3 Godfathers (1949)

105-107 mins | Western | January 1949

Director:

John Ford

Cinematographer:

Winton Hoch

Editor:

Jack Murray

Production Designer:

James Basevi

Production Company:

Argosy Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The onscreen credits contain the following written dedication: "To the memory of Harry Carey, bright star of the early western sky." Carey, who died on 24 Sep 1947, was a longtime friend of both John Wayne and John Ford, and starred in two previous screen versions of the story. Peter B. Kyne's short story "Broncho Billy and the Baby," which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910, is identified in some sources as the basis for his novel The Three Godfathers . The novel first appeared in the same magazine on 23 Nov 1912. Pre-production news items in HR noted that Argosy Pictures negotiated a one-picture releasing contract with M-G-M for this film, and that it marked the first time that M-G-M accepted a distrubution deal without a financial investment or creative input in the production.
       According to an Apr 1948 HR news item, director John Ford initially planned to film the picture in Mexico. The film was shot on location in Death Valley, CA, with some additional shooting in Lone Pine, CA. HR also notes that some filming was set to take place at RKO's Culver City studios. As noted above, other screen adaptations of Kyne's story include the 1916 Bluebird film The Three Godfathers , directed by Edward J. Le Saint and starring Harry Carey and Stella Razeto; the 1919 Universal picture Marked Men , directed by John Ford and also starring Carey (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4453 and F1.2823); a 1930 Universal picture called Hell's Heroes , directed by William Wyler and starring ... More Less

The onscreen credits contain the following written dedication: "To the memory of Harry Carey, bright star of the early western sky." Carey, who died on 24 Sep 1947, was a longtime friend of both John Wayne and John Ford, and starred in two previous screen versions of the story. Peter B. Kyne's short story "Broncho Billy and the Baby," which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910, is identified in some sources as the basis for his novel The Three Godfathers . The novel first appeared in the same magazine on 23 Nov 1912. Pre-production news items in HR noted that Argosy Pictures negotiated a one-picture releasing contract with M-G-M for this film, and that it marked the first time that M-G-M accepted a distrubution deal without a financial investment or creative input in the production.
       According to an Apr 1948 HR news item, director John Ford initially planned to film the picture in Mexico. The film was shot on location in Death Valley, CA, with some additional shooting in Lone Pine, CA. HR also notes that some filming was set to take place at RKO's Culver City studios. As noted above, other screen adaptations of Kyne's story include the 1916 Bluebird film The Three Godfathers , directed by Edward J. Le Saint and starring Harry Carey and Stella Razeto; the 1919 Universal picture Marked Men , directed by John Ford and also starring Carey (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4453 and F1.2823); a 1930 Universal picture called Hell's Heroes , directed by William Wyler and starring Charles Bickford (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2414); and a 1936 M-G-M film directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Chester Morris and Lewis Stone (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1931-40 ; F3.4609). A made for television version of the story, entitled The Godchild , appeared on the ABC network in 1974, directed by John Badham and starring Jack Palance. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Dec 1948.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 48
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Dec 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 48
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 48
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 48
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 49
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Oct 48
p. 4342.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 Dec 48
p. 4405.
New York Times
4 Mar 49
p. 25.
Variety
1 Dec 48
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Cam op
2d unit cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost research
Men's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
Arr and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair dresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to dir
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Three Godfathers by Peter B. Kyne (New York, 1913).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Silent Night, Holy Night," music by Franz Gruber.
SONGS
"Bringing in the Sheaves," music by George A. Minor, lyrics by Knowles Shaw
"Beautiful River," music and lyrics by Robert Lowry
"Streets of Laredo (The Cowboy's Lament)," traditional.
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1949
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Washington, D.C. 25 November 1948
Production Date:
early May--early June 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Argosy Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 November 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1958
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
105-107
Length(in feet):
9,551
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13312
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Texas outlaws Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower, Pedro Roca Fuerte and William Kearny, "The Abiline Kid," arrive in the small town of Welcome, Arizona, to rob a bank. After first meeting Sheriff Buck Perley Sweet and his wife, the three bandits encounter Mrs. Sweet's niece, Ruby Latham, the wife of the town's bank president. The outlaws then proceed to shoot their way into Latham's bank, just as Buck discovers that they are wanted men. The Abiline Kid is wounded in the ensuing shootout with the sheriff and his posse, but he manages to escape into the desert with Pedro and Robert. Back in town, Buck deputizes members of his posse and organizes a manhunt to capture the three desperados who are on horseback. The deputies are sent by train to the Mojave water tank, the nearest source of desert water, where Buck hopes the three outlaws will go. As Pedro, Robert and The Kid approach the water tank, they discover Buck's trap and plan an alternate course. Suspecting that Buck also has men waiting for them at Apache Wells, the next water source, Robert instead plans to head north to Terrapin Tanks and cross the Mexican border at a more remote location. The three bandits soon find themselves in a sandstorm, and later are forced to continue on foot after their horses escape. Meanwhile, Buck and his posse arrive at Apache Wells, and wait for the robbers. When the robbers fail to show up, Buck realizes that they must have doubled back, and goes in search of them. Robert and his men arrive at Terrapin Tanks only to discover that the tanks have been dynamited and ... +


Texas outlaws Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower, Pedro Roca Fuerte and William Kearny, "The Abiline Kid," arrive in the small town of Welcome, Arizona, to rob a bank. After first meeting Sheriff Buck Perley Sweet and his wife, the three bandits encounter Mrs. Sweet's niece, Ruby Latham, the wife of the town's bank president. The outlaws then proceed to shoot their way into Latham's bank, just as Buck discovers that they are wanted men. The Abiline Kid is wounded in the ensuing shootout with the sheriff and his posse, but he manages to escape into the desert with Pedro and Robert. Back in town, Buck deputizes members of his posse and organizes a manhunt to capture the three desperados who are on horseback. The deputies are sent by train to the Mojave water tank, the nearest source of desert water, where Buck hopes the three outlaws will go. As Pedro, Robert and The Kid approach the water tank, they discover Buck's trap and plan an alternate course. Suspecting that Buck also has men waiting for them at Apache Wells, the next water source, Robert instead plans to head north to Terrapin Tanks and cross the Mexican border at a more remote location. The three bandits soon find themselves in a sandstorm, and later are forced to continue on foot after their horses escape. Meanwhile, Buck and his posse arrive at Apache Wells, and wait for the robbers. When the robbers fail to show up, Buck realizes that they must have doubled back, and goes in search of them. Robert and his men arrive at Terrapin Tanks only to discover that the tanks have been dynamited and contain no water. However, near the water tanks, the three bandits find a pregnant woman alone in a covered wagon. Unknown to the bandits, the woman is Buck's daughter. The bandits take pity on her and help her deliver her child, after which the mother makes the baby's godparents promise to keep her baby from harm. The mother dies a short time later, and the three desperadoes find themselves responsible for the care of the infant. Realizing that by continuing their journey to the Mexican border they will be endangering the infant's life, the bandits decide instead to risk arrest and return to Welcome. While making the dangerous desert crossing, The Kid collapses and dies of thirst. Pedro later breaks his leg in a fall, and shoots himself to relieve Robert of the burden of having to care for him. Braving the punishing desert heat with the infant in his arms, Robert presses onward, stumbling over rocks and finding inspiration in the Bible he carries with him. Soon after arriving in Welcome, Robert enters a saloon and collapses at the feet of Buck and his deputies. Robert and the infant quickly recover from the arduous journey and are taken in by Buck and his wife. A jury finds Robert guilty of robbery, but he receives a light sentence in light of his heroic deed. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.