Jesse James (1939)

105 mins | Western | 27 January 1939

Director:

Henry King

Cinematographer:

George Barnes

Editor:

Barbara McLean

Production Designers:

William Darling, George Dudley

Production Company:

Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

According to a pre-production news item in HR , Arleen Whalen was to play the female lead in this film. A 14 Oct 1938 news item in HR notes that director Henry King was confined to bed because of a swelling of his inner ear. Irving Cummings replaced King until he returned to the set on 24 Oct. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Darryl Zanuck suggested that the desire for revenge for the railroad's murder of his mother should motivate "Jesse" to become a renegade. The real Jesse James was not the handsome romantic figure portrayed by Tyrone Power, but a cold, ruthless killer. Jesse was born in Missouri in 1847, and at age fifteen, joined a group of vicious, pro-Confederate guerrillas led by William C. Quantrill. After the Civil War, Jesse, his brother Frank and several other men formed an outlaw gang and began robbing banks, stagecoaches and trains. As depicted in the film, in 1876, the gang was almost wiped out during a bank holdup in Northfield, MN. Jesse and Frank escaped and formed a new gang. On 3 Apr 1882, Jesse was shot and killed by fellow gang member Bob Ford for a reward. Six months after Jesse's death, Frank surrended and was tried and acquitted twice.
       An article in Life notes that the film was shot on location at Pineville, MO, and cost $1,600,000 to produce. Materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library add that during the execution of a stunt, a horse, ridden ... More Less

According to a pre-production news item in HR , Arleen Whalen was to play the female lead in this film. A 14 Oct 1938 news item in HR notes that director Henry King was confined to bed because of a swelling of his inner ear. Irving Cummings replaced King until he returned to the set on 24 Oct. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Darryl Zanuck suggested that the desire for revenge for the railroad's murder of his mother should motivate "Jesse" to become a renegade. The real Jesse James was not the handsome romantic figure portrayed by Tyrone Power, but a cold, ruthless killer. Jesse was born in Missouri in 1847, and at age fifteen, joined a group of vicious, pro-Confederate guerrillas led by William C. Quantrill. After the Civil War, Jesse, his brother Frank and several other men formed an outlaw gang and began robbing banks, stagecoaches and trains. As depicted in the film, in 1876, the gang was almost wiped out during a bank holdup in Northfield, MN. Jesse and Frank escaped and formed a new gang. On 3 Apr 1882, Jesse was shot and killed by fellow gang member Bob Ford for a reward. Six months after Jesse's death, Frank surrended and was tried and acquitted twice.
       An article in Life notes that the film was shot on location at Pineville, MO, and cost $1,600,000 to produce. Materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library add that during the execution of a stunt, a horse, ridden by stuntman Cliff Lyons, drowned after jumping off a cliff into Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnall Dam, MO. The crew attested that the horse did not suffer any injuries in the fall, but became excited when he hit the water and drowned before the crew could get a rope around his neck. Because of the incident, the regulation of motion picture production by the American Humane Association became part of the MPPDA code. Modern sources note that Jo Francis James, who is credited with assemblage of historical data, was Jesse's granddaughter. In 1940, Fox released The Return of Frank James , a sequel to this film (see below) in which Henry Fonda reprised his role as Frank James. Among other films based on the life of Jesse James was the Paramount 1950 film The Great Missouri Raid , directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Wendell Corey and Macdonald Carey; the 1972 Universal film The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid , directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall and the 1980 film The Long Riders directed by Walter Hill and starring Stacy and James Keach as the James brothers. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Jan 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Jan 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 38
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 39
p. 3.
Life
30 Jan 39
pp. 40-43.
Motion Picture Daily
11 Jan 39
p. 1, 7
Motion Picture Herald
4 Dec 38
p. 36.
Motion Picture Herald
14 Jan 39
p. 43.
New York Times
8 Jan 1939.
---
New York Times
14 Jan 39
p. 13.
Variety
11 Jan 39
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Darryl F. Zanuck Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Fill-In dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d unit dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Historical data assembled by
Historical data assembled by
Contr to story
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
Technicolor photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Painter
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Asst sound
Boom man
Boom man
Cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Elec
Elec
Elec
Elec
Elec
Head grip
2nd grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Props
Loc mgr
Best boy
Generator man
Generator man
Generator man
Still photog
STAND INS
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
Assoc technicolor dir
Technicolor asst
Technicolor asst ]
Technicolor technician
Technicolor film loader
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 January 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 14 January 1939
Production Date:
began late August 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
27 January 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8785
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in feet):
9,600
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4590
SYNOPSIS

The ruthless slaying of their mother by Barshee, an agent of the Midland Railroad who has been sent to swindle the farmers out of their land, forces the James boys to renounce their legacy of farming and become renegades. Fighting to stop the encroachment of the railroad, Frank and Jesse organize a band of outlaws to rob the line. After a series of successful raids, Jesse's sweetheart Zerelda, known as Zee, the niece of town newspaper editor Major Rufus Cobb, pleads with Jesse to give himself up and take the reduced sentence offered by McCoy, the head of the railroad. After he and Zee are married, however, Jesse learns that McCoy is planning to double-cross him and, with the help of Frank and the gang, escapes. Continually hunted, Zee grows tired of running and hiding, and after she must face the birth of her son alone, she begs Rufus to take her home to Liberty, Missouri. Accompanied by their friend, Marshal Will Wright, Rufus and Zee head back to Missouri, and when Jesse learns of his wife's departure, he chooses not to follow, realizing that she will be happier without him. Five years pass and while Jesse leads the life of a renegade, his son grows to boyhood, unaware of his father's reputation. One day George Runyan, the Midland detective, rides into Liberty and announces complete amnesty and a $25,000 reward in return for the death of Jesse James. Meanwhile, Jesse is planning a risky raid on the bank at Northfield, Minnesota. Learning of the reward, gangmember Bob Ford notifies Runyan of the raid, and when Jesse and Frank enter the ... +


The ruthless slaying of their mother by Barshee, an agent of the Midland Railroad who has been sent to swindle the farmers out of their land, forces the James boys to renounce their legacy of farming and become renegades. Fighting to stop the encroachment of the railroad, Frank and Jesse organize a band of outlaws to rob the line. After a series of successful raids, Jesse's sweetheart Zerelda, known as Zee, the niece of town newspaper editor Major Rufus Cobb, pleads with Jesse to give himself up and take the reduced sentence offered by McCoy, the head of the railroad. After he and Zee are married, however, Jesse learns that McCoy is planning to double-cross him and, with the help of Frank and the gang, escapes. Continually hunted, Zee grows tired of running and hiding, and after she must face the birth of her son alone, she begs Rufus to take her home to Liberty, Missouri. Accompanied by their friend, Marshal Will Wright, Rufus and Zee head back to Missouri, and when Jesse learns of his wife's departure, he chooses not to follow, realizing that she will be happier without him. Five years pass and while Jesse leads the life of a renegade, his son grows to boyhood, unaware of his father's reputation. One day George Runyan, the Midland detective, rides into Liberty and announces complete amnesty and a $25,000 reward in return for the death of Jesse James. Meanwhile, Jesse is planning a risky raid on the bank at Northfield, Minnesota. Learning of the reward, gangmember Bob Ford notifies Runyan of the raid, and when Jesse and Frank enter the bank, they find the law awaiting them. The brothers escape, but Jesse is badly wounded and taken by a friendly farmer to his cabin in the woods. He arrives to find Zee and his son, and the reunited family plans to begin life anew in California. Before he can set out on his new life, however, Jesse is shot in the back by Bob Ford. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.