Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.
Sentimental and affecting piece from Ford. Having already made a version of the story in 1919 as Marked Men with Harry Carey, John Ford clearly had a kink for this delightful redemption parable. Opening with a touching tribute to his friend and mentor Carey, who had sadly passed away the previous year (and who also starred in the 1916 version of The Three Godfathers), it was also the first out and out Ford Western to be made in colour. The story tells of three outlaws - Robert Hightower (John Wayne), Pedro "Pete" Fuerte (Pedro Armendariz) and The Abilene Kid (Harry Carey Junior) - who after robbing a bank in the town of Welcome, are on the run from the law led posse. After hitting problems in a desert sandstorm, the men struggle on to Terrapin Tanks, where they happen across a woman in labour. Giving birth to her child, but sadly on her death bed, the woman begs the men to take care of her baby. They agree and embark on a perilous journey to get the child safely to "New Jerusalem"... It's an odd sort of Western, but in a good way. Backed up by the usual high standard of location work from Ford and the irrepressible Winton Hoch. And with customary staunch support work from Ward Bond as the Sheriff, 3 Godfathers is a must see in relation to the careers of John Ford and John Wayne. It has a mixed reputation from fans of the two Johns, which is understandable given the flighty nature of the picture, but one thing that is true about the piece is that once viewed, it's unlikely to be forgotten. 7/10
It's interesting that Harry Carey was in the first version of this film made in 1916 and now his son takes on the role as the injured "kid" alongside John Wayne's "Robert" and Pedro Armendàriz as "Pedro". These three are outlaws whose one last hit goes a bit awry. Now with the shrewd sheriff "Buck" (Ward Bond) in hot pursuit, they must try to outwit their pursuers before they run out of water. They do manage to steal a bit of a march and make it to a well, but the only water they discover is coming from the eyes of a heavily pregnant woman (Mildred Natwick) who promptly delivers them a godson. Still no better off, and with an added mouth to satiate, the three must now continue to evade capture and struggle on through the desert. It takes quite a while to get going, this, but once we have the established character dynamic then the story is actually quite a poignant story of loyalty and determination, decency and teamwork. Tragedy strikes on more then one occasion and yes, of course, it's very rarely a real baby being bounced around the terrain, but somehow the actors, Armendáriz in particular, manage to illicit quite a fair degree of sympathy as they trek through the dry and hostile wilderness. The last ten minutes didn't quite work for me, but then I don't suppose John Ford could actually have... The photography is grand and grim - that these men could survive the perils of the landscape at all is a feat all too well illustrated by the bleakness of their surroundings and there is an overall spirit of redemption at the conclusion that does raise a smile. Certainly one of the Duke's more considered efforts and well worth a watch.