"That dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard", the coward was Bob Ford and Mr. Howard was Jesse James. Ford murdered James, who was unarmed and straightening a picture when Ford shot him in the back. Ford had been promised amnesty (for another murder-he had never been involved with Jesse or the illegal activities of the James gang) and a $10,000 reward.
In "Hell's Crossroads" (1957), they recreate the event, although this time Jesse James is hanging decorations on his Christmas tree. I mention this because it is about the only time the movie approaches historical accuracy despite claiming to chronicle the exploits or Bob Ford (Robert Vaughn) and a friend named Vic Rodell (Stephen McNally).
What actually happened was that in 1882 Jesse James, living peacefully under the Mr. Howard name, recruited Bob Ford and his brother Charlie for one last robbery. Bob had never been involved with the James gang (which was long disbanded by that point) and the three men were living in the same house while planning the robbery.
Unfortunately the producers of "Hells Crossroads" decided the true story was not good enough. So they replaced brother Charlie with friend Vic, threw in a romance between Vic and Bob's sister Paula (Peggy Castle) and made the two men longtime members of the James Gang. The film's climax takes place a few days after Jesse is killed. It features Frank James (Douglas Kennedy) and Cole Younger (Myron Healey) coming after Bob and Vic to avenge the 1882 killing; and Cole Younger is killed in the poorly staged climatic gunfight. In fact Cole was in prison from 1872 until 1901; and died of natural causes in 1916 (outliving everyone associated with the real James gang).
The historical nonsense showcased in "Hell's Crossroads" is nicely matched with the film's poor direction and staggeringly bad acting. By 1957 Warner Brothers was cranking out several weekly westerns for television; most of which are now available on DVD. I challenge anyone to find a single episode of "Cheyenne", "Maverick", "Gunsmoke" or "Have Gun Will Travel" that is quite as lame as this film. Peggy Castle made a career out of appearing in these television westerns. What is sad is that the television casts she worked with were far stronger than the ensemble she must struggle with in this lame movie.
If Stephen McNally is the leading man you can safely assume that they are pulling from the absolute bottom of the casting barrel.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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