“I want you — all of you — to be my baby’s godfathers.”
When three bank robbers (John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carrey Jr.) are driven out of town and into the desert by a sheriff (Ward Bond) who’s shot holes in their water bags, they shortly encounter a pregnant widow (Mildred Natwick) who gives birth to a baby boy and asks the men to be his godfathers.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Father and Child
- John Ford Films
- Ward Bond Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “minor John Ford film is, of course, a Christian parable — the Christmas story”, and argues that while it’s “sentimental, funny, [and] overly symbolic,” it also “suffers because of sharp changes in tone”. He points out that the “story bears some resemblance to The Searchers, in that Wayne plays a character with a shady past who exorcises his bad qualities while returning a child to civilization — only here Wayne is welcomed (in Welcome, Arizona) with open arms by the citizens because they realize he has reformed and can fit into their town.” I’m a little fonder than Peary of this quirky tale, which plays as though the Three Wise Men were on the lam in the Wild West trying to survive a dust storm. There’s a kind of surreal magic in the scenes of the men making their way across desolate landscapes, happening upon a dying widow (Natwick is a tad too old to be playing a first-time mother) who gives birth to a son and therefore to a new life and sense of meaning for the bandits. Their need to care for this helpless creature trumps all other considerations, leading to the unexpectedly happy ending. Beautiful on-location cinematography and typically fine direction by Ford make this a one-time must-see for film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Strong direction by Ford
- Excellent on-location cinematography
- Many memorable moments
Yes, as a charming film by a master director.