The True Story of Jesse James (1957)

Approved   |    |  Action, Biography, Crime

The True Story of Jesse James (1957) Poster

Biopic loosely based on the last 18 years of Jesse James' life and focused on the relationship between brothers Jesse and Frank James.


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16 September 2010 | RanchoTuVu
| the true legend
While there is the legend and the truth about Jesse James and his gang, this film, in which the title strongly implies a truthful account, perpetuates the legend of a man who was of the people and who robbed banks that grew rich at their suffering. Is there truth to the legend, then? Google it and find out. The film itself is a solid piece of work from director Nicholas Ray, who, another poster has written, disowned it since the studio forced him to follow a familiar and hokey flashback style. However, even that works out OK, as the film starts with James's biggest failure, the notorious Northfield Minnesota bank robbery fiasco, which it revisits later on to show how the gang was trapped and picked off by strategically placed sharpshooters. The acting is not that great, a factor that seems to be related to the script, but the story itself moves along and has many good scenes from the flashbacks, especially when Jame's neighbor whips him with his belt, and when preacher John Carradine baptizes Jesse and girlfriend Hope Lange on the banks of a river. The film includes some interesting "facts" (?) about the Northfield raid, one of which, the Swedish townsperson wanting to buy one of the gang's horses, made it into Walter Hill's The Long Riders. And the Ford brothers' betrayal is very well done and seemed to have been copied in the Brad Pitt film. Frank Gorshin was an excellent choice to play one of the Ford's. The portrayal of the Fords of hanging around in the background, but present nonetheless, adds a lot for the viewer who knows this story already. As Jesse, Robert Wagner wasn't great, but definitely up to the task. Jesse James is a legend, no matter what the real truth is about him.

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