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The Return of Frank James (1940)

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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 1,657 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 19 critic

Frank James continues to avoid arrest in order to take revenge on the Ford brothers for their murder of his brother Jesse.



(original screenplay)
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Title: The Return of Frank James (1940)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Eleanor Stone
J. Edward Bromberg ...
Eddie Collins ...
Station Agent
George Barbier ...
Russell Hicks ...
Ernest Whitman ...
Charles Tannen ...
Lloyd Corrigan ...
Randolph Stone
Victor Kilian ...
Edward McWade ...
Colonel Jackson


Frank James, the brother of Jesse James, has been laying low, living as a farmer and taking care of Clem, the son of one of the members of the James gang. He gets word that Jesse was killed by Bob and Charlie Ford, he hoped that the law would deal with them but when he learns that the railroad man whom he and Jesse terrorized contracted them to kill Jesse and helped them get off, he goes after them. Clem whom he told to remain on the farm goes with him and when it's impossible for him to do so, Frank has no choice to let him tag along. Now in order to cover their tracks they start telling people that Frank James is dead and that they saw it. Eleanor Stone, a female reporter, who wants to write about it interviews them and they are both taken with each other. But eventually she learns who Frank is from the Pinkerton detective who is tracking them but doesn't turn them in. But eventually Frank learns that his farm hand, Pinky has been arrested as his accomplice and is about to be hung. ... Written by

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | History | Western


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Return of Frank James  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The studio bought the rights to the James Brothers but changed the facts for entertainment. Although Frank surrendered 6 months after Jesse James' murder, both Ford brothers were already dead and Frank had nothing to do with their deaths. See more »


Eleanor Stone: Tell me, is it more important for you to kill a man than to save an innocent one.
See more »


Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »


Ring, Ring de Banjo
Written by Stephen Foster
Arranged by David Buttolph and Herbert W. Spencer
See more »

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User Reviews

Henry's Back in the Saddle
21 May 2013 | by (Earth) – See all my reviews

In a "Jesse James" (1939) recap, cowardly John Carradine (as Bob Ford) shoots handsome Tyrone Power (un-credited as Jesse James) in the back. In this sequel, the outlaw hero's tobacco-spitting brother Henry Fonda (as Frank James) is understandably miffed. Basically a peace-loving man, Mr. Fonda expects the captured killer to be executed. But, when Mr. Carradine and his brother are unexpectedly pardoned, Fonda must take the law into his own hands. Fatherly Fonda leaves his quiet farm in the care of adopted teenage partner Jackie Cooper (as Clem) and slavish Ernest Whitman (as "Pinky" Washington)...

Unable to keep Mr. Cooper down on the farm, Fonda reluctantly allows him to tag along. Assuming the alter egos "Ben Woodson" and "Tom Grayson", the dynamic duo spread a story about witnessing the death of Frank James, believing this will lure the Ford brothers out of hiding. In her first movie, pretty "Denver Star" reporter Gene Tierney (as Eleanor Stone) gets the word out. This successful sequel features great colorful photography by George Barnes. It's very nicely directed by Fritz Lang. The subservient, superstitious and mentally challenged "darkies" (as they are called herein) may have missed the emancipation.

****** The Return of Frank James (8/10/40) Fritz Lang ~ Henry Fonda, Jackie Cooper, Gene Tierney, Henry Hull

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