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3 Godfathers (1948)

Passed | | Drama, Western | 13 January 1949 (USA)
3:20 | Trailer

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When 3 outlaws on the run find a dying woman and her newborn baby in the desert they vow to save the child.


John Ford


Laurence Stallings (screenplay), Frank S. Nugent (screenplay) | 1 more credit »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower
Pedro Armendáriz ... Pedro Roca Fuerte (as Pedro Armendariz)
Harry Carey Jr. ... William Kearney ('The Abilene Kid')
Ward Bond ... Perley 'Buck' Sweet
Mae Marsh ... Mrs. Perley Sweet
Mildred Natwick ... The Mother
Jane Darwell ... Miss Florie
Guy Kibbee ... Judge
Dorothy Ford ... Ruby Latham
Ben Johnson ... Posse Man #1
Charles Halton ... Oliver Latham
Hank Worden ... Deputy Curly
Jack Pennick Jack Pennick ... Luke
Fred Libby Fred Libby ... Deputy
Michael Dugan Michael Dugan ... Posse Man #2


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 <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


JOHN WAYNE'S Greatest Role! See more »


Drama | Western


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

13 January 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Three Godfathers See more »


Box Office


$1,243,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,078,000, 31 December 1948

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,841,000, 31 December 1948
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Argosy Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


John Ford had previously directed a silent film version of the same story, called Marked Men (1919). No prints of this films are known to be in existence. See more »


When Hightower is greasing the baby, who is referred to as a boy, is played by a girl. See more »


Judge: [during sentencing] Robert Marmaduke Hightower...
Perley 'Buck' Sweet: Marmaduke? Haw, haw...
Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower: Perley!
[crowd laughs]
See more »


Referenced in Three Kings (1999) See more »


Bringing in the Sheaves
Written by Knowles Shaw and George A. Minor
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User Reviews

Great Ford Western
23 December 2006 | by mgtbltpSee all my reviews

I just watched this on TCM didn't even know that it was coming on and glad I did.

This is the first time I ever saw this film all the way through, before I've only caught snippets of it here and there as I flipped through the channels.

I have to honestly say run don't walk down to your nearest video retailer and get the DVD. There is really nothing not to like about this film, and its even got a tie in to Christmas! Directed by John Ford as a remake of his silent film "The Marked Men" (1919) which had already been made twice before the 1919 version, lol. It was also John Ford's first Technicolor film and its somewhat unique in that it actually doesn't use Monument Valley as its location.

It stars a lot of Ford's stable of actors, John Wayne, Harry Carry Jr., Ward Bond, Hank Worden, Ben Johnson, and actor Pedro Armendáriz who is just great in the role of one of the title's godfathers, Wayne & Carry Jr. being the others.

This film is now up there with "The Searchers" as my favorite Ford film. It doesn't have that "knock you over the head civics lesson" sermonizing that a lot of Fords films have, its got a little bit of schmaltz and melodrama in very small dollops that you can swallow & which is OK.

But don't get this expecting showdown gunfights, there aren't any, and the film still works.

Basically the story line: Three men ride into the town of New Jersusalem, Arizona to rob its bank. In the process Carry Jr. is wounded in the shoulder and looses his horse as they ride out of town into the desert, pursued by Sheriff Sweet (Bond) and posse members that include actors Worden and Johnson.

Sweet shoots the gangs water bag, that they don't discover until they are way out in the desert so they have to make for water. Sweet knows this and hops a train with the posse to the nearest water tank.

The gang foiled in their quest for water must make for another water hole to the north there they become the "three godfathers" of the title, I wont give any more away.

This film definitely had to have made an impression on Leone. Two things stood out for me, the first is the whole film is composed of some of the best scenery I've in a Western, scenery that will recall to you vividly Tuco & Blondie in the desert, this was shot in Death Valley, Lone Pine and the Mojave Desert, all fantastic locations, it will remind you also of Yellow Sky (too bad that film wasn't shot in color). The film takes place almost all in the desert. Its like GBU in that it becomes more than just a Western, you'll see what I mean.

The second thing that stood out is the great performance of Pedro Armendáriz what a great Mexican Actor who should have been a main character in a lot of Westerns, whats up with that, not only will he remind you a bit of a "nice" Tuco but it even looks like he's wearing Tuco's hat (the one he gets from the gunsmith), or vice versa lol.

The town sets are again spot on, and there is some great steam locomotive footage, all in all a beautiful and enjoyable film.

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