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Jesse James (1939)

Approved | | Biography, Crime, Drama | 27 January 1939 (USA)
After railroad agents forcibly evict the James family from their family farm, Jesse and Frank turn to banditry for revenge.

Directors:

Henry King, Irving Cummings (uncredited)

Writer:

Nunnally Johnson (original screen play)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tyrone Power ... Jesse James
Henry Fonda ... Frank James
Nancy Kelly ... Zerelda - aka Zee
Randolph Scott ... Will Wright
Henry Hull ... Maj. Rufus Cobb
Slim Summerville ... Jailer
J. Edward Bromberg ... Mr. Runyan
Brian Donlevy ... Barshee
John Carradine ... Bob Ford
Donald Meek ... Mc Coy
Johnny Russell ... Jesse James Jr. (as John Russell)
Jane Darwell ... Mrs. Samuels
Charles Tannen ... Charles Ford
Claire Du Brey ... Mrs. Bob Ford
Willard Robertson ... Clarke
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Storyline

The railroads are squeezing farmers off their land. When a railroad agent kills their mother, Frank and Jesse James take up robbing banks and trains. The public regard them as heroes. When Jesse retires his erstwhile friend Robert Ford shoots him in the back to get the reward. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The world branded him . . . an OUTLAW . . . a KILLER . . . a WOLF . . . but to the simple folk who knew him he was a victim of injustice - and to the girl who loved him he was brave and a gentle lover ! ! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of Jesse James See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,600,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$3,270,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After the two horses that were blindfolded and forced to go over a cliff were killed, a new rule was enforced and later endorsed by The Humane Society of America in which strict standards were created to protect animals. Productions that met the standards of the Humane Society were allowed to add "No Animals Were Harmed or Injured in the Production of this Film" to the end credits. Eventually all the studios agreed that films involving any animals must have present a representative of The Humane Society to ensure that all animals are treated humanely and given a safe environment in which to work. See more »

Goofs

The movie shows a bomb killing Frank and Jesse's mother. In reality, the "bomb" thrown through the window by the Pinkertons killed their little brother and seriously wounded their mother. She survived, however, although she lost an arm in the attack. See more »

Quotes

Zerelda - aka Zee: If I could just think of some way to let you know how wrong you are.
Jesse James: No use, honey. It's just like I always told you: I hate the railroads... and when I hate, I've gotta do somethin' about it.
Major Rufus Cobb: That's the stuff! People ain't hating nowadays like they used to. They gettin' soft. I got to admit that I like a man that hauls off and hates good and hard. It's the lawyers - gol-dang it - it's the lawyers are messin' up the whole world! Why ten years ago, here in Liberty, we didn't have no lawyers and ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: After the tragic war between the states, America turned to the winning of the West. The symbol of this era was the building of the trans-continental railroads.

The advance of the railroads was, in some cases, predatory and unscrupulous. Whole communities found themselves victimized by an ever-growing ogre - the Iron Horse.

It was this uncertain and lawless age that gave to the world, for good or ill, its most famous outlaws, the brothers Frank and Jesse James. See more »

Alternate Versions

All UK versions were cut by 13 secs by the BBFC to remove footage of horse-falls including the controversial scene of a horse fatally falling from a cliff. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

The Battle Cry of Freedom
(1862) (uncredited)
Written by George Frederick Root
Played by the band at the railroad station
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Entertaining over-wrought Hollywood claptrap!
23 May 2009 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Of all the films Hollywood made during the golden years, my least favorite were ones that played very fast and loose with the facts about the Old West. And, of all the Westerns, those about Jesse James as well as the gunfight at the OK Corral are the worst. Think of it from my point of view. I am an American history teacher and for some bizarre reason, I like my historical films to actually bear some semblance to what actually occurred!!

JESSE JAMES, like all these other films, is a historical nightmare from start to finish. The life of this evil killer and thief is practically impossible to discern in this silly but entertaining film from 20th Century-Fox Studios. Instead of a bad man, according to the film, he is unfairly pushed to a life of crime by an evil railroad AND he and his brother, Frank, are good boys at heart!! With such stupid revisionism, we should soon expect to see films where Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jeffrey Dahmer are heroes!! There are tons more mistakes about the characters--but simply too many to bother mentioning. In fact, what is NOT wrong would be quicker and easier to discuss!! Additionally, there are just every cliché known to Westerns, such as the shootout ("count three and fire"), Frank giving the town an ultimatum to give him back Jesse by midnight "or else", happy and intensely loyal Black servants, the Robin Hood-like quality of the gang (though at least they showed how eventually he became more of a hardened criminal), the death of Frank and Jesse's momma pushing them to crime, Henry Hull's character from start to finish as well as his comments like "Jesse played fair" and "he was one of the gol-dangedest gol-darnestest buckaroos"!

As for the non-historical aspects of the film, there is a lot to like. The film is shot in glorious Technicolor and the camera work is incredible. I especially loved the extremely difficult shot of the nighttime raid on the train--the moving external shot was NOT an easy thing to do and it looked great. Additionally, being an A-picture from the studio, the cast was spectacular--Tyrone Power (Jesse), Henry Fonda (Frank), Henry Hull (playing a role much like you might expect Walter Brennan to usually play), Randolph Scott, Jane Darwell, Donald Meek and Brian Donlevy make for an excellent cast. And, I must admit the film was fun to watch if you could care less about the facts and just want to be entertained. Unfortunately, for folks like me, it's a chore to watch even a well-made film if it's so historically inaccurate.

By the way, it should also be mentioned that according to the IMDb trivia section, this film should be remembered for its total disregard for the welfare of the horses during filming. In exciting scenes, horses actually died to make the shots look good and although I am NOT a bleeding-heart, I just can't help but be appalled with this disregard for the animals. Not surprisingly, this film led to changes in the industry to protect animals in future films.


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