3 Godfathers

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For articles with similar titles, see Three Godfathers.
3 Godfathers
3 Godfathers 1948 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Merian C. Cooper
Screenplay by Laurence Stallings
Frank S. Nugent
Robert Nathan
Based on The Three Godfathers
1918 novelette 
by Peter B. Kyne
Starring John Wayne
Harry Carey Jr.
Pedro Armendáriz
Music by Richard Hageman
Cinematography Winton Hoch
Edited by Jack Murray
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 1, 1948 (1948-12-01)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,243,000[1]
Box office $2,841,000[1]

3 Godfathers is a 1948 American Western film directed by John Ford and filmed (although not set) primarily in Death Valley, California. The screenplay, written by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings, is based on the novelette of the same name written by Peter B. Kyne. Ford had already adapted the film once before in 1919 as Marked Men. The original silent adaptation by Ford is thought to be lost today. The story is something of a retelling of the story of The Three Wise Men in an American western context.[2] Ford decided to remake the story in Technicolor and dedicate the film to the memory of long-time friend Harry Carey who starred in the 1919 film Marked Men. Carey's son, Harry Carey Jr., plays one of the title roles in this 1948 film.[3]


Cattle rustlers Robert Hightower (John Wayne), Pedro "Pete" Rocafuerte (Pedro Armendáriz), and William Kearney (Harry Carey, Jr.) rob a bank in the town of Welcome, Arizona, but Kearney suffers a bullet wound and they have to flee into the desert, pursued by the posse of Sheriff Buck Sweet (Ward Bond), who puts a bullet in their water bag. They eventually lose their horses in a desert storm and end up walking. In their search for water, they come across a water hole, which has, however, been destroyed by the misguided efforts of a bumbling tenderfoot. In his covered wagon left nearby lies his wife (actually Sheriff Sweet's niece), who is pregnant and about to give birth. With the help of the trio, she has a boy, whom she names Robert William Pedro after her benefactors. Before dying, she extracts a promise from his three godfathers that they will take care of him. Moved by her plight, the three desperados uphold their promise despite the acute lack of water.

With William wounded from the robbery and Sheriff Sweet's posse in pursuit, they leave with the baby for the town of New Jerusalem, which lies across a wide expanse of desert. After crossing a salt flat, William dies of exhaustion and the effects of his injury; later, Pete falls and breaks his leg. Robert leaves him his pistol, for "protection from coyotes." As he walks away, he hears a single gunshot.

Finally at the end of his strength, Robert nearly loses hope, but in his delirium the ghosts of his two friends appear and refuse to let him give up. He finally reaches New Jerusalem and enters a cantina where people are singing Christmas carols, and then collapses right after Sheriff Sweet catches up with him. He is arrested, but because of his heroism and refusal to give up custody of his godson in favor of the Sweets (whom he has now befriended), he is viewed by the townspeople as a hero even before the trial comes to its conclusion. In the end, he is sentenced to the minimum of a year and a day and, as he leaves to serve it with a promise to return, he is given a rousing farewell by the entire town.


Points of interest[edit]

This film was dedicated to John Ford's friend and early star, Harry Carey, whose son, Harry Carey Jr., played one of the title roles. Tokyo Godfathers is partly based on this film.

It is believed that Pedro Armendariz dubbed his own voice into French for the film considering that he spoke French well enough to appear in the film Lucrèce Borgia as the leading man and in at least one other French film. However, none of the French voice actors are credited.


According to MGM records, the film earned $2,078,000 in the US and Canada and $763,000 overseas, resulting in a profit of $450,000.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 112. 
  3. ^ http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/93092/3-Godfathers/trivia.html

External links[edit]