Wednesday, December 24, 2014

3 Godfathers Review

3 Godfathers (1948)
Dir. John Ford
Starring: John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond

John Ford retells the story of the 3 wise men in a western setting in this film, about 3 cowhands turned bandits who come across a dying woman that entrusts them with care of her newborn child.

John Ford's 3 Godfathers is an interesting film. On the surface, it's a loose retelling of the story of the biblical story of the 3 magi that visited the newborn Christ, but it also is different enough that it stands on its own as its own story. There are some points where it does get a little heavy handed with it, but not too bad to the point of distraction. There's a lot of humor to the film, from the extreme cases of bad luck that the three men encounter prior to meeting the child, and the scene where they discuss how to deal with a baby is very funny. The scene where the 3 bandits first encounter Sheriff Pearly "Buck" Sweet (Bond) is also funny, and one of the more interesting things about the movie is that while Sweet and Hightower (Wayne) are adversaries, Sweet has a sense of admiration and respect for Hightower.

John Wayne gets a lot of criticism for being one dimensional, but I kind of disagree with that. I think he was smart about choosing parts that played to his strengths, but I can't watch him in scenes like the one where he describes the events that happened to destroy Terrapin Tanks and not think that he had some acting chops. He plays this scene with a feeling of anger and disgust that really impressed me during this viewing.

This film was shot in Death Valley, rather than Monument Valley like most of Ford's other westerns. This gives the film an entirely different feel, in a good way. The barren land adds to the desperate situation that the 3 leads find themselves in. There's not a lot of action in the film, mainly just one scene at the opening where they rob the bank and escape the town, other than that most of the film is the three men and the baby crossing the desert. This is a film that works due to the abilities and chemistry between the actors in the film. Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey Jr really worked well together, and their scenes have a real sense of fun to them, as do the scenes where Ward Bond's sheriff and his deputy Curley, played by Hank Worden, chase after them. The film flies by and it's one of those cases where it's fine the way that it is but you still wish that you had more time with the characters.

This is the best western that you could watch during the holiday season. It's a fun film that has a bit of everything, action, comedy, and some great performances. Go watch it.

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