This is a remake of the silent film The Three Godfathers (1916), which starred Ford's long-time friend Harry Carey. When Carey died in 1947, Ford decided to remake the story in Technicolor and dedicate the film to his memory. Carey's son, Harry Carey Jr., plays one of the three, "The Abilene Kid". The film Three Godfathers (1936) is based on the same source, so this film is, in some sense, a remake of that film as well.
This film was first telecast in Minneapolis Wednesday 3 April 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), followed by Chicago 14 April 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Hartford CT 23 April 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), by Philadelphia 3 May 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by New Haven CT 10 May 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Tucson 23 May 1957 on KVOA (Channel 4), by Norfolk VA 19 July 1957 on WTAR (Channel 13), by Phoenix 25 July 1957 on KPHO (Channel 5), by Honolulu 8 August 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13), by New York City 4 September 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), by Syracuse 13 September 1957 on WHEN (Channel 8), by Miami 19 October 1957 on WCKT (Channel 7), by Altoona PA 16 November 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Binghamton NY 30 November 1957 on WNBF (Channel 12), by Los Angeles 20 December 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11) and, finally, by San Francisco 9 May 1958 on Channel 7 (KGO). At this time, color broadcasting was in its infancy, limited to only a small number of high rated programs, primarily on NBC and NBC affiliated stations, so these film showings were all still in B&W. Viewers were not offered the opportunity to see these films in their original Technicolor until several years later.
This film does not get the recognition for the religious and Christmas connection made by the characters as they struggle to survive the desert with a newborn baby. The connection between 3 Godfathers and 3 Magi are made as is the "follow the star" motif in the hike out of the desert to water. Even the town names are religiously themed. Its not schmaltzy but a simple spiritual awakening of the 3 outlaws that is part of the story...that its part of the culture to rob a bank but equally a part of their responsibility to care for an abandoned mother and her new baby.