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Splendid in his first Western and his first Technicolor movie, Power
portrayed Jesse James as a sympathetic hero and the most charming bank
robber of the Old West
Teamed with Henry Fonda, and stalwart Randolph Scott, Henry King came with a Western classic, considered as one the best Jesse James of the series
The film opens in Pineville with hothead Jesse and temperate Frank as a couple of Missouri brothers who, embittered by the ruthless tactics of a railroad agent, got a warrant and had to skip out, hiding out until Major Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull) can get the governor to give them a fair trial But the railroad's got too much at stake to let two farmer boys bollix things up
After they had thrown Barshee (Brian Donlevy), the brutal railroad representative off the farm of their widowed mother (Jane Darwell) when she refused to sign over her property, Jesse and Frank later learn that she had been killed by a bomb tossed into their home by Barshee himself Jesse returns, shoots Barshee, and vows revenge on the railroad, with the complete sympathy of the Missouri populace
Jesse's sweetheart, Zee and her uncle, publisher Major Rufus, are among the James' supporters, as is U. S. Marshal Will Wright (Scott), but he has a job to do and is forced to track down the two brothers
Jesse and Frank have expanded their operation from merely harassing the St. Louis Midland with a series of holdups to robbing banks
Pursuaded by railroad president McCoy (Donald Meek) to talk Jesse into surrendering, Wright extracts a written promise of a light sentence for the desperado Zee then urges Jesse to give himself up following their wedding
Of course, Henry King tries to show how Jesse hated the railroads and from that hate he presented a charismatic hero But this hero was not going to last The more luck he had, the worse he gets It'll be his appetite for shooting and robbing until something happens to him
He also shows a worried fiancée keeping thinking of an outlaw all the time out there in the hills just going on and on to nowhere just trying to keep alive with everybody after him, wanting to kill him to get that money
There's a scene near the end where Zee (Nancy Kelly) after delivering her baby is lying in bed with her creature, with the presence of the Marshal, so to speak, between herself and her uncle that suddenly made clear to me what the entire film was about Her feelings as a woman: "I'm so tired to care. This is the way it always is. We live like animals, scared animals. We move. We hide. We don't dare to go out "
Obviously she is a sensitive woman who exposes her being on screen without losing sight of reality That's quite a great scene from King, and key in this great Western, as it's really all about her character, Zee Cobb, a struggling woman in love now a mother with a baby to take care of
So please don't miss it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was the luck of Tyrone Power that he became the pet male star of
Producer Genius Daryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox. He was constantly
finding decent adventure film properties for Power to use, resulting in
a huge public following for the star.
Unfortunately in 1938 Power was lent to MGM to appear in the extravaganza historical film MARIE ANTOINETTE with Norma Shearer. He gave a fine performance as her friend/probable lover Count Axel Fersen, but his fans were puzzled, and some critics had a field day. It was like a problem a decade and a half earlier suffered by silent idol Rudolf Valentino, when he made some costume films like MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE. Then Valentino suggested the choice of these rolls proved Valentino was a "powder puff" (i.e. homosexual). Now they suggested the same (after one film only!) for Power.
To recoup meant taking Power into a particular historical film - a western. Long before the idea of a homosexual cowboy found any open acceptance on the screen, most actors found that the most masculine American role was as a cowboy. And if Power was going to play a westerner, he should play one who did not take nonsense - indeed was downright dangerous to people he disliked. Such a person was Jesse Woodson James (1848 - 1882). Zanuck's genius at picking the right properties showed up here to such great affect, that a year later MGM copied the idea for their resident star with a huge female following, Robert Taylor, with the film BILLY THE KID.
In first rate Technicolor, we watch a screen-writer's version of Jesse's complicated and violent life, in the last days of the Civil War (for the South), fighting carpetbaggers, banks, and railroads from the North, turning bandit against these aggressors, and then controlling the best bank and train robbing gang from 1868 - 1876 in the Mississippi/Missouri Valley. It also follows the love and marriage and tribulations of Jesse and his wife Zee Cobb (Nancy Kelly), and the events leading to his assassination (which more of below) by Robert Ford (John Carridine) a member of his gang. His brother and gang partner Frank is played by Henry Fonda. His love rival but occasional ally, the Marshall is Randolph Scott. Besides Carridine, the villains are a half-way comic banker/railroad owner played by Donald Meek, and his agent played by J. Edward Bromberg (possibly his best known role). And as for that "great" editor, Col. Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull) anyone who does not think him a great character should be taken outside and hanged like a dog!
