work into three days — cleaning, picking, filling, pulling, and capping away until Page’s mouth could stand the scrutiny of a zoom lens.”
Page’s costar found her teeth repulsive. However, that was not the only aspect of her that bothered the cast and crew. Witnesses claimed that she would eat mashed potatoes and gravy with her fingers. There were even reports that she refused to bathe while on set.
There May Have Been a Reason for Page’s On Set Behavior
However, there might have been a method behind her apparent madness. She was famously known as a method actor, a topic she extensively discussed in interviews. Her dedication to her craft drove her to explore the depths of her characters’ minds, seeking true understanding. Opting for infrequent bathing and eating with her hands embodied the life of a pioneer enduring a challenging existence in a harsh desert. If this behavior distanced her from colleagues, it was the price for her unique technique.
Despite John Wayne’s disgust with her dental state on Hondo, Page was a hit in the film. Page received the film’s sole official Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Throughout her illustrious career, which spanned until her passing in 1987, Page achieved great success. She earned multiple nominations for prestigious awards such as the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony. Notably, she won an Oscar for her performance in 1985’s The Trip to Bountiful.
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