7.1/10
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50 user 29 critic

Jesse James (1939)

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:

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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)
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

The film shows both Jesse and Frank going off the cliff on horseback. In reality the stunt was performed once and shot with two cameras. See more »

Goofs

On two occasions the newspaper editor dictates his editorials directly to the typesetter. Such a rapid realization of spoken word to printing block, without the medium of a written dictation, is impossible. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
[about Jesse James]
Major Rufus Cobb: He was one of the doggonedest, gawl-dingedest, dad-blamedest buckaroos that ever rode across these United States of America!
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 Fonda on Fonda (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh Susanna
(1846) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Played on harmonica offscreen by prisoner Jesse James in jail
Sung a cappella by Nancy Kelly and Tyrone Power with modified lyrics
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Special cast, special movie, just don't expect a history lesson.
20 January 2009 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

We are at the time of the Iron Horse birth, the railroads are buying out the farm land at ridiculously low prices, even resorting to bully tactics to get the signature rights. When one particularly nasty railroad agent tries his strong arm tactics on the mother of the James brothers, he gets more than he bargained for. In an act of almost vengeful negligence, the agent causes the death of Mrs James and thus sets the wheels in motion for what was to become folklore notoriety, Jesse James, his brother Frank, and a gang of seemingly loyal thieves, went on to etch their names in outlaw history.

There is no getting away from the fact that history tells us that this is a highly fictionalised account of Jesse James and his exploits. What we are given here by director Henry King and his screenwriter Nunally Johnson, is a more romanticised look at the legend of the man himself; which sure as heck fire makes for one dandy and enjoyable watch. The cast is one to savour, Tyrone Power (Jesse James), Henry Fonda (Frank James), Randolph Scott (Will Wright), Brian Donlevy (Barshee) and John Carradine (Bob Ford) all line up to entertain the masses with fine results, with Fonda possibly owing his subsequent career to his appearance here. He would return a year later in the successful sequel The Return Of Frank James and subsequently go on to greater and more rewarding projects. Power of course would go on and pick up the trusty blade and start swishing away, a career beckoned for this matinée idol for sure, but it's nice to revisit this particular picture to see that Power could indeed be an actor of note, capable of some emotional depth instead of making Jesse just another outlawish thug. If the makers have made the character too "heroic" then that's for debate, it's one of the many historical "itches" that have irked historians over the years. But Power plays it as such and it works very well.

One of the film's main strengths is the pairing of Power and Fonda, very believable as a kinship united in ideals, with both men expertly handled by the reliable Henry King. The Technicolor from Howard Greene and George Barnes is wonderfully put to good use here, splendidly capturing the essence of the time with eye catching results. While the film itself has a fine action quota, gun play and galloping horses all feature throughout, and the characterisations of the main players lend themselves to pulse raising sequences. To leave us with what? A highly accomplished Western picture that ends in the way that history has showed it should, whilst the rest of the film is flimsy history at best... Yes. But ultimately it really doesn't matter if one is after some Western entertainment, because for sure this picture scores high in that regard. 8/10


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