Adapted from Peter B. Kyne's novel The Three Godfathers, which had been done twice in the silent era (in 1916 and again in 1920 by John Ford as MARKED MEN), HELL'S HEROES was the first sound version of the story--it would be done again by Ford with John Wayne.
The story revolves around three outlaws--Charles Bickford, Raymond Hatton, and Fred Kohler--who find a woman in a wagon about to give birth. They promise the dying mother that they will take her baby back to its father in New Jerusalem, the town whose bank they have just robbed. On the way back,
one of the outlaws dies from wounds he received during the robbery; another perishes from thirst; and the last drinks from a poisoned spring to gain enough strength to get the baby to the town's church during Christmas services.
Overshadowed by Ford's sound version, HELL'S HEROES is an excellent western drama that deserves more attention. Shot on location in the Mojave Desert and the Panamint Valley near Death Valley, William Wyler's version is stark and realistic--the director's first all-sound film and Universal's first
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