Henry King, a good journeyman director used by Power and Zanauck in several films, turned in a first rate job, even as the screenplay really improves Jesse's record. It is questionable if he was in the Confederate army or even served with Quantrill (as Frank and the missing Cole Younger, his cousin, did). But he was thoroughly tied to the lost cause, and the post war poverty that hit his part of Missouri did not endear the victors to him. Given the way money ruled the Gilded Age millionaires, one can see that the avariciousness's of the banks and railroads would have worsened the situation. But did that give Jesse and Frank and their gang the right to kill any former Union foe they encountered in what was technically peacetime?
The Northfield Bank Raid is rightly seen as the destruction of the James - Younger Gang, and as a model of overreaching. Unlike the fictional version in the story (the plan is betrayed, so the bank becomes a trap), Jesse and the gang tried to rob two banks in Northfield, Minnesota, and thought the locals there would be as indifferent as Missourians or Kansas on-lookers (they weren't). Many were shot and killed on both sides, but worse Cole and his brothers were captured and sent to prison. Jesse and Frank and several others escaped - but regrouped in Missouri. It lasted for six more years with bank and railroad robberies before Jesse was killed by Ford.
There is no denying (as Hull says at the end) that James was a criminal. But to be fair, the Federal Government and the Pinkertons did not behave well either. Keep in mind, in 1870 Federal intervention in the states was limited to the Reconstruction policies, not to policing action. But Ulysses Grant, although from Ohio, had lived in Missouri for years, and took a personal interest in the James Gang. He was willing to use the Pinkertons as his agents, including one incident where a bomb-like device was used against Jesse's mother's family, injuring several (his mother lost her arm), and killing his half-brother. So furious was Jesse about this, for a couple of months he was in Chicago seeking a chance to attack and kill Allan Pinkerton!
And then there is that final killing - Governor Crittenden of Missouri, from a distinguished Kentucky family, smashed his career in setting up a "hit" by Ford, in which Jesse was shot in the back in his parlor! I don't think any other criminal of the top rank in American History (maybe Dillinger in his demise at the Biograph Theater in Chicago) ever came across as having had his bad list of actions cleaned by the manner his death was caused. In 1881 Crittenden was considered a possible future Democratic Presidential candidate. After 1882 his career was finished. As for Ford, he was shot down years later - his killer given a judicial slap on the hand.
JESSE JAMES cuts down the negative issues a bit too much, and builds up his good characteristics too much. Yet it works splendidly as film. Other "James" films like I SHOT JESSE JAMES or THE GREAT NORTHFIELD RAID may be truer somehow, but this is the JAMES we like to recall - and the JAMES that will live.
A real life legend of the Old West comes to life in this 1939 film, which
may not be historically accurate or honest enough for purists, but
nevertheless tells a good story while leaving any moral judgments up to the
audience. `Jesse James,' directed by Henry King, stars Tyrone Power as the
man heralded by some as the Robin Hood of cowboys. Whether or not he was
actually a hero is debatable, and what this movie does is supply the
motivation for the wrong-doing on Jesse's part-- at least up to a point. At
the time this film was made, it was necessary for the filmmaker to present a
story like this in a way that reflected a reckoning of sorts for a character
engaged in any form of moral turpitude; and this film is no exception. But
in this case, it's done with subtlety, and in a way that still allows the
viewer's sympathies to be with the protagonist, regardless of his
At the heart of the matter is basically another version of the oft-told David and Goliath tale. In this story, Goliath is the railroad, expanding ever-westward and growing bigger and stronger by the day. When they encounter the farm on which Jesse, his brother, Frank (Henry Fonda) and their mother (Jane Darwell) reside and make their living, the railroad does what any self-respecting conglomerate would do-- they take it, pay the owners a pittance and lay their rail without giving it another thought. Only this time, the railroad messed with the wrong people. Not one to take it lying down, Jesse forms a gang-- which includes Frank-- and strikes back in the only way he knows how: By robbing the trains. And, just as Bonnie and Clyde would become, in a sense, local heroes a few years later, many began looking up to James as something of a redeemer; the man who stood up for all the others who were either unwilling or unable to do it for themselves after being wronged, as well, by the ruthless machinery of progress.
Power gives an outstanding performance as Jesse James, to whom he brings an intensity that seethes beneath his rugged good looks and determined attitude. Like Beatty did with Clyde, Power makes Jesse an outlaw you can't help but like, and actually admire. Because the James Power presents is nothing more nor less than a good man seeking reparation for the injury visited not only upon himself, but upon his family, to whom he feels justice is now due. It's a very credible and believable portrayal, though under close scrutiny his Jesse may come across as somewhat idealistically unflawed. Then again, within the time frame of this story, we are seeing a man adamant and single-minded of purpose, and the depth Power brings to the character more than accounts for what may be construed as a flawless nature.
As Frank James, Henry Fonda presents a man perhaps more laid-back than his brother, but every bit as volatile and adamant in his quest for justice. There's a coolness in his eyes and in his manner that belies the tenacity of his character. Fonda conveys the sense that Frank is a lion; he's no trouble without provocation, but once aroused he will demand satisfaction and stay with the scent until he has it. And it's that sense of dogged determination that Fonda and Power bring to their respective characters that makes them so engaging and accessible. Goliath is the real bad guy here, and you want to see him fall; and these are the guys you want to see bring him down.
In a supporting role, John Carradine gives a noteworthy performance as Jesse's own personal Judas, Bob Ford, a man who made history by demonstrating that there is, indeed, no honor among thieves. Carradine brings Ford to life in a sly and sinister way that leaves no doubt as to who the real villain of the story is.
The supporting cast includes Nancy Kelly (Zee), Randolph Scott (Will), Slim Summerville (Jailer), Brian Donlevy (Barshee), Donald Meek (McCoy), Charles Tannen (Charlie Ford), Claire Du Brey (Mrs. Ford) and Henry Hull, in an energetic and memorable performance as Major Rufus Cobb. Compared to many of the westerns made in the past couple of decades or so, this film is rather antiseptic in it's presentation; that is to say it lacks the graphic visuals of say, `The Wild Bunch' or Eastwood's `Unforgiven.' But `Jesse James' is satisfying entertainment that doesn't require or rely upon shocking realism to tell the story, but rather the talent and finesse of a great cast and a savvy director. It's a movie that will keep you involved, and Power and Fonda make it an especially enriching cinematic experience. In a very classic sense, this is the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.
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
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.
The first western shot in color focuses more on mythology than facts of this famous outlaw. Tyrone Power in the lead role shows acting abilities not seen in his previous movies,and delivers an intense portrayal of Jesse James. Underplaying his part as Frank James to great effect, Henry Fonda steals the movie.Although a supporting part he's missed in the scenes his not in. Randolph Scott as the marshal delivers one of his best performances. Nancy Kelly makes a beautiful love interest for Power. Henry Hull's crusading editor is fun to watch. The movie is wonderful to look at and one of the great westerns.I hope this classic western will be out on DVD soon.
With Ty Power and Hank Fonda in the saddle, there was no way this
version of the James Brothers legend was going to paint them as bad
Less so since the courtly southerner Nunnally Johnson wrote and produced the yarn. In reality the James boys took to knocking off banks and trains after being at a loose end following Missouri's joining the losing side in the War Between the States. This was too painful a scab to pick in the Thirties, so Johnson gives the Jameses a more palatable enemy than Abe Lincoln: big bad railroad barons upsetting their ma. And he paints his outlaws with a populist tint, to please New Deal Democrats as well as Dixiecrats who knew the real backstory.
However, the broad outlines of their rise and fall are intact. We see a gradual slide into semi-chivalrous villainy (they didn't rob train passengers, only mails), a 'Liberty Valance'-like exploitation of their coups by political orators and editors, Jesse's becoming consumed by his own legend, and the final botched bank job at Northfield, Minnesota. That leads to a panicky flight and an attempt to live semi-respectably under pseudonyms, followed by Bob Ford's betrayal as Jesse turns art curator.
