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Author Topic: The Three Godfathers (1948)  (Read 9216 times)
cigar joe
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« on: December 23, 2006, 02:13:14 PM »

I just watched this on TCM didn't even know that it was coming on and glad I did.

This is the first time I ever saw this film all the way through, before I've only caught snippets of it here and there as I flipped through the channels.

I have to honestly say run don't walk down to your nearest video retailer and get the DVD. There is really nothing not to like about this film, and its even got a tie in to Christmas!

Directed by John Ford as a remake of his silent film "The Marked Men" (1919) which had already been made twice before the 1919 version, lol. It was also John Ford's first technicolor film and its somewhat unique in that it actually doesn't use Monument Valley as its location.

It stars a lot of Ford's stable of actors, John Wayne, Harry Carry Jr., Ward Bond, Hank Worden, Ben Johnson, and actor Pedro Armendáriz who is just great in the role of one of the title's godfathers, Wayne & Carry Jr. being the others.

This film is now up there with "The Searchers" as my favorite Ford film. It doesn't have that "knock you over the head civics lesson" sermonizing that a lot of Fords films have, its got a little bit of schmaltz and melodrama in very small dolops that you can swallow & which is ok.

But don't get this expecting showdown gunfights, there aren't any, and the film still works.

Basically the story line: Three men ride into the town of Welcome, Arizona to rob its bank. In the process Carry Jr. is wounded in the shoulder and looses his horse as they ride out of town into the desert, pursued by Sheriff Sweet (Bond) and posse members that include actors Worden and Johnson.

Sweet shoots the gangs water bag, that they don't discover until they are way out in the desert so they have to make for water. Sweet knows this and hops a train with the posse to the nearest water tank.

The gang foiled in their quest for water must make for another water hole to the north there they become the "three godfathers" of the title, I wont give any more away.

This film definitley had to have made an impression on Leone. Two things stood out for me, the first is the whole film is composed of some of the best scenery I've in a Western, scenery that will recall to you vividly Tuco & Blondie in the desert, this was shot in Death Valley, Lone Pine and the Mojave Desert, all fantastic locations, it will remind you also of Yellow Sky (too bad that film wasn't shot in color). The film takes place almost all in the desert. Its like GBU in that it becomes more than just a Western, you'll see what I mean.

The second thing that stood out is the great performance of Pedro Armendáriz what a great Mexican Actor who should have been a main character in a lot of Westerns, whats up with that, not only will he remind you a bit of a "nice" Tuco but it even looks like he's wearing Tuco's hat (the one he gets from the gunsmith), or vice versa lol.

The town sets are again spot on, and there is some  great steam locomotive footage, all in all a beautiful and enjoyable film.


« Last Edit: January 22, 2008, 07:09:48 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2006, 02:19:53 PM »

A wonderful film, I love the title card at the begining of the film "An early star in the Western Sky" regarding Harry Carry. A film to melt the heart

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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2006, 02:26:12 PM »

Yea LA, there was a great intro on TCM explaining about Harry Carry dying the year before it was filmed from cancer. A very cool tribute.

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« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2006, 08:58:16 PM »

Again just can't stress it enough, the visuals were just fantastic, in this film the landscape is the forth main character.

All of those locations are golden, there still out there and can be used in Westerns.

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« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2006, 09:19:05 PM »

Bought it for $10.99 at best buy. I have a few films to flip through before I get to this though.

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« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2006, 05:17:56 AM »

When you do just sit back and just wallow in the surrealistic scenery of Death Valley, Lone Pine & the Mojave Desert, well Merry Christmas & enjoy when you can.

« Last Edit: December 24, 2006, 05:47:16 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2006, 06:39:44 PM »

I loved 3 Godfathers. I saw this about a year ago and fell in love with it for the same exact reasons CJ pointed out.

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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2006, 09:51:27 PM »

I watched this on Christmas Morning, and boy it was good! I loved it!

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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2006, 03:19:53 PM »


This film definitley had to have made an impression on Leone. Two things stood out for me, the first is the whole film is composed of some of the best scenery I've in a Western, scenery that will recall to you vividly Tuco & Blondie in the desert, this was shot in Death Valley, Lone Pine and the Mojave Desert, all fantastic locations, it will remind you also of Yellow Sky (too bad that film wasn't shot in color). The film takes place almost all in the desert. Its like GBU in that it becomes more than just a Western, you'll see what I mean.

