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Three Godfathers on Tomorrow, don't miss it.


slaytonf
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This movie shows how it's possible to take the poorest, most overwritten, and ponderous writing, and turn it into a film of interest, import, and moment.  I'm talking about Peter B. Kine's fabulously successful novelette The Three Godfathers.  It is the story of three Bad Men (as Kine has it) who, just having robbed a bank, stumble on a woman giving birth in the desert.  It's just about Christmas Day (hint, hint).  For all their badness, they are still innocent when it comes to Motherhood.  Unmanned by her, they promise to take the newborn to New Jerusalem (Hint, Hint).  Of course, the innocence of the child confounds them into becoming Not-So-Bad-Men, and after starting out reluctant couriers, they end up going to heroic lengths to deliver the baby.  The work was so popular, it was only three years after it's 1913 publication that the first movie adaptation was made.  (If any of you are thinking, "How crass," Kine based the novel on one of his earlier short stories, capitalizing on his own popularity)

 

There were numerous other adaptations, including a fine one by William Wyler (1930).  But by far the best is by Richard Boleslawski (1936), starring Chester Morris, Walter Brennan, and Lewis Stone.  The screenwriters (Edward E. Paramore, Jr., and Manuel Self), took liberties with the original, and a good thing they did, too--if any one's interested, they can read the original online, it's in the public domain, but prepare yourself, it's a hard slog.  They added a lot of wit, and satiric humor, especially in a totally made-up opening sequence, with the Bad Men taking part in Christmas celebrations in the town prior to the robbery.

 

Anyway, here Chester Morris has one of his best roles playing one of the most repulsive snakes ever to appear on a screen.  He shows no concern for any one's interest but his own, and has no compunction manipulating people, or taking advantage of their weaknesses for his own advantage.  It's quite a job making the transition to a self-sacrificing agent of mercy, but he does it brilliantly.

 

Along with him, Lewis Stone plays a broken-down scholar, ruefully commenting on events with wistful, wry classical, and literary references.  Walter Brennan plays his not-so-bright friend, whom Stone likes for his uncomplicated good nature (in a Bad Man bank robber!).  Still, he knows enough, and has enough character to do what he needs to at the right moment.

 

Boleslawski's direction is spare, unadorned, stays out of the way of the actors, yet manages powerful shots, and a certain grandness.

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Anyway, here Chester Morris has one of his best roles playing one of the most repulsive snakes ever to appear on a screen.  He shows no concern for any one's interest but his own, and has no compunction manipulating people, or taking advantage of their weaknesses for his own advantage.  It's quite a job making the transition to a self-sacrificing agent of mercy, but he does it brilliantly.

 

 

 

I'd seen it many years ago and happened to see that it was on today and before I had to go to work too! I loved Chester Morris in this film. He was excellent. Far from his Boston **** character, that's for sure. Real good film.

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I am watching it right now. Glad to see TCM air it.  Usually, they show the Technicolor version directed by John Ford around Christmastime and this one is overlooked.  I wish Chester Morris had done more westerns. 

 

Yes, Ford took three stabs at this one, two of them silent.  He never got it right.

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