51 user 29 critic

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.


, (uncredited)


(original screen play)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mr. Runyan
Mc Coy
Johnny Russell ...
Jesse James Jr. (as John Russell)
Mrs. Samuels
Charles Ford
Mrs. Bob Ford


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


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


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of Jesse James  »


Box Office


$1,600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film and Stagecoach (1939) were both released in 1939 and became very influential westerns. That genre was 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 »


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


Zerelda 'Zee' Cobb, later Zerelda 'Zee' James: If I could just think of some way to let you know how wrong you are.
Jesse Woodson James: No use, honey. It's just like I always told you: I hate the railroads... and when I hate, I've gotta do somethin' about it.
Major Rufus Cobb: That's the stuff! People ain't hating nowadays like they used to. They gettin' soft. I got to admit that I like a man that hauls off and hates good and hard. It's the lawyers - gol-dang it - it's the lawyers are messin' up the whole world! Why ten years ago, here in Liberty, we didn't have no lawyers and ...
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 »


Featured in Biography: The Fondas (2004) See more »


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

Hey, Hollywood: James Was A Crook!
10 July 2006 | by See all my reviews

This had a great cast with big-name stars like Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Henry Hull and Brian Donlevey and a bunch more lesser-but-known names with shorter roles. It also had Technicolor, one of the few movies made with it in 1939.

Now the bad news.......regrettably, I can't say much positive for the story. It portrayed the James boys in a totally positive light....and Hollywood has done that ever since. Why these criminals are always shown to be the "good guys" is beyond me. This film glamorizes them and made their enemies - the railroad people - into vicious human beings. The latter was exaggerated so much it was preposterous. Well, that's the film world for you: evil is good; good is bad.

Hey Hollywood: here's a news flash - The James boys were criminals! Really - look it up!

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