The True Story of Jesse James

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 7


Audience Score

User Ratings: 314
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The True Story of Jesse James Photos

Movie Info

Actually, this retelling of the life of outlaw Jesse James is only as true as its predecessor, the highly fanciful 1939 Tyrone Power-Henry Fonda starrer Jesse James. Generous chunks of stock footage from the earlier film are reused here, albeit reframed to accommodate the CinemaScope process. Robert Wagner makes an interesting James, though he is upstaged throughout by Jeffrey Hunter as his brother Frank. Adhering to the Canon, the film insists that the James boys were forced into a life of crime by greedy railroad men -- hence, their ongoing vendetta against trains. Director Nicholas Ray adds a few psychological nuances not found in the more prosaic 1939 film. John Carradine, who played "dirty little coward" Bob Ford in the original Jesse James, appears in the remake as Rev. Jethro Bailey.


Robert Wagner
as Jesse James
Jeffrey Hunter
as Frank James
Hope Lange
as Zee James
Agnes Moorehead
as Mrs. Samuel
Alan Hale Jr.
as Cole Younger
Alan Baxter
as Barney Remington
John Carradine
as Rev. Jethro Bailey
Rachel Stephens
as Anne James
Barney Phillips
as Dr. Samuel
Biff Elliot
as Jim Younger
Frank Overton
as Maj. Rufus Cobb
Frank Gorshin
as Charley Ford
John Doucette
as Hillstrom
Robert Adler
as Sheriff Trump
Clancy Cooper
as Sheriff Yoe
Sumner Williams
as Bill Stiles
Tom Greenway
as Deputy Leo
Mike Steen
as Deputy Ed
Anthony Ray
as Bob Younger
Clegg Hoyt
as Tucker
Mark Hickman
as Sam Wells
Adam Marshal
as Dick Liddell
Joe Di Reda
as Bill Ryan
Kellogg Junge, Jr.
as Archie at Age 4
Barry Atwater
as Attorney Walker
Marian Seldes
as Rowina Cobb
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Critic Reviews for The True Story of Jesse James

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (6) | Rotten (1)

  • Though hardly Nicholas Ray's sturdiest effort, this 1957 'Scope western began as one of his more ambitious conceptions, with an unorthodox narrative structure and deliberately theatrical sets.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Ray is one of the great natural filmmakers, a master of moral ambiguity and jittery mise-en-scene.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A fine Western, the only regret being Robert Wagner. Imagining Dean in the central role makes it one of the great might-have-beens.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • On celluloid Jesse James has had more lives than a cat, and The True Story of Jesse James suggests it's time screenwriters let him roll over and play dead for real and reel.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • One of Nicholas Ray's weaker films, this mythical Western displays his thematic concern with protagonists that are outsiders but suffers from the performances of pretty boys Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter.

    Aug 30, 2009 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • Obviously the pair have a hard act to follow, but they manage it perfectly well, with Hunter particularly good in the brotherly sidekick role.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The True Story of Jesse James

  • Jun 30, 2008
    Average western with a haircut performance by Robert Wagner and a rather bland one by Jeffrey Hunter. Even the usually excellent Hope Lange and Agnes Moorehead are given very little to work with here.
    jay n Super Reviewer
  • Feb 29, 2008
    The performances and direction feel totally phoned in. The few nice moments it does have are outweighed by a really lack luster effort.
    Ken S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 04, 2007
    A remake of Henry King's "Jesse James" which introduces the Younger Brothers, ups Jesse's Robin Hood-like philanthropy and blames treacherous Yankees, rather than the railroad, for turning a good man into an outlaw. Some scenes are almost identical to the earlier film but the narrative is told in flashbacks this time around. John Carradine, who originally played Robert Ford, returns as a preacher in this, Nicholas Ray's version. Despite wooden acting throughout, this is a solid, good-looking western. I especially liked the idea of the souvenir-hunters taking trophies from the 'Howard' home after Jesse's death.
    Stephen M Super Reviewer

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