The True Story of Jesse James - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The True Story of Jesse James Reviews

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½ November 30, 2013
another retelling western of the james' legend
½ September 5, 2013
OK-to-dull. Really doesn't add anything to the Jesse James story. Yes, I know it was released in 1957 but I doubt anyone in 1957 felt more informed about Jesse James by seeing this movie. Pretty much a paint-by-numbers docu-drama.

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.
½ March 30, 2012
Fairly minor Nicholas Ray. It's still quite good at time.
July 22, 2011
i'm being generous 'cause wagner & hunter are not hard to look at.
February 12, 2011
A real disappointment - a clunky, sloppy film that only occasionally displays a few of Ray's valuable directorial flourishes. A big, big problem is the fact that Robert Walker is the lead. That's enough to kill any film. Never mind the fact that his support is... Jeffrey Hunter and... Hope Lange. Both of whom are nearly as bad. Even Agnes Moorehead brings nothing to the table. The flashback structure might have been interesting had it provided some really disparate, [i]Rashomon[/i]-ey perspectives, but not. They basically glorify James as a good dude who lost his way. I suