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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
Once again, Hollywood brings us a film about the old west that would make history teachers have migraines!
You should know before I go further that I have a strong prejudice against movies about the James Brothers and other 'heroic' criminals of the old west. Much of it is because they are bad history--making very minor characters far more important and heroic than they really were. Second, the studios almost always play fast and loose with the facts--something that makes history teachers like me have migraines.
Why, then did I bother to see this film if I assumed I'd hate it? Well, it was directed by Fritz Lang--that's enough reason to see it. But it also stars Henry Fonda--and I'd watch him in anything.
This film begins around the same time Jesse James was killed. It concerns his brother, Frank, and his actions following this death. Unfortunately, most of what you see never actually occurred--and Frank played no part in the deaths of the Ford Brothers--none. In fact, Frank gave himself up, was tried for some of his crimes (and acquitted) and retired to a relatively normal life. 'Frankly', I'd love to see a film about this--about the many odd jobs he did and the things he did after retirement--but I also doubt if the public would really care! I guess the truth just isn't very interesting in most cases.
So, it's obvious that the plot was almost complete crap. What did I think about the film otherwise? Well, it was pretty to see--being in Technicolor. And Fonda's performance was nice--as usual. In fact the entire film is competent--just nearly all wrong! This actually makes one scene in the movie VERY ironic--and funny. Frank is enjoying a play when suddenly out come two actors pretending to be him and Jesse--and, naturally, the two actors are doing things the James' never did! I'm pretty sure the studio didn't see this as ironic or funny.
By the way, at the 41 minute mark you see a couple horses make some horrifically bad falls. Sadly, to get this wonderful effect, the studios would actually use trip wires (like piano wire) to make the horses fall--and often the horses would break their legs and need to be euthanized! Fortunately this practice was later abandoned when bad publicity for this cruel thing brought this to light.
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