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Jesse James (1939)

Approved | | Biography, Crime, Drama | 27 January 1939 (USA)
After railroad agents forcibly evict the James family from their family farm, Jesse and Frank turn to banditry for revenge.

Directors:

, (uncredited)

Writer:

(original screen play)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
Jailer
J. Edward Bromberg ...
...
Barshee
...
...
...
Jesse James Jr. (as John Russell)
...
Charles Tannen ...
Claire Du Brey ...
Mrs. Bob Ford
Willard Robertson ...
Clarke
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Storyline

The railroads are squeezing farmers off their land. When a railroad agent kills their mother, Frank and Jesse James take up robbing banks and trains. The public regard them as heroes. When Jesse retires his erstwhile friend Robert Ford shoots him in the back to get the reward. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Epic Story of the most Colourful Outlaw who ever lived See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of Jesse James  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,600,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

1939 saw the release of two influential westerners; Jesse James, followed by Stagecoach. Westerns were considered to be box office poison at the time, but these two movies were so well received that westerns were again profitable to release. See more »

Goofs

After they get Jesse out of jail, in the head-on shot of Frank and Jesse riding while being chased by the posse, road dust from the camera truck is visible ahead of them. See more »

Quotes

Engineer: What you aimin' to do, pardner?
Jesse Woodson James: I ain't aimin' to do nuthin'. I'm doin' it. I'm holdin' up this train.
Engineer: The whole train?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: After the tragic war between the states, America turned to the winning of the West. The symbol of this era was the building of the trans-continental railroads.

The advance of the railroads was, in some cases, predatory and unscrupulous. Whole communities found themselves victimized by an ever-growing ogre - the Iron Horse.

It was this uncertain and lawless age that gave to the world, for good or ill, its most famous outlaws, the brothers Frank and Jesse James. See more »

Connections

Featured in 20th Century-Fox: The First 50 Years (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

The Battle Cry of Freedom
(1862) (uncredited)
Written by George Frederick Root
Played by the band at the railroad station
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Entertaining over-wrought Hollywood claptrap!
23 May 2009 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Of all the films Hollywood made during the golden years, my least favorite were ones that played very fast and loose with the facts about the Old West. And, of all the Westerns, those about Jesse James as well as the gunfight at the OK Corral are the worst. Think of it from my point of view. I am an American history teacher and for some bizarre reason, I like my historical films to actually bear some semblance to what actually occurred!!

JESSE JAMES, like all these other films, is a historical nightmare from start to finish. The life of this evil killer and thief is practically impossible to discern in this silly but entertaining film from 20th Century-Fox Studios. Instead of a bad man, according to the film, he is unfairly pushed to a life of crime by an evil railroad AND he and his brother, Frank, are good boys at heart!! With such stupid revisionism, we should soon expect to see films where Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jeffrey Dahmer are heroes!! There are tons more mistakes about the characters--but simply too many to bother mentioning. In fact, what is NOT wrong would be quicker and easier to discuss!! Additionally, there are just every cliché known to Westerns, such as the shootout ("count three and fire"), Frank giving the town an ultimatum to give him back Jesse by midnight "or else", happy and intensely loyal Black servants, the Robin Hood-like quality of the gang (though at least they showed how eventually he became more of a hardened criminal), the death of Frank and Jesse's momma pushing them to crime, Henry Hull's character from start to finish as well as his comments like "Jesse played fair" and "he was one of the gol-dangedest gol-darnestest buckaroos"!

As for the non-historical aspects of the film, there is a lot to like. The film is shot in glorious Technicolor and the camera work is incredible. I especially loved the extremely difficult shot of the nighttime raid on the train--the moving external shot was NOT an easy thing to do and it looked great. Additionally, being an A-picture from the studio, the cast was spectacular--Tyrone Power (Jesse), Henry Fonda (Frank), Henry Hull (playing a role much like you might expect Walter Brennan to usually play), Randolph Scott, Jane Darwell, Donald Meek and Brian Donlevy make for an excellent cast. And, I must admit the film was fun to watch if you could care less about the facts and just want to be entertained. Unfortunately, for folks like me, it's a chore to watch even a well-made film if it's so historically inaccurate.

By the way, it should also be mentioned that according to the IMDb trivia section, this film should be remembered for its total disregard for the welfare of the horses during filming. In exciting scenes, horses actually died to make the shots look good and although I am NOT a bleeding-heart, I just can't help but be appalled with this disregard for the animals. Not surprisingly, this film led to changes in the industry to protect animals in future films.


13 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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