Find That Film: 3 Godfathers

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It’s my fault. I just can’t seem to shake this cold. Plus, I didn’t feel like recording on my birthday while I coughed out a lung. Hopefully, I’ve managed to get it a little under control for the first of season five’s Christmas themed movies. Episode 13 rings in the 1948 John Ford 3 Godfathers. Note not just the year but the title and director as this film exists in many incarnations: some with similar names, some with similar actors, and some with a repeated director.

Three bank robbers flee across the desert but find themselves cornered and without water. They discover an abandoned wife in labor. The men vow to keep the baby safe as she uses her dying breath to proclaim them the child’s godfathers. Unsure of how to keep the child alive when they are barely doing so, they set off across the unforgiving terrain.

Being a John Ford production you can expect gorgeous lighting, breathtaking cinematography, and Victor McLag…sorry, not McLagen. Winton Hoch captures the technicolor wilds of “Arizona” so well you may need to keep a large glass of water nearby for refreshment. While the pacing is uneven, the visuals and performances will keep you glued to the screen.

You will enjoy an assortment of some of Ford’s favorite players. John Wayne stars as the lead bad guy. He’s rough and smart and totally unprepared for fatherhood. Pedro Armendariz seems to be the most useful of the trio and nearly steals the whole movie. Harry Carey Jr. fills the role of the younger rider who’s naiveté and earnestness keeps the men going. Ward Bond hunts the robbers, Mildred Natwick gives her all for five minutes, and Jane Darwell flirts and sasses better than anyone.

All in all this one works well as a Christmas parable: the three wise men, a baby boy, and star to guide them. Steel yourself for some pain but expect some comedy sprinkled throughout this heartwarming western of bad guys doing good. Find that film 3 Godfathers.

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