1 September 2005 | bkoganbing
A Demanded Sequel
When Jesse James came out in 1939, the player that got the best reviews for that film was Henry Fonda who played the laconic older brother Frank. His reviews were so outstanding that it was almost a public demand that a sequel be done.
It almost didn't get done because instead of Henry King who directed Jesse James, Darryl F. Zanuck assigned Fritz Lang. Henry Fonda hated the man, he was a sadistic bully on the set and even though he directed Fonda to a great performance in You Only Live Once, Fonda hated every second on that set.
Fonda tells in his autobiography that he and Lang sat down prior to shooting and Lang agreed to tone his behavior down. But the same thing happened as on You Only Live Once. And Fonda dutifully finished the film.
Though he hated the experience Fonda was on the mark again as Frank James. What The Return of Frank James lacks in truth it makes up for in capturing the spirit of the times in the post Civil border state of Missouri and why the James Brothers were regarded as heroes by some.
In addition to Fonda, John Carradine, Charles Tannen, Ernest Whitman, Donald Meek, Henry Hull, George Chandler and J. Edward Bromberg repeat their roles from Jesse James so continuity is assured. Bromberg as the railroad detective who basically plans an assassination for Jesse James in that film and tries again to Fonda in this film particularly stands out.
So does Henry Hull as the newspaper editor/lawyer who was a very colorful character in both films, dictating the same editorial at whatever group or individual he doesn't like at the moment. His patented formula is to "shoot 'em down like dogs."
If you liked Jesse James and I think more than western fans liked that film, no reason you shouldn't like The Return of Frank James.