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Archive for the ‘Ward Bond’ Category

Directed by John Ford
Produced by John Ford & Merian C. Cooper
Screenplay by Laurence Stallings, Frank S. Nugent & Robert Nathan
Based on The Three Godfathers by Peter B. Kyne
Director Of Photography: Winton Hoch, ASC
Film Editor: Jack Murray
Musical Score: Richard Hageman

Cast: John Wayne (Robert Marmaduke Hightower), Pedro Armendáriz (Pedro Encarnación Escalante y Rocafuerte, AKA Pete), Harry Carey Jr. (William Kearney, The Abilene Kid), Mildred Natwick (Mother), Ward Bond (Sheriff Perley “Buck” Sweet), Mae Marsh (Mrs. Sweet), Jane Darwell (Miss Florie), Guy Kibbee (Judge), Hank Worden (Curly), Dorothy Ford (Ruby Latham), Charles Halton (Oliver Latham), Jack Pennick (Luke), Fred Libby (Deputy), Ben Johnson (Posseman), Michael Dugan (Posseman) Francis Ford (Drunken Old-Timer at Bar), Richard Hageman (Piano Player In Saloon), Ruth Clifford (Woman in Bar), Jack Curtis (Bartender), Harry Tenbrook (Bartender), Gertrude Astor (Townswoman), Eva Novak (Townswoman), Amelia Yelda (Robert William Pedro Hightower)


Why is John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948) so often overlooked, so rarely mentioned along with the director’s other post-war masterworks? Even called “minor Ford,” by some. Since its release in December of 1948, it’s been criticized for being too sentimental, too religious, too hokey. But as I see it, it’s just too good to ignore.

While John Ford was shooting Fort Apache (1948), the first picture in his “cavalry trilogy,” the great silent Western star Harry Carey passed away. Ford got his start directing Carey pictures, and Ford shut down Fort Apache for a few days to visit the dying star, reminiscing with him as he breathed his last. Ford then put together Carey’s funeral, by all accounts an elaborate affair.

For his next film, Ford chose 3 Godfathers, based on a Peter B. Kyne novelette he’d filmed with Harry Carey back in 1919 as Marked Men. (It’s a lost film.) Ford decided to “introduce” Harry Carey, Jr. with the remake, even though the young actor had already done a few pictures, including appearing with his dad in Howard Hawks’ Red River (1948). Ford also needed a hit after the failure of The Fugitive (1947), which had put his Argosy Productions in real trouble. A Technicolor Western with John Wayne oughta do the trick.

3 Godfathers opens with a silhouetted figure on horseback, Cliff Lyons sitting on Harry Carey’s horse Sonny, and the dedication:

“To the Memory of Harry Carey —
Bright Star of the early western sky…”

After robbing a bank in Welcome, Arizona, three outlaws — John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz and Harry Carey Jr. — are pursued into the desert by a posse lead by Sheriff Buck Sweet (Ward Bond). Out of water, Carey wounded and their horses lost in a sandstorm, the outlaws come across a pregnant woman (Mildred Natwick) at Terrapin Tanks. Her tenderfoot husband took off in search of water, after blowing up the tanks, leaving her alone and ready to give birth.

Pedro (Armendáriz) helps deliver the baby, and before the mother dies, she names the boy after its three godfathers (Robert William Pedro Hightower) and asks them to save her baby. They promise. After burying the mother, the outlaws discover a trunk full of things she had packed for her new baby, including some canned milk and a Bible. They pack a few things and head out.

Here, Ford begins to bring in the religious allegory, as the three bad men (not wise men, not kings) follow a star toward New Jerusalem with the newborn.

William Kearney, “The Abilene Kid” (Harry Carey, Jr.): “You fellas don’t understand. Ya think this is just chance? Just accidental like, us coming here this way? Finding the mother. Helping her. The infant in the manger. The star, bright, last night. I ain’t talking out of no fever sweat, Bob, honest I ain’t. You think we had anything to do with what’s happened? No sir, we didn’t.”

(Beware: spoilers ahead.) Of course, the desert is unforgiving, and two of the outlaws don’t finish the journey. Kearney eventually succumbs to his woulds. Pete falls and breaks his leg — and encourages Bob (Wayne) to head on alone with the child. Pete asks for Wayne’s pistol, in case of coyotes.

