Classic Film Guide

Three Godfathers (1936)

Possibly the best of this oft-filmed story about three outlaws on the run who come across a dying mother and her baby in the desert and decide to help. This one features Chester Morris, as the orneriest of the bunch, Lewis Stone as the wisest and most educated - ‘Doc’, and Walter Brennan as the most "simple". There's a little more to this story than (the one reel shorter) Hell's Heroes (1930) or the John Wayne version (3 Godfathers (1948), longer because of the trial that ends it). Morris's character has a history, and a girl (Irene Hervey), in the town from which the three rob its bank, with Morris shooting his now former gal's new beau (Robert Livingston). Like Hell's Heroes (1930), there were actually four bandits to begin with, and the fourth, a Mexican, is killed during the escape. By the time the 3 Godfathers (1948) was filmed, the Mexican, played by Pedro Armendáriz, is one of the three. The outlaws come across a poisoned well and then one which was ruined by a "green" settler heading West who was stupid enough to blow the bottom out of it. Of course, the now dead settler's dying wife (Helen Brown) is the one who's about to, or has just given birth to the aforementioned baby. The selfless Doc is the first to "adopt" and care for the child, Brennan's illiterate character is next, and finally, after the deaths of his companions, Morris's younger & physically stronger character feels guilty, or pity, enough to carry the burden of responsibility for the helpless infant as he struggles to make it to New Jerusalem on Christmas Day. Directed by Richard Boleslawski; Sidney Toler also appears.

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