The film is pleasingly quiet between action set pieces, free of the obtrusive music that was often the curse of Hollywood soundtracks and laced with good lines from Johnson's florid pen. And above all, surrounded by good character actors, we have two rising Zanuck stars tussling enjoyably for mastery, both in the plot and career-wise.
Henry King had become Power's preferred handler ('In Old Chicago' the previous year had been a wow) and both men evidently relish the challenge of tweaking his 'nice bank teller' image a little. Swarthy and bearded betimes, barking out orders to older subordinates, Power does fine. Fonda's grand remonstrance, when he tells Junior that he's turning into a suicidal psycho, is ably played and paced. The soft early tripack Technicolor looks sweet both outdoors-- Ford was getting similar results in 'Drums Along the Mohawk'-- and in candle-lit interiors.
Also noteworthy is Jesse's respectful, confiding relationship with his black ex-slave Pinky (Ernest Whitman) when he decides not to pursue Frank. Black maids could sass their mistresses in crazy comedies, but this quality of understanding between men of different colours was unusual in early-talkie Hollywood.
'Jesse James' was released in Hollywood's peak year, 1939. It's understandable that it was overlooked. But when we've done finger-wagging at the cruelty to horses which led the American Humane Association to demand supervisory privileges over stampedes-- and the cruelty to female Central Casting members which allowed Power to father a child on one-- we can still appreciate a good, workmanlike travesty of outlaw history. As a distortion of the James-Younger saga it has not been surpassed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Henry Hull, as a newspaper publisher and Jesse's friend, is giving the
speech at Jesse James' burial. "We're PROUD of Jesse around here," he
shouts. "I reckon all America's a little proud of him. I dunno why.
Maybe it's because he was bold -- and lawless -- the way we all like to
be, once in a while." Nothing like being bold and lawless. The
middle-class James family in Clay County, Missouri, were slave owners
and Jesse fought on the side of guerrillas who were sometimes lawless
even by Civil War standards. After the war, Jesse was wounded while
trying to surrender, and thereafter lawlessness became a career. He was
more or less turned into a Robin Hood by a newspaper editor in Kansas
who had fantasies of restoring the Confederacy.
But that's all history and history is all conjecture. Any pretense towards factuality in this movie can be easily shrugged off and a viewer can sit back and enjoy a bang-pow Western full of well-crafted scenes of shooting and galloping horses and drama about loyalty and love.
Some scenes are positively comic. During the hold up of a train, Bob Ford (John Carradine) walks down the aisle collecting cash from the terrified passengers. "Thank you! Thank you kindly, sir. Hurry, please. That's a fine pocket watch, sir." And there is an engaging meeting between Randolph Scott as the lawman in Liberty, Missouri, and Tyrone Power as the skedaddling Jesse, in which Scott intuits Jesse's real identity but pretends not to know it.
Some of the shots are spectacular -- twice, a horse and its rider slide off a cliff into a river, tumbling over every which way, a distance like unto that dropped by Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Tyrone Power is as handsome as Newman or Redford. Randolph Scott is manly, honest, and wise. Henry Fonda, as Jesse's brother Frank, is taciturn, spits tobacco, and acts like The Man With No Name. Henry Hull, as the cantankerous newspaper editor, paraphrases Shakespeare to amusing effect, "If we are ever going' to have law and order in this town, the first thing we got to do is take all the lawyers and shoot 'em down like dogs." The movie was shot in splendid Technicolor on location in Jesse James' country.
The sentiment with which the film ends is stupid. We all want to be like Jesse James. Right -- we all want to carry guns and shoot people we don't like, or just strangers who get in our way. But the protagonist of this story isn't Jesse James. It's Tyrone Power acting out a revenge motive and he's fundamentally a good guy, so we can afford to applaud him because the character doesn't exist. Let's cheer for Robin Hood too, while we're at it.
Spectacular as well as exciting Western talks the lives of Jesse and
Frank James ; featuring notorious interpretations by a popular group of
known stars . This is a slight and intelligent biopic about Jesse James
who ranks with Billy the Kid as the most famous of Western outlaws .