The second thing that stood out is the great performance of Pedro Armendáriz what a great Mexican Actor who should have been a main character in a lot of Westerns, whats up with that, not only will he remind you a bit of a "nice" Tuco but it even looks like he's wearing Tuco's hat (the one he gets from the gunsmith), or vice versa lol.

The town sets are again spot on, and there is some  great steam locomotive footage, all in all a beautiful and enjoyable film.
Your remarks have piqued my interest, CJ. I'll have to get my DVD copy out of the Ford-Wayne boxset and give it another chance.

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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2006, 04:56:49 PM »

Its basically a veiled Christmas story but it doesn't hit you over the head sermonizing like some later Ford/Wayne collaborations, it just sweeps you up in the story, it covers a lot of good practical desert travel knowhow (like how to get water out of a cactus, etc.,)it's a good film.

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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2007, 04:02:31 PM »


This film definitley had to have made an impression on Leone. Two things stood out for me, the first is the whole film is composed of some of the best scenery I've in a Western, scenery that will recall to you vividly Tuco & Blondie in the desert, this was shot in Death Valley, Lone Pine and the Mojave Desert, all fantastic locations, it will remind you also of Yellow Sky (too bad that film wasn't shot in color). The film takes place almost all in the desert. Its like GBU in that it becomes more than just a Western, you'll see what I mean.

Rewatched this last night and I gotta agree, CJ, 3Gs is visually very impressive. Hoch was quite a cinematographer (he also shot She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers), and he really excelled with exteriors in color. And the great thing about 3Gs is that it is 95% filmed on location (the town where the bank is robbed is obviously back lot, the scene in the wagon with the dying mother must be studio work, but what else?). The wind in the desert provides a memorable motif; you are right, CJ, to mention Leone in this connection, but what about Lean? It probably impressed him as well.

I really liked the first 40 minutes of the story. After they find the kid, though, Ford puts on the kid gloves and everything goes soft. I wouldn't have minded this too much, (it is a Christmas movie, after all) but things just keep getting dumber and dumber, to the point where the Duke is actually saved by a miracle. And that ending: ugh, ugh, ugh.

But those desert scenes stay in the memory. Yes, I'll be watching this one again......

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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2007, 03:48:22 AM »

Yea it does get pretty shmaltzy (Cheezy) at the end, but I let it slide, it is a Christmas story, I do like the part when JW stumbles into the Christmas party in the saloon, that was very well done & memorable.

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« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2007, 04:37:31 PM »

Agreed. Lots of nice touches in the film ("meeting cute" with Ward Bond at the beginning; the gambit/counter-gambit moves between Bond and Wayne; the "story of Terrapin Tanks" as declaimed by the Duke; the way the conflict in the film is "reset" at the 40 minute point, etc.) This was Ford's remake of his earlier silent "Marked Men" (1919, I learned this weekend), so there is something to be said for taking a run at a subject until you get it right (Hitchcock worked the same way).

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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2008, 10:47:46 PM »

I absoultely love this film. I recently just watched it again around the HOLIDAY'S and it impresses me with each repeated viewing. This is definitely one of John Ford's more overlooked vehicles. Anyone here who hasn't viewed this should do themselves a favor and do so. Cigar is right. Great film.

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« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2008, 07:52:24 AM »

Watched it again last night and again was again mesmerized by the cinematography, in this film the landscape is THE 4th main character.
Paid a bit more attention to the supporting cast this time around, Hank Worden, Ben Johnson, Jane Darwell all have cameos that are great.

In the interim between watching this film, I found out more precisely what a "tank" is. 

Basically it is a part of an intermittent stream or river. A normal river usually has riffles (rapids) and pools as it drops in the topography towards the sea. In desert areas rivers and streams will run during a cloudburst out of the mountains across an alluvial fan and then evaporate out in a salt pan. Within the dry river bed there are natural areas where the bottom of some of the the pools are dished rock or hardpan impermeable and act like a bathtub and trap water. It acts much like a birdbath puddle left in a pavement depression after a rainstorm. The water may be surface water or it may be just under the sand.  So these tanks or waterholes would have existed for millennia and would have been essential to Native Americans and desert travellers much like an oasis in the Sahara. If you knew the trails between tanks you would survive.

When the derelict husband dynamited the tank he fissured the bedrock or broke through the hard pan so the water it held either ran into the fissures and dispersed or filtered into the ground.  There is one scene in the film toward the end when Wayne is carrying the baby over the mountains and in the bg behind him you can see a salt pan and what looks like a recent flow of water over the pan discoloring part of it.


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