Sunday, May 05, 2024

Tonight's Movie: 3 Godfathers (1948) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

3 GODFATHERS (1948), directed by John Ford, was released this spring on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

I first saw this film at the 2016 Lone Pine Film Festival, and while I liked it well enough, I wrote at the time that despite my love for Ford and the cast, I didn't anticipate rewatching it anytime soon, as the heart-tugging story was "rather exhausting."

I initially thought I might pass on reviewing the new Blu-ray disc and wait a while longer to see the film again...and then I read reviews, such as one by Toby Roan saying " need this Blu-ray. Buy a Blu-ray player and a new TV if you have to." He was echoed by Robert Harris of the Home Theater Forum who said "Everyone needs a copy."

And so I thus belatedly decided I really needed to see it for myself!

And indeed, I found the print truly spectacular. When I participated in a critics' Zoom session with the Warner Archive's George Feltenstein a few days ago, he commented that he couldn't imagine a 4K release of this film looking any better than the Blu-ray, and while I have limited exposure to the 4K format, I believe he's right. The beautiful print, in and of itself, made revisiting the film completely worthwhile.

3 GODFATHERS is a regular part of the Christmas movie rotation on Turner Classic Movies, and many viewers who've seen it there -- or seen one of the earlier film versions of the story -- will be familiar with the plot.

Three bank robbers (John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey Jr.) on the run from a posse (including Ward Bond, Hank Worden, and Ben Johnson) flee into the desert.

The men stumble across a woman (Mildred Natwick) about to give birth, and after Pedro (Armendariz) delivers the baby, she names it after all three men, appointing them her son's godfathers.

The weak mother passes away, but the men promise to save her baby boy, and what ensues is how they live out their promise to do that, regardless of personal cost.

As I noted in 2016, some of the film's casting and editing choices are odd; Natwick was too old to play the mother, and the film's 106 minutes could have easily been compressed with more streamlined -- and less confusing -- storytelling.

Those criticisms aside, this is a wonderful visit with the Ford Stock Company, also including Jane Darwell, Mae Marsh, Jack Pennick, Guy Kibbee, and Francis Ford.

The Technicolor photography of Winton C. Hoch has never looked better than it does now, from the first moving shots paying tribute to Harry Carey Sr. to the close-ups of the baby near movie's end. I can only echo the review quotes above and urge readers that they need this Blu-ray!

As added inducement to acquire a copy, a very welcome extra on this disc is the 1936 version of THREE GODFATHERS (1936), which is from a 4K scan of the "best preservation elements." This movie was previously released by the Warner Archive Collection in a two-film DVD set with an older version of the story, William Wyler's HELL'S HEROES (1929).

Although I reviewed (and liked) HELL'S HEROES, I've never gotten around to seeing the '36 version, which incidentally Leonard Maltin introduced at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival! (He just published an article on the '36 version and quotes Jeanine Basinger as telling him "It's better than the Ford.") I expect to finally catch up with it and review it here at a future date.

The disc also includes trailers for both the 1936 and 1948 versions.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Movie Zyng, Amazon, and other online retailers.


Anonymous Barry Lane said...

The 1936 version is fine but to believe for one nano-second that it is equal to John Ford's film is an absurdity. This is a masterpiece, to live forever. The three men themselves represent the wise men of Christianity and the birth of baby Jesus, but Ford went further than that, Bob is more, he is the deity. I believe in him, I believe in Bob and also the greatest performance among many by the leading player.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Lynn Rutledge said...

Laura, I'll be eager to read your impressions of the 1936 version when you get a chance to view it. One thing I enjoyed about it was that the actors were filmed with a real baby, which made for some cute scenes. In the 1948 film, we see close-ups of a real baby occasionally, but, if I remember correctly, the stars are always acting with a blanket-wrapped doll.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Lyson said...

In addition to the 3 Godfathers I love Ward Bond in this as well. Very happy with the PQ on this Blu-Ray and the addition of the 1936 version.
I have Hell's Heroes on my DVR but won't watch until next Christmas season.

8:50 AM  

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