Johnny looks so much like the real Jesse, he is mistaken for him by a grizzled old member of the now deceased James gang. Johnny is talked into leading a new gang to rob banks using the same modus operandi as the famed outlaw. Jesse's brother Frank decides to put a stop to the defamation of his dead brother's name. Johnny and his gang run into trouble when they try to rob the same two banks, simultaneously, that proved to be the downfall of the original gang. Written by
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"The Return of Jesse James" was another of Lippert Pictures ventures into the legend of the James Brothers. Directed by first time director Arthur Hilton, whose forte was editing, it is an interesting western and contains a cast of recognizable performers, some on the way up and others on the way down. In any event the combination works.
Drifter Johnny Callum (John Ireland) rides into the town where Bob (Clifton Young) and Charley Ford (Tommy Noonan) run a saloon and where Bob proudly displays the gun with which he killed legendary outlaw Jesse James. Callum is befriended by saloon girl Sue Ellen Younger (Ann Dvorak) who takes a shine to him. Her father Hank (Henry Hull) and brother Lem (Hugh O'Brian) who rode with the James boys look on and Hank sees a resemblance between Johnny and Jesse James. Hank proposes that Johnny impersonate Jesse and revive the gang.
The gang led by Johnny with encouragement from Sue Ellen duplicate Jesse's pattern of robberies from years before. Before long, Frank James (Reed Hadley) learns of this and rides to Hank's ranch to elicit a promise from him that the use of the James name will stop. Hank agrees but Johnny prodded by the gold digging Sue Ellen continues the robberies.
Frank decides to put a stop to the robberies by warning the town of Westfield of an impending robbery. He and the town sheriff (Victor Kilian) set a trap for the gang and.............................
For John Ireland, this was his first starring role. He had gained fame with roles in "Red River" (1948) and in "All The King's Men" (1949) for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He would go on to alternate between supporting roles in "A" features and starring roles in "B" pictures, mostly westerns.
Ann Dvorak and Henry Hull's careers went all the way back to the teens. Dvorak first appeared in films in 1916 at the age of four and is remembered for her role in the gangster classic "Scarface" (1932). Hull similarly saw his career in films begin in 1917 and is best remembered for the title role in "Werewolf of London" (1935).
Others in the cast include Margia Dean as a saloon singer, Sid Melton as the piano player, Byron Foulger as a politician, Peter Marshall (of Hollywood Squares fame) as one of the boys and Hank Patterson and Earle Hodgins as various lawmen.
Peter Marshall and Tommy Noonan were a comedy team at one time during the 1950s. Noonan can also be seen as Marilyn Monroe's suitor in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953). Hugh O'Brian went on to a so-so career at Universal before hitting it big in TV's "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1955-61). Sid Melton appeared on "The Danny Thomas Show" on TV.
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