The last eighteen years in the life of Jesse James, showing his home life in Missouri, his experiences with Quantrill's raiders, his career of banditry with his brother Frank and the ... See full summary »
The last eighteen years in the life of Jesse James, showing his home life in Missouri, his experiences with Quantrill's raiders, his career of banditry with his brother Frank and the Younger brothers, and his attempt to lead a peaceful life after the disastrous attempt to rob the bank at Northfield, Minn. Written by
Although Jesse indicates the award for him has reached $30,000.00; in fact the arrangement with Robert Ford made by Missouri Governor Crittenden included a pardon for a previous murder and payment of $10,000.00. Only part of that $10,000.00 was received by the Ford brothers. See more »
The True Story of Jesse James is directed by Nicholas Ray and adapted to screenplay by Walter Newman from a 1939 screenplay written by Nunnally Johnson. It stars Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Hope Lange, Agnes Moorhead and Alan Hale Junior. Out of 20th Century Fox, it's a CinemaScope/De Luxe colour production with music scored by Leigh Harline and cinematography by Joe MacDonald.
20th Century Fox choose to remake their own 1939 movie that starred Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda as Jesse and Frank respectively, that film itself was historically dubious, this version, with flashbacks a go go, is a dizzying mess structurally as much as it is factually. With Nicholas Ray at the end of his Fox contract, so therefore using this film as his contract filler, the picture lacks the pizazz so evident in some of his earlier movies. Undoubtedly hampered by studio interference, one can only wonder just how good the film could have been under Ray's total command. There is even some footage from the 39 film inserted into this version, yes the film is that lazy at times. It's rather bizarre to see Wagner and Hunter jump through a window on horseback, only for them to morph into Power and Fonda before completing their escape!
Picture is dealing in the main points of the James' boys life, how and why they became the notorious crims that they were. However, in an attempt to beef up this new updated remake, we are asked to try and involve ourselves with Jesse by way of a complex narrative structure that is just too complex for its own good. Jesse James in his numerous film incarnations has always had an aura of romanticism about him, which is strange since he was a murdering armed robber! But the audience has always been coerced into caring about what happens to him, fully involved in the story of the man himself. Here, though, nobody is sure what to think once the eventuality comes to pass. Somewhere in the mix he was vengeful and driven, elsewhere he was an egotist who drank in the power of leading men, but in an attempt to make sense of the man and legend, the makers also made it a trifle dull. The blend shot to pieces by those flashbacks and too many cooks spoiling the broth.
It's not all a wash out, though. It looks tremendous, beautiful scenery in CinemaScope with the De Luxe colour really soothing the eyes. A few scenes are good value and expertly staged by Ray and his team, with the Northfield raid and a night time train robbery in the glow of the moon particularly standing tall and proud. Cast performances vary, but even though Wagner and Hunter are pale shadows of Power and Fonda, they are not bad at all, and they make for a handsome pair and do come off as brothers. Carradine was in the 39 version as Robert Ford, here he plays a Reverend with his usual grace and smile. Hale Jr is oddly subdued as Cole Younger, Lange looks out of place in a Western setting and Moorehead fans are short changed by her screen time.
Disappointing and only carrying curiosity value these days. Best advice is to stick with the 39 version instead. 6/10
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