Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Nice to watch this hoary old (Christmas) chestnut at Yuletide, almost exactly 60 years after its original release. And yes, while it is guilty of a number of sins by way of corniness, improbability and sentimentality, it still works for me and proves you don't need tinsel and snow to evoke the Christmas spirit. Here old Papa Ford relates his Christmas parable against the background of the searing heat of the Arizona desert as Duke Wayne struggles against the odds to deliver orphan child Robert William Pedro to safety, bang on, wouldn't you know it, Christmas Day. All the usual Ford staples are here, the panoramic scenery, male camaraderie, bawdy humour and of course big John Wayne himself in yet another barnstorming lead role. I'm not the biggest Wayne fan going, but Ford invariably got the best out of the big lunk and he certainly carries the film (and the baby!) manfully. His two confederates, the youthful Harry Carey Jr and TexMex Pedro Armendariz both of whom sadly expire along the way, offer effective and humorous counterpoint to big John's proselytising. Ford cleverly doesn't reveal his hand too quickly with only the odd Biblical reference alluded to early on but by the time the three amigos are spotlit gazing out at the camera having just accepted the dying mother's infant child into their care, it piles on from there. Along the way the humour and sentimentality are mixed up lightly with a little (not too much) dramatic tension as Wayne completes his epic journey (like he was ever going to fail!), spurred on by the ghosts of his fallen colleagues and completes his own spiritual regeneration in accepting with good grace his jail sentence at the end in exchange for a guarantee that he'll be reunited with his infant charge once his sentence is complete. Noting that the film is Ford's own remake of his earlier silent movie production of the same story would help explain why some of the scenes are somewhat static and staged tableau-style. Wayne gets to walk more than he talks, no bad thing, and the rest of the cast are all at home under the director's loving eye. All told, then a colourful (check the blue filter shot Ford employs to evoke the desert at night) and festive treat. But surely this child wasn't the Son of God...?!
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