The True Story of Jesse James Reviews
Also feels like some details are left out. Ending seems abrupt - pacing is a bit off.
Good action sequences, so goodish purely as a western.
Robert Wagner is miscast as Jesse James. Far too straight-laced for the role. Hope Lange gives a fairly wooden performance. Supporting cast aren't too bad though.
Instead we get handsome, unconvincing Robert Wagner as Jesse, with Jeffrey Hunter (equally too good looking) as second banana brother Frank, spinning the tale of the James brothers from their involvement as guerrilla fighters in the Civil War (which, after the war, makes them targets of North sympathizing neighbors and bankers; a possible motive for their robbery spree),to their disastrous attempt on a Minnesota bank, the beginning of the end.
The use of flashback, and the Minnesota bookends, is interesting, building a "who is Jesse James" character study out of familiar tropes and knowledge of previous films, splashing in some romance (with buxom, stiff Hope Lange), and action (including a well staged train robbery). Passable, but not entirely essential Ray.
Ray and Newman try to imbue the legend with authenticity. Wagner's Jesse is a cold-blooded, callous individual, and Wagner makes his performance a business only effort. Wearing a mustache, he displays nothing that would endear us to him. Ray and Newman don't follow the
straight-forward, chronological narrative pattern of "Jesse James." They fracture the story line with the memories that the James boys have and they show the horrible conditions that prompted the protagonists to pursue the owl hoot trail. This time, however, Jesse is far more
violent and willing to kill. The irony is that Jesse spends
considerable time and detail orchestrating his elaborate plans, only to see them collapse like a flimsy deck of cards because of ill-fated luck and/or incompetence by his underlings. At one point, it appears almost certain that the James brothers are bound to receive amnesty after the
Remington Detective Agency blows up their mother's house, depriving his mother, Mrs. Samuel (Agnes Moorehead of "Raintree County'), of an arm and her youngest son Archie of his life. Instead, Jesse guns down the man who helped the detectives; indeed, he pumps four bullets into the unarmed man. Jesse's treatment of his accomplices is pretty callous and he threatens at least one of them, Tucker (Clegg Hoyt of "The Brass Legend"), with death when he botches an important role in the
Northfield robbery. Basically, aside from Joe MacDonald's elegant Cinemascope lensing of the action, "The True Story of Jesse James" qualifies as little more than a potboiler. The outlaws do look cool in this white dusters that they all wear when they ride into Northfield. The last scene reflects the feeling of the times. After Bob Ford shoots Jesse in the back and kills him, the neighbors pour into the premises to gawk at the corpse. Frank runs them out, but as some leave, they appropriate souvenirs from the James' possessions. Clearly, this film reflects some of director Nicholas Ray's concerns about youths in the 1950s as it is essentially about a "Rebel with a Cause." The production values are above-average.
Nicely done western, with good