Legend and folklore have cast him as a Robin Hood , a good boy forced
by circumstances to follow a criminal life . The picture provides a
good portrait of Jesse and his band , as they move from Civil War to
there territory becoming into semi-legends . As showing his home life
in Missouri, his experiences with Quantrill's raiders and his career of
banditry . As Jesse (Tyrone Power) and Frank (Henry Fonda) along with
cousins Cole , Bob and Jim Younger return from War to find their mommy
(Jane Darwell) and family threatened by railway people . As Barshee
(Brian Donlevy) was hired by the railroad company run by Mc Coy (Donald
Meek) to hunt down Jesse and Frank . So James Brothers commence to
robbin' banks and trains to help out the poor folks who been done wrong
. In the course of their revenge , they will become the object of the
biggest manhunt in the history of the Old West . Along the way , Jesse
courts attractive young , Zerelda (Nancy Kelly) . As their fame grows,
so will the legend of their leader, a young outlaw by the name of Jesse
James . At the end , he is betrayed by the Ford brothers , Charlie and
Bob (John Carradine) .
This is a sprawling and glamorous Western with excellent performances from Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda . The film gets spectacular shoot em'up , thrills , exciting horse pursuits . A glimmer Western with a wild bunch look-alike that ends up into a fateful final . Packs colorful scenarios, moving pace and slick edition . This is a decent look about the known story of the West's greatest bandit , Jesse James , along with Frank , Cole Younger and brothers with acceptable performances and compelling direction creating some good action scenes . The picture shows nice as well as spectacular frames , as when both Jesse and Frank going off the cliff on horseback , in reality the stunt was performed once and shot with two cameras. 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. As originally conceived by screen writer Nunnally Johnson along with contributing writers as Curtis Kenyon , Long and Gene Fowler . Taut excitement throughout , beautifully photographed by George Barnes and W. Howard Greene . The motion picture was well realized by Henry King .
It was followed by a sequel : ¨The return of Frank James¨ (1950) by Fritz Lang with Henry Fonda . Other films about this legendary outlaw are : ¨I shot Jesse James¨ by Samuel Fuller with John Ireland as Bob Ford ; ¨Jesse James vs the Dalton (1954)¨ by William Castle with John Ireland . ¨The true story of Jesse James¨ (1957) by Nicholas Ray with Robert Wagner , Jeffrey Hunter , Hope Lange , Agnes Moorehead ; in which footage from the original 1939 production was used when Frank and Jesse go over a cliff on horseback into a river and when they crashed , on horseback, through a store window during the "Northfield Minnesota Raid" . And contemporary-style Western such as ¨Frank and Jesse¨ by Robert Boris with Rob Lowe as Jesse James , Bill Paxton as Frank James and Randy Travis as Younger ; ¨American outlaws¨ by Les Mayfield with Colin Farrell , Gabriel Macht , Terry O'Quinn , Harris Yulin and Ali Larter ; and ¨The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford¨ (2007) by Andrew Dominik with Brad Pitt , Sam Shepard , Mary Louise Parker , Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell.
The picture lavishly produced by Darryl F Zanuck was based on actual events , these are the followings : At the war's end in 1865 , Jesse rode in to surrender and was shot and seriously wounded by a Union soldier . Jesse and his brother joined the Confederate guerrillas of Quantrill and learned to kill in ruthless company . It is believed that Jesse took part in his first robbery in 1866 when a dozen men held up the bank in Liberty , Missouri . A bank cashier was killed in the raid and a reward was offered for each of the James brothers . In 1873 Jesse and his band derailed and robbed a train on the Rock Island line . Jesse married his cousin Zerelda , who bore him two children . Pinkerton detectives were contracted to chase Jesse and Frank , the agents surrounded the home , believing they to be there , tossed a bomb and the explosion killed Jesse's young half-brother . This outrage brought much sympathy for the brothers . On 1876 Jesse and Frank in company the three Younger Brothers , attempted a bank robbery at Northfield , Minnnesota , and walked in disaster . The alerted citizens opened fire on the raiders , of the eight bandits involved , three were killed and three Younger brothers were captured .
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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