Pedro “Pete’ Roca Fuerte (Pedro Armendáriz): “Hey, Bob… I just remembered what tomorrow is. Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas.”

It’s not long after Wayne trudges on that we hear the shot.

Wayne on location. (If only they’d had that film truck in the movie!)

As Wayne continues toward New Jerusalem with the baby, thirst and exhaustion (and his lack of faith) take their toll and he comes close to giving up — even after the ghosts of his friends urge him to keep going. Wayne falls to the ground, and the Bible is blown open to Matthew 21. He reads of God’s provision of a donkey and its colt — and those very animals appear to help Wayne and the child complete their pilgrimage. Wayne’s reaction to the miracle is shock, disbelief and perhaps a sudden awakening. (Wayne plays it so well.) Bob and the baby reach a saloon in New Jerusalem early Christmas morning. The saloon’s piano player (Richard Hageman, who scored the film) plays “Silent Night.”

Sheriff Sweet enters the saloon, Winchester at the ready. Wayne collapses, muttering “You got me!” as he falls to the floor. (Who got him, the sheriff or the Lord?)

Now we get to see Bob’s true redemption — he’d rather do time than sign the adoption papers for a suspended sentence. They’d made a promise to a dying woman. As Bob boards the train, bound for a year and a day in the prison in Yuma, he has Bond and his wife to care for the child and a girl (Dorothy Ford) waiting for him when he’s released. It’s a joyous time, as far from any other heading-to-the-penitentiary scene as you can get.

(That’s a more in-depth synopsis than I normally like to include. Seemed necessary.)

One of the incredible things about John Ford’s work is his ability to make his movies turn on a dime. He can shift tone from scene to scene — and the picture works. With other directors, you’re left with a disjointed film that doesn’t know what it wants to be and the audience doesn’t know what to make of it. Here, Ford takes us from the jovial chat with the sheriff before the robbery to the suspense of the chase and the sandstorm to the drama of the discovery of the wagon, the baby’s birth and the mother’s death to the comedy of the three godfathers trying to figure out how to care for the baby (above) — and on to the journey through the desert with its tragedy, sacrifice and spiritual awakening. Never are these shifts jarring. It flows seamlessly.

Also, Ford never lets us see the bad side of the three bad men. From the friendly chat with the Sweets to Bob and Pete refusing water to save it for the wounded Kid to Pete’s treatment of the expectant mother to their oath to her as she dies, we are instead shown their goodness. We’re set up to like them, to pull for them, to celebrate their redemption and eventually mourn their loss.

Harry Carey, Jr., nicknamed Dobe (comparing his red hair to adobe), recalled, “We shot 3 Godfathers in Death Valley. It was in May, and that’s a beautiful time of year up there. We stayed at The Furnace Creek Inn, and Uncle Jack was in seventh heaven. He was off on location with no front-office types to look over his shoulder, and he had both Pete Armendáriz and Ward Bond to pick on.”* (The Furnace Creek Inn hosted many film crews over the years, ranging from One-Eyed Jacks to Star Wars.)

Nights in Death Valley were spent playing dominos.

Ward Bond was Ford’s favorite target for abuse, and the rest of the cast and crew breathed easier when he was around. Pedro Armendáriz, a big star in Mexico — who’d been in Ford’s two previous pictures, The Fugitive and Fort Apache (1947), was another of Ford’s favorite victims. Armendáriz reported for 3 Godfathers with an ornate black leather, silver-studded costume complete with a large sombrero. Ford promptly set him straight — he was no hero in the picture, just a bandit — and he was issued a beat-up outfit to match his character. Armendáriz was furious, especially when he saw the swayback horse and worn-out Mexican saddle he was to use. The more Armendáriz complained, the more junk Ford took from the prop truck (frying pan, coffee pot, etc.) and hung on the great Mexican star’s saddle.

Temperatures in Death Valley reached 130 degrees some days. “It was a terrible location, with the sand and the dirt,” Ben Johnson once commented.** Johnson’s role, as a member of the posse, is quite small — Ford was evidently still feeling him out as an actor.

