Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott, Henry Hull
Directors: Henry King, Irving Cummings
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
The legend of Jesse James stars Tyrone Power as the most infamous bandit in the history of the West. Jesse James was a young Missouri farmer forced outside the law after ruthless agents for the transcontinental railroad ki... more »
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scotsladdie | 12/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For sheer gusto, excitement and action, it's hard to beat this classic western which unfolds the legendary saga of the notorious James boys. Tyrone is sympathetic, dashing and utterly charming as Jesse who lives on his mother's farm with his slow, deliberate, dependable brother Frank (Fonda). Director Henry King gives the film his special brand of zest and the acting of both Brian Donlevy and Jane Darwell is superb. More Hollywood than real-life for sure, nevertheless Power proved he could really act in this one; before he was just a beautiful matinee idol for the women to swoon over. Here he appealed to the menfolk as well as he successfully captured the good and evil which existed in one of America's most enigmatic men; Fonda was so good as brother Frank that Fox cast in the sequel RETURN OF FRANK JAMES; this film made the not-so-young (34) Henry Fonda a star. The Technicolor is magnificent!!"
Outlaw or Hero?
Reviewer | 12/09/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A CLASSIC REMINDS US THAT THE WESTERN ONCE RULED HOLLYWOOD!
Stig McMerkin | 06/29/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There was no surpise when the recent publication of the TOP 50 STARS list put HENRY FONDA in the top ten, because Henry Fonda is certainly one of the pantheon of Hollywood actors that defined the term "star." JESSE JAMES offers a delightful opportunity to go back to 1939 when the star many of us know as a grand old man was a breathtakingly handsome romantic lead. In this film Fonda has the second lead, playing Frank James, America's most famous romantic outlaw, with the characteristic understated warmth and dignity that would enoble his whole career. The real star of JESSE JAMES is Tyrone Power, sadly neglected by the TOP 50 LIST, but an actor of exceptional charm, charisma and talent as we can see from his performance in the title role. The two actors achieve a balance in their different styles that not only colours and enriches the story but creates a beautiful context of the love between two brothers. JESSE JAMES marked the beginning of a long collaboration between Power and director Henry King. King is barely remembered today, but he was an integral part of Hollywood history, making 116 films from the birth of cinema until the 1960's. He came from a rural background, evident in his silent classic, TOL'ABLE DAVID, and in JESSE JAMES he evokes a realistic portrait of farming folk just as he had in his earlier hit. He shows particular empathy for the hardships they faced, especially after the Civil War, a time when big business was taking over with carpetbagging tactics that crushed the small homesteaders who had tamed the frontier. This allows King to romanticize the outlaws into heroes in a tradition resonant in recent films like BONNIE AND CLYDE and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. The film is particularly strong on character, creating a tragedy that ranks high in the great outlaw movies, like THE WILD BUNCH and UNFORGIVEN. Beautifully filmed in the glorious technicolor of the 1930's, JESSE JAMES contains breathtaking horseback riding sequences as well as the great Northfield Minnesota Raid, a bank robbery that stands up to the action films of today. The literate and considered screenplay is by Nunnally Johnson, who gave Fonda some of his most memorable moments in his adaptation of THE GRAPES OF WRATH. That was another film in which the luminescent Jane Darwell played Fonda's mother. John Carradine, illustrious father of David, Keith and Robert gives an inspired performance as Bob Ford, the man who shot Jesse James, a role entirely different from his famous portrayal of Casey in THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Also in the cast are the genteel and humble Randolph Scott and the deliciously evil Brian Donlevy. They are supported by the great character actors Henry Hull and Donald Meek who were part of an ensemble company of actors that remains the envy of filmakers today. The film and Fonda's performance as Frank were so strong that a sequel was made, THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES, in which Frank seeks revenge for his murdered brother.JESSE JAMES helps us understand the enormous popularity of the Western, once the foundation of Hollywood movies. The film is beautiful and enthralling, entertaining as drama, action and even comedy. A rich canvas that deserves to be called a classic, JESSE JAMES is an opportunity to see the best work of some of the finest craftsmen of Hollywood's Golden Age."
Poor color dvd transfer
Richard in Indy | 03/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I really like this film and it's sequel "The Return Of Frank James". I decided to upgrade from vhs to dvd for both titles. I was very disappointed to find that the dvd edition has very poor color. There's an overall dark tone and bluish cast to "Jesse James". On the other hand, "The Return Of Frank James" has great color. I tried these dvd's on 3 players just to be sure that my player or tv weren't out-of-balance. If you love the wonderful Technicolor films of this period, stick to the vhs edition of "Jesse James" or be prepared to turn your color button up as high as it will go to enjoy the dvd version. One would expect more from a major studio like Fox."