7.0/10
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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

Railroad authorities forces farmers to give up their land for the railroad for dirt cheap. Some sell off easily while the ones who resist r dealt with force. The railroad agents tries to force a reluctant old woman into selling, until her sons, Jesse and Frank gets involved. Jesse shoots one of the agent in the hand, in self-defense and later arrest warrants are issued for both the brothers. The agents visits the James brothers' house with warrants and ask them to surrender but even after repeated assurance by Rufus Cobb, an editor, that the brothers are not inside the house and only their sick mother is alone present, the railroad agents throws in fire lamps inside the house to smoke everyone out but unfortunately it causes the death of the old woman. Jesse kills the agents in revenge. This begins Frank and Jesse's career as outlaws. Written by Fella_shibby@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

SAGA OF A LAWLESS ERA! (print ad - Lubbock Evening Journal - Lindsey Theatre - Lubbock, Texas - May 10, 1939 - all caps) See more »


Certificate:

GP | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of 13 features released in 1939 filmed wholly or partly in the three-strip Technicolor process, the others being Dodge City (1939), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), The Four Feathers (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), Gulliver's Travels (1939), Hollywood Cavalcade (1939), The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939), The Little Princess (1939), The Mikado (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and The Women (1939). A 14th feature, Land of Liberty (1939), utilized color footage from previously released films. 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 we...
[...]
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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

Spun-off from Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921) 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 »

User Reviews

 
Power Brings Jesse James To Life
8 December 2001 | by jhcluesSee all my reviews

A real life legend of the Old West comes to life in this 1939 film, which may not be historically accurate or honest enough for purists, but nevertheless tells a good story while leaving any moral judgments up to the audience. `Jesse James,' directed by Henry King, stars Tyrone Power as the man heralded by some as the Robin Hood of cowboys. Whether or not he was actually a hero is debatable, and what this movie does is supply the motivation for the wrong-doing on Jesse's part-- at least up to a point. At the time this film was made, it was necessary for the filmmaker to present a story like this in a way that reflected a reckoning of sorts for a character engaged in any form of moral turpitude; and this film is no exception. But in this case, it's done with subtlety, and in a way that still allows the viewer's sympathies to be with the protagonist, regardless of his crimes.

At the heart of the matter is basically another version of the oft-told David and Goliath tale. In this story, Goliath is the railroad, expanding ever-westward and growing bigger and stronger by the day. When they encounter the farm on which Jesse, his brother, Frank (Henry Fonda) and their mother (Jane Darwell) reside and make their living, the railroad does what any self-respecting conglomerate would do-- they take it, pay the owners a pittance and lay their rail without giving it another thought. Only this time, the railroad messed with the wrong people. Not one to take it lying down, Jesse forms a gang-- which includes Frank-- and strikes back in the only way he knows how: By robbing the trains. And, just as Bonnie and Clyde would become, in a sense, local heroes a few years later, many began looking up to James as something of a redeemer; the man who stood up for all the others who were either unwilling or unable to do it for themselves after being wronged, as well, by the ruthless machinery of progress.

Power gives an outstanding performance as Jesse James, to whom he brings an intensity that seethes beneath his rugged good looks and determined attitude. Like Beatty did with Clyde, Power makes Jesse an outlaw you can't help but like, and actually admire. Because the James Power presents is nothing more nor less than a good man seeking reparation for the injury visited not only upon himself, but upon his family, to whom he feels justice is now due. It's a very credible and believable portrayal, though under close scrutiny his Jesse may come across as somewhat idealistically unflawed. Then again, within the time frame of this story, we are seeing a man adamant and single-minded of purpose, and the depth Power brings to the character more than accounts for what may be construed as a flawless nature.

As Frank James, Henry Fonda presents a man perhaps more laid-back than his brother, but every bit as volatile and adamant in his quest for justice. There's a coolness in his eyes and in his manner that belies the tenacity of his character. Fonda conveys the sense that Frank is a lion; he's no trouble without provocation, but once aroused he will demand satisfaction and stay with the scent until he has it. And it's that sense of dogged determination that Fonda and Power bring to their respective characters that makes them so engaging and accessible. Goliath is the real bad guy here, and you want to see him fall; and these are the guys you want to see bring him down.

In a supporting role, John Carradine gives a noteworthy performance as Jesse's own personal Judas, Bob Ford, a man who made history by demonstrating that there is, indeed, no honor among thieves. Carradine brings Ford to life in a sly and sinister way that leaves no doubt as to who the real villain of the story is.

The supporting cast includes Nancy Kelly (Zee), Randolph Scott (Will), Slim Summerville (Jailer), Brian Donlevy (Barshee), Donald Meek (McCoy), Charles Tannen (Charlie Ford), Claire Du Brey (Mrs. Ford) and Henry Hull, in an energetic and memorable performance as Major Rufus Cobb. Compared to many of the westerns made in the past couple of decades or so, this film is rather antiseptic in it's presentation; that is to say it lacks the graphic visuals of say, `The Wild Bunch' or Eastwood's `Unforgiven.' But `Jesse James' is satisfying entertainment that doesn't require or rely upon shocking realism to tell the story, but rather the talent and finesse of a great cast and a savvy director. It's a movie that will keep you involved, and Power and Fonda make it an especially enriching cinematic experience. In a very classic sense, this is the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.


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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)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,444
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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