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Young Jesse James (1960)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, War | 2 August 1960 (USA)
In this one, the father of Jesse and Frank James is unjustly hanged by Union troops and their mother's arm is amputated after their home is bombed by Union people, so they go riding with ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay)


Cast overview, first billed only:
Cole Younger
Frank James
Maj. Charlie Quantrill
Jacklyn O'Donnell ...
Rayford Barnes ...
Boyd Holister ...
Bob Younger (as Bob Palmer)
Mrs. Samuels
John O'Neill ...
Jim Younger (as Johnny O'Neill)
Major Clark
Lee Kendall ...
Tyler McVey ...


In this one, the father of Jesse and Frank James is unjustly hanged by Union troops and their mother's arm is amputated after their home is bombed by Union people, so they go riding with Quantrill's Raiders and Cole Younger and Belle Starr. Jesse and Frank argue a lot and then Jesse marries Zerelda 'Zee' Mimms, but true-history had long flown out the window by that time. Actually, history departed before the first reel was over. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Wanted! Cole Younger! Belle Star! Quantrell! Frank James! and Young Jesse James WANTED! Cole Younger! Belle Starr! Quantrell! Frank James! and YOUNG JESSE JAMES See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 August 1960 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El joven vengador  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Young Jesse James
Music by Irving Gertz
Lyrics by Hal Levy
Sung by John O'Neill (as Johnny O'Neill)
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User Reviews

Well-told low-budget western with a harder edge than usual
15 November 2008 | by See all my reviews

I had seen YOUNG JESSE JAMES (1960) in a theater when I was a child so I was a bit surprised when, watching it again for the first time earlier this year on the Fox Movie Channel, the rating of "TV 14 LV" appeared, presumably for "language" and "violence," which puzzled me since the film was a low-budget black-&-white western that originally played to a kid audience at a time when TV westerns were all the rage. Well, the film turned out to have a lot more violence than I'd remembered, including a bloody shot to the head, a couple of knifings, some cold-blooded shootings, and an attempted rape. Overall, it held up surprisingly well. Granted, it was all shot on the 20th Century Fox backlot or nearby ranches, on a very low budget, but it offered a pretty good overview of the young outlaw's early exploits. While from a production standpoint it can't compare with Fox's 1939 Technicolor version with Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, its storyline actually hews a little closer to the historical record than the earlier film's aggressive whitewash of the James saga. It even includes the bit where Jesse is employed by Quantrill to dress up as a girl to fool Union soldiers.

The bulk of the film focuses on Jesse's period with guerrilla leader William Quantrill, whom he joins as a teenager in order to be with his brother Frank after their father had been hung to death by Union soldiers (a bit of fudging here, since in real life it was Jesse's stepfather who was hung--by Missouri militiamen, not soldiers--but not fatally, only to get him to tell where Frank and his men were hiding). Jesse's subsequent chief aim, according to the script, is to avenge the death of his father. Also in Quantrill's camp is Jesse's older cousin, Cole Younger, another famous western outlaw, although he was not actually Jesse's cousin in real life. Younger has a hard time with Jesse's hot temper, impulsive behavior and increasing taste for killing. Complicating matters is another loose cannon in Quantrill's camp, Zack (Rex Holman), a cretinous redneck with a knife who loves to kill "Redlegs" (their preferred term for Yankees) and chase women when he can. When he attempts to rape Jesse's girlfriend, who's come to the camp to see Jesse, it leads to more violence. After the war, Cole reluctantly allows Jesse into his outlaw gang, but only because Frank James insists on it.

Ray Stricklyn is somewhat overwrought as Jesse in the early scenes, too intent on "acting" to allow himself to inhabit his character the way the rest of the cast, most of them old hands, do. At one point he has a dramatic scene with his girlfriend Zee (Jacklyn O'Donnell) after he's left Quantrill. "I didn't leave the war behind, I brought it home with me," he declares to her. While it might be a highly unlikely line for the somewhat less-than-self-reflective Jesse to utter, it's interesting for the way it foreshadows similar sentiments uttered by Vietnam War vets in movies a few short years afterwards. (I was surprised to learn, upon checking IMDb's bio for Stricklyn, that he was 31 when he made this film, almost twice the age of the character.) Stricklyn gets better as it goes along, particularly as he gets meaner and more obnoxious, increasingly disliked by those around him. The film takes pains not to glorify or glamorize Jesse. Of course, since the film ends at the beginning of his postwar outlaw career, he is never shown suffering the consequences of his misdeeds, possibly a first for a Hollywood film about a major historical outlaw.

Veteran actor Willard Parker plays Cole Younger as a mature character who starts out as a sincere believer in the Rebel cause but becomes disillusioned and walks out on Quantrill. Robert Dix (a dead ringer for his father Richard Dix, a 1930s matinée idol and onetime western star) does a good job as Frank James. Emile Meyer practically steals the show as the irascible Quantrill, who takes a shine to Jesse's sheer nerve and skill with a pistol. Merry Anders turns up as another famous outlaw, Belle Starr, who, widowed after the death of Sam Bass, takes in Cole and Jesse for a night and winds up bedding Cole. It's a small, showy role but it got her third billing in the cast list, after Stricklyn and Parker. Rayford Barnes plays Pitts, a Quantrill crew member who befriends Jesse and later joins Cole's outlaw gang. Barnes would later turn up as Buck, an ill-fated member of THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

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