John Ford's THE THREE GODFATHERS is a wonderful, sentimental western about a bad man who redeems himself. It is also a tribute to Ford's mentor and friend, actor Harry Carey, who died in 1947. The film follows a trio of outlaws--Robert Marmaduke Hightower (John Wayne), "Pete" Roca Fuerte
(Pedro Armendariz), and "The Abilene Kid" (Harry Carey, Jr.)--who flee a posse after robbing the bank at Welcome. After losing their horses in a desert sandstorm, they arrive at Terrapin Tanks, where they find an abandoned woman in labor. After giving birth, the dying woman (Mildred Natwick) begs
the men to save her baby, and they agree, deciding to bring it to the nearby town of New Jerusalem--a hazardous journey with a biblical analogy not lost on the outlaws. Only Hightower makes it, however, stumbling into New Jerusalem with the baby on Christmas Eve. Later, the sheriff of Welcome
(Ward Bond) offers to drop the charges if the outlaw will give up custody of the baby, but Hightower's response shouldn't surprise anyone. Ford first filmed this story in 1919 as MARKED MEN with Harry Carey, who also appeared in the first version of the story, THREE GODFATHERS, in 1916. This
version, Ford's first color film, begins as a silhouetted cowboy astride Carey's favorite horse rides to the top of a hill, pushing his hat back on his head as the words "Dedicated to Harry Carey, a bright star in the early western sky" appear.
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