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Jesse James (1939)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  27 January 1939 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,791 users  
Reviews: 45 user | 20 critic

After railroad agents forcibly evict the James family from their family farm, Jesse and Frank turn to banditry for revenge.

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, (uncredited)

Writer:

(original screen play)
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Title: Jesse James (1939)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
Jailer
J. Edward Bromberg ...
...
Barshee
...
...
Johnny Russell ...
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

Plot Keywords:

railroad | train | bank | farmer | reward | See All (92) »

Taglines:

The Tremendous Dramatic Thrills Of the Midwest's Lawless Era will burst from our screen... 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

After the two horses that were blindfolded and forced to go over a cliff were killed, a new rule was enforced and later endorsed by The Humane Society of America in which strict standards were created to protect Animal Actors in which at the end of the movie and added to the credits listed as "No Animals Were Harmed or Injured in the Production of this Film...". Now all films involving any Animal Actors must have present a member representing The Humane Society of America to insure that all animals are treated humanly and given a safe environment in which to work. See more »

Goofs

Frank comes to rescue Jesse from the jail at midnight. When they get outside, it's broad daylight. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
[about Jesse James]
Major Rufus Cobb: He was one of the doggonedest, gawl-dingedest, dad-blamedest buckaroos that ever rode across these United States of America!
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

Referenced in The Nostalgia Chick: The Adventures of Milo and Otis (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh Susanna
(1846) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Played on harmonica offscreen by prisoner Jesse James in jail
Sung a cappella by Nancy Kelly and Tyrone Power with modified lyrics
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Special cast, special movie, just don't expect a history lesson.
20 January 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

We are at the time of the Iron Horse birth, the railroads are buying out the farm land at ridiculously low prices, even resorting to bully tactics to get the signature rights. When one particularly nasty railroad agent tries his strong arm tactics on the mother of the James brothers, he gets more than he bargained for. In an act of almost vengeful negligence, the agent causes the death of Mrs James and thus sets the wheels in motion for what was to become folklore notoriety, Jesse James, his brother Frank, and a gang of seemingly loyal thieves, went on to etch their names in outlaw history.

There is no getting away from the fact that history tells us that this is a highly fictionalised account of Jesse James and his exploits. What we are given here by director Henry King and his screenwriter Nunally Johnson, is a more romanticised look at the legend of the man himself; which sure as heck fire makes for one dandy and enjoyable watch. The cast is one to savour, Tyrone Power (Jesse James), Henry Fonda (Frank James), Randolph Scott (Will Wright), Brian Donlevy (Barshee) and John Carradine (Bob Ford) all line up to entertain the masses with fine results, with Fonda possibly owing his subsequent career to his appearance here. He would return a year later in the successful sequel The Return Of Frank James and subsequently go on to greater and more rewarding projects. Power of course would go on and pick up the trusty blade and start swishing away, a career beckoned for this matinée idol for sure, but it's nice to revisit this particular picture to see that Power could indeed be an actor of note, capable of some emotional depth instead of making Jesse just another outlawish thug. If the makers have made the character too "heroic" then that's for debate, it's one of the many historical "itches" that have irked historians over the years. But Power plays it as such and it works very well.

One of the film's main strengths is the pairing of Power and Fonda, very believable as a kinship united in ideals, with both men expertly handled by the reliable Henry King. The Technicolor from Howard Greene and George Barnes is wonderfully put to good use here, splendidly capturing the essence of the time with eye catching results. While the film itself has a fine action quota, gun play and galloping horses all feature throughout, and the characterisations of the main players lend themselves to pulse raising sequences. To leave us with what? A highly accomplished Western picture that ends in the way that history has showed it should-whilst the rest of the film is flimsy history at best? Yes. But ultimately it really doesn't matter if one is after some Western entertainment, because for sure this picture scores high in that regard. 8/10


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