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I Shot Jesse James (1949)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,240 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 22 critic

Bob Ford murders his best friend Jesse James in order to obtain a pardon that will free him to marry his girlfriend but is plagued by guilt and self-disgust.

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Title: I Shot Jesse James (1949)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Preston Foster ...
Kelley
Barbara Britton ...
Cynthy
...
Reed Hadley ...
J. Edward Bromberg ...
Kane
Victor Kilian ...
Soapy
Tom Tyler ...
...
Charles Ford (as Tom Noonan)
Eddie Dunn ...
Joe
...
Saloon Singer
Byron Foulger ...
Silver King Room Clerk
Jeni Le Gon ...
Veronica
Barbara Woodell ...
Phillip Pine ...
Man in Saloon (as Phil Pine)
Robin Short ...
Troubadour
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Storyline

While the law hunts him, Jesse James lives quietly in a rented house on the corner of Lafayette and Twenty-first street in St. Joseph, Missouri, under the alias of Tom Howard. His wife Zee begs him to end his association with the Ford brothers. Before they can leave on a "last" bank holdup, Bob learns that his childhood sweetheart, Cynthy Waters, now an actress, is in St. Joe and he brushes aside all caution to see her. Cynthy is beginning to realize that she is a liability to her manager, Harry Kane, because she will not leave Missouri. Meanwhile, John Kelley has come into her life. She pleads with Bob to turn honest. Cynthy tries to get a pardon for Bob, but the best offer she can get is for a 20-year stretch in prison. Then, the Governor offers amnesty and a $10,000 reward to any member of the James gang betraying Jesse. When his chance comes (April 3, 1882)Bob shoots Jesse in the back. He gets the amnesty but the reward is cut to $500. He also loses the love and respect of Cynthy,... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Charged with excitement and blazing drama! See more »


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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 February 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ich erschoß Jesse James  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shot in ten days. See more »

Goofs

During the final shootout the background lighting on the closeups and master shots of John Ireland do not match. See more »

Quotes

Bob Ford: Whatta yuh got to eat?
Joe, Silver King Bartender: Sweet corn, cormeal mush, corpone with cracklins,and corn whiskey.
Bob Ford: I'll have it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown as posters hanging on a wall. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

The Jesse James Song
Written by Billy Gashade
Sung by Robin Short
See more »

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User Reviews

 
dark, existential melodrama wrapped up in a B-western, a stunning debut from one of the great mavericks
16 September 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's one of the oldest Western stories: Jesse James was a big-time outlaw, robbing banks left and right, alongside his gang, including Robert Ford. One day, upon hearing of the huge bounty (and possibility of amnesty for anyone in the gang) for Jesse's murder, Ford took it upon himself to kill him so that he could be free and clear to mary his would-be wife. But things didn't quite turn out right afterwords, and Ford was considered more-so a coward, a traitor for doing this act, and any gunslinger who could gun Ford down would then be seen as the baddest dude in the west. At least, that's the legend anyway that comes out of the main plot. But there's more to it, at least under the surface, that Samuel Fuller gets to in his take on the legend of one man's existential downfall from killing his best friend, who happened to be the most feared- and yet most admired- bank robber in America for a short while. Fuller might be asking why he was admired, when he didn't do anything that really merited praise only in hindsight. There's a sense of pure melodrama, brimming with acting that is typical for the budget, but somehow Fuller brings out the best in what might be a little limited in the character actors.

John Ireland says a lot in the understated expressions on his face, the tense feeling of rejection from the only one he can get close to- once Jesse is out of the picture- and likewise Cynthy (Barbara Britton) is very good at doing the 'acting-concerned' woman that is reluctant to be on Ford's sleeve. It's all the more compelling because Fuller could easily make the direction more into a black and white category, that Ford is bad like Jesse was, and Cynthy is more than in her reasoning for not wanting to marry him. But even in the pulpy world of Jesse James and Robert Ford, there is room for compromise. I liked seeing the scenes where Ford goes through the humiliating act of doing a theater re-enactment of the killing scene, but suddenly seeing in a vision the actual act he performed superimposed over the pantomime. And, immediately after, as one of the very best scenes in the film, a traveling singer who sings a song terrified in Ford's face about how much of a traitor he was for killing such a man like Jesse James.

It's a sharp script considering what Fuller would have to work with, but it's also the simplicity of his craft (it might be one of those genre films where the style is so stripped down to bare essentials with necessary close-ups, consistent medium shots, that when something 'stylistic' happens like in the last shootout between Kelly and Ford that it is shocking), how Fuller pushes it into looking like a tale that on the surface as a conventional feature. But watch how the suddenness of violence sparks up interest in the craft, how the opening bank robbery is timed and shot with the same level- or even more- tension than your average heist thriller. Or in the actual infamous scene itself, which is preceded by Ford getting a chance beforehand when James was in the bath, and the cut-aways to the POV at the back. It's bold-faced type through a crisp full-frame lens.

And while Fuller would still go on to make greater films, I Shot Jesse James is a fantastic prototype for a great career, where history merges with the human process of change, and how love, however a typical thing in a triangle situation, complicates even the strongest of men.


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