For the Kid’s death scene, the first take didn’t meet Ford’s approval, to put it mildly. Ford had the cast and crew clear out, leaving Dobe laying alone in the sun — no shade, no water — for half an hour. When they returned, take two was all that was needed. It was real. As Carey remembered in his book Company Of Heroes, “Duke lifted me to my feet. He had his arms around me, holding me up. Ford took my face in his hands. He was smiling. ‘Why didn’t you do that the first time? See how easy it was? You done good! That’s a wrap!'”

After Death Valley, it took about 10 days at the RKO Pathé studio to finish shooting 3 Godfathers. Mildred Natwick’s scene as the dying mother was shot there one morning, then they had lunch in Ford’s office. The dedication to Harry Carey that opens the picture was the last thing done.

3 Godfathers was cinematographer Winton C. Hoch’s first film with Ford. Together, they made some of the most beautiful Westerns ever, with Hoch winning an Oscar for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949). But 3 Godfathers has one gorgeous, breathtaking image after another, like a great Western painting that moves.

Richard Hageman makes good use of a number of familiar tunes, which he brings in and out of his score with ease. Ford’s films almost always use songs the audience knows. “Goodbye Old Paint” is heard during the Harry Carey tribute. The Kid sings “Streets Of Laredo (The Dying Cowboy),” the townspeople sing “Bringing In The Sheaves,” and this being a John Ford movie, you can count on “Shall We Gather At The River.”

Redemption is probably the most common theme in Westerns, and it’s every bit as important to 3 Godfathers as the parallels to the Christ child are. So it’s fitting that Ford set things in the days leading to Christmas, a time of renewal.

Harry Carey, Jr. again: “There was a very special feeling on every John Ford set. It was the feeling that something great was happening, a feeling of reverence. It wasn’t a feeling of reverence for John Ford; it was a feeling of reverence for art. It was like being in church.”*

How someone could sit through the picture’s 106 minutes and not be moved (if not choked up) is beyond me. It rewards repeat viewings by revealing more and more, like peeling back one layer after another, making it a gift we can unwrap each and every Christmas.

Minor Ford? That’s ridiculous.

* Pappy: The Life Of John Ford by Dan Ford
** John Ford: Hollywood’s Old Master by Ronald L. Davis
Be sure to read the chapter on 3 Godfathers in Harry Carey, Jr.’s book Company Of Heroes

Thanks to Pastor James of The Narrow Trail Cowboy Church

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It was an honor to be the guest on Robert’s podcast yesterday. He turned it around quick, and it’s ready now. Check it out.

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Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale, Van Heflin, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Ward Bond

Warner Bros. had a real knack for stomping all over American history in the name of making a good movie. Santa Fe Trail (1940) is a prime example.

Historic figures like “Jeb” Stuart (Errol Flynn), John Brown (Raymond Massey), George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis pop in and out of this thing, bumping into each other in very non-actual ways. But none of that matters, since the performances and direction are great, and the whole thing runs at about a mile a minute.

This was the seventh of Flynn’s pictures with Olivia de Havilland. They’d do only one more together Raoul Walsh’s They Died With Their Boots On (1941), with Flynn playing George Armstrong Custer, who Reagan plays in this one. Raymond Massey is terrific as John Brown — who cares about the realities of it.

It’ll be great to see Santa Fe Trail in high definition after its years in public domain VHS/DVD hell. Highly recommended.

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Kino Lorber’s second set of 50s Westerns on Blu-Ray serves up some good ones: The Redhead From Wyoming (1953), Pillars Of The Sky (1956) and Gun For A Corward (1957). It’s due April 6.

The Redhead From Wyoming (1953)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Maureen O’Hara, Alex Nicol, William Bishop, Alexander Scourby, Robert Strauss, Gregg Palmer, Jack Kelly, Dennis Weaver, Stacy Harris

Maureen O’Hara runs a saloon and ends up in the middle of the usual cattlemen vs. settlers thing. It’s short, fast and beautifully shot by Winton C. Hoch.

Pillars Of The Sky (1956)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Keith Andes, Lee Marvin

Jeff Chandler is a calvary officer trying to keep his troops and Dorothy Malone from being scalped. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope on location in Oregon. Filmed right after The Searchers wrapped, it features a number of the same players (Ward Bond, Walter Coy, Olive Carey, Beulah Archuletta).

