As a precursor to our film project, 12 Western Feature-Length Films in 12 Months, produced by our company Running Wild Films and 5J Media which will begin production in 2016, I have decided to share my thoughts on films from the genre as I study Westerns in preparation to make our own.
This series of short blogs is titled “Western Impressions”.
3 Godfathers (1948)
I was surprised at this one, somehow I had avoided it, turned off by the “baby” plot and the impression that it wasn’t a “serious” work of Ford’s. But it has much more weight than I guessed and also far more than it gets credit for. While the film may lean towards “comedy”, people die in this film. Tragedy rides alongside comedy from beginning to end and thus the film has a deep resonance. In some ways, these deaths feel more like the death of Howard Hawks professionals, doing their best until they just can’t anymore.
Lasting impression: Harry Carey Jr. singing “Shall We Gather at the River” with all three godfathers in silhouette on the top of a sandhill during their funeral for the baby’s mother. Beautiful moment that stands among Ford’s best.
Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute the contested greatest American filmmaker, John Ford, is itself one the best films ever made about filmmaking. Watching it again, I found some of these quotations about the “man who made Westerns” to be worth repeat.
Martin Scorsese: John Ford is the essence of classical American cinema and any serious person working in film today is effected by him, whether they know it or not.
Clint Eastwood: He was not influenced by a politically correct generation that we live in today. He could go flat out. And I think that was an imprint of Ford’s, where Ford was afraid of nothing.
Harry Carey Jr.: He kept saying, you’re going to hate me when the movie’s over, but you’re going to give a good performance. Well, I hated him after the first day.
Walter Hill: He always said I had a thousand fights with the Studio and I lost them all. But then there’s Grapes of Wrath and My Darling Clementine. I’d like to lose some fights like that.
Maureen O’Hara: He was an instinctive con-man. It was impossible to know when to believe him and when to disbelieve him.