The Fugitive (1947)

A- SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

Not to be confused with any version of the story of Dr. Kimble and the one-armed man, this Fugitive is director John Ford’s underrated adaptation of Catholic novelist Graham Greene’s masterpiece The Power and the Glory.

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Directed by John Ford. Henry Fonda, Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armendáriz, J. Carrol Naish. RKO.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value


Age Appropriateness

Teens & Up

MPAA Rating


Caveat Spectator

Some menacing scenes; continual undercurrent of tension.

Starring Henry Fonda as a flawed priest in Mexico during the anti-clerical purges of the post-Mexican Revolution era, the film softens and conventionalizes Greene’s difficult parable, but still packs spiritual punch.

No Hollywood film of this era could have depicted a cleric as flawed as the original book’s "whiskey priest," whose sins were at times grave and who doubted that anything he did was pleasing to God. So Greene’s morality-play, in which a man deprived of every earthly consolation from human gratitude to divine approval nevertheless persistently chooses to serve others at great risk, becomes a more traditionally uplifting story about a basically good man serving God despite self-doubt and trying circumstances.

Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa’s striking black-and-white camerawork highlights the Mexican setting, and the dialogue between the unbelieving, moralistic police lieutenant and the flawed priest — a high point in the novel — remains inspiring. Ford felt this was his best film, and it holds up better than some preferred by critics.

Drama, Priestly, Religious Themes