Gun For A Coward (1957)
Directed by Abner Biberman
Starring Fred MacMurray, Jeffrey Hunter, Janice Rule, Dean Stockwell, Bob Steele

This one weaves a family struggle into a cattle drive and rustlers story. It looks great in CinemaScope and MacMurray is terrific.

All three come with a trailer and commentary (I’m doing Pillars Of The Sky). And given Kino Lorber’s track record with their Universal movies, they’ll look terrific.

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Directed by Henry Hathaway
Starring John Wayne, Betty Field, Harry Carey, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Marjorie Main, John Qualen, Fuzzy Knight

Kino Lorber has announced a Fall Blu-Ray release of Henry Hathaway’s The Shepherd Of The Hills (1941). It’s not a Western, really, since it takes place in the Ozark Mountains, but some Western elements were worked into the novel’s plot to make it more of a John Wayne movie. Wayne was well on his way to becoming a major star — this was just a couple years after Stagecoach (1939).

It was Wayne’s first time working with director Henry Hathaway. They’d do a number of pictures together. It was also the first time we got to see John Wayne in Technicolor, and that gorgeous color will certainly be one of the delights to be found in this new Blu-Ray. This is a beautiful movie. Highly recommended.

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Kino Lorber is serving up four terrific Universal Westerns in March, an announcement that gets. 2020 off to a great start.

Canyon Passage (1946)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Canyon Passage was Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first film in color. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific — and very scary) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941). This is a very overlooked, underrated film.

Night Passage (1957)
Directed by James Neilson
Starring James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon de Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont

Shot in Technirama, a high-fidelity combination of VistaVision and anamorphic widescreen, Night Passage is as sharp as movies could get in the late 50s. And with loads of incredible location work in Durango, Colorado, it’s stunning — and a perfect candidate for Blu-Ray. The movie itself, while it’s no masterpiece, has been unjustly maligned. You’ll find the story behind all that in an old post.

Man In The Shadow (1957)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller, Barbara Lawrence, John Larch, Royal Dano, James Gleason

There are a thousand reasons to be excited about this modern-day (well, 1957) Western — Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, B&W CinemaScope and Jack Arnold, for starters. Welles and producer Albert Zugsmith got to talking here, which led to Touch Of Evil (1958).

The Rare Breed (1966)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Juliet Mills, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, Harry Carey, Jr.

The best thing The Rare Breed has going for it is its incredible cast — how could it go wrong? Not to mention the Technicolor/Panavision cinematography of William H. Clothier.

All four films will feature a commentary (I’m doing both Passage films) and an original trailer. It’s no easy to recommend these things!

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Jr., Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Russell Simpson, Hank Worden, James Arness, Francis Ford

John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950) is not just one of my favorite movies, but I consider it one of the best Westerns ever made. There’s a gentleness and an authenticity to it that no other Western can match. It’s easy to see why Ford named it his personal favorite of his own films. For me, putting this thing on is like inviting some old friends to stop by for a spell.

The performances are perfect, from Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. as the young cowboys who hire on to lead the Mormon wagon train west to Ward Bond as an elder in the group of settlers to Joanne Dru as part of a medicine show that tags along. And Russell Simpson as, what else, a grumpy old man.

Then there are the Cleggs. It seems odd to say a gentle movie has some of the vilest bad guys you’ll ever see, but it does. If you know the movie, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I feel truly sorry for you.

I could go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this: Wagon Master is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. If you haven’t made the leap to high-definition yet, this should be all the reason you need. Essential.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Canyon Passage (1946) is a large-scale tale of the Oregon Territory. Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first color film, it was a big hit back in 1946. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific — and very scary) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941).

It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber later this year. You can bet it’ll look great.

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The_Daily_Times_News_Tue__Feb_11__1969_Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Haviland, Thomas Mitchell, Hattie McDaniel, Ward Bond, Yakima Canutt

The Graham Cinema in Graham, North Carolina is running Gone With The Wind (1939) at various times April 28 – May 2.

Sunday, April 28
2:00 PM & 7:00 PM

Monday – Thursday, April 29 – May 2
7:00 PM

They ad above was run when the Graham Cinema featured Gone With The Wind back in 1969.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., Hank Worden

John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Here’s a rare change to see it on film, in a theater. Sorry for the short notice.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Pacific Palisades
April 9 & 10, 7 PM
Click the lobby card for details.

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