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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:

So Big and Sensational! Yet Capable of Stirring Your Tenderest Emotions. 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)
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

When Frank breaks Jesse out of jail, it's clear that the action is taking place at night. The note mentions 12 and the characters repeatedly say "tonight" "before this night is over", etc, but when Jesse and Frank emerge from the jail it is broad daylight. See more »

Quotes

[Jesse and Zee have come to the church to get married - the minister and the congregation react when he says he's Jesse James]
Jesse James: We don't want no trouble.
Minister: Trouble? Why, son, you're as welcome as rain to the flowers. Do you realize, boy, that I had a farm giving nine hundred bushels of corn... until that railroad had taken it from me? Why, I'd given up preaching... and was making an honest living off of the land, until that dad-swinged railroad swindled me out of my own home. By golly, son, do you ...
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 Hollywood Hobbies (1939) 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

 
A highly romanticized account of the infamous desperado…
30 November 2007 | by Nazi_Fighter_DavidSee all my reviews

Splendid in his first Western and his first Technicolor movie, Power portrayed Jesse James as a sympathetic hero and the most charming bank robber of the Old West…

Teamed with Henry Fonda, and stalwart Randolph Scott, Henry King came with a Western classic, considered as one the best Jesse James of the series…

The film opens in Pineville with hothead Jesse and temperate Frank as a couple of Missouri brothers who, embittered by the ruthless tactics of a railroad agent, got a warrant and had to skip out, hiding out until Major Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull) can get the governor to give them a fair trial … But the railroad's got too much at stake to let two farmer boys bollix things up…

After they had thrown Barshee (Brian Donlevy), the brutal railroad representative off the farm of their widowed mother (Jane Darwell) when she refused to sign over her property, Jesse and Frank later learn that she had been killed by a bomb tossed into their home by Barshee himself… Jesse returns, shoots Barshee, and vows revenge on the railroad, with the complete sympathy of the Missouri populace…

Jesse's sweetheart, Zee and her uncle, publisher Major Rufus, are among the James' supporters, as is U. S. Marshal Will Wright (Scott), but he has a job to do and is forced to track down the two brothers…

Jesse and Frank have expanded their operation from merely harassing the St. Louis Midland with a series of holdups to robbing banks…

Pursuaded by railroad president McCoy (Donald Meek) to talk Jesse into surrendering, Wright extracts a written promise of a light sentence for the desperado… Zee then urges Jesse to give himself up following their wedding…

Of course, Henry King tries to show how Jesse hated the railroads and from that hate he presented a charismatic hero… But this hero was not going to last… The more luck he had, the worse he gets… It'll be his appetite for shooting and robbing until something happens to him…

He also shows a worried fiancée keeping thinking of an outlaw all the time out there in the hills just going on and on to nowhere just trying to keep alive with everybody after him, wanting to kill him to get that money…

There's a scene near the end where Zee (Nancy Kelly) after delivering her baby is lying in bed with her creature, with the presence of the Marshal, so to speak, between herself and her uncle that suddenly made clear to me what the entire film was about… Her feelings as a woman: "I'm so tired to care. This is the way it always is. We live like animals, scared animals. We move. We hide. We don't dare to go out… "

Obviously she is a sensitive woman who exposes her being on screen without losing sight of reality… That's quite a great scene from King, and key in this great Western, as it's really all about her character, Zee Cobb, a struggling woman in love now a mother with a baby to take care of…

So please don't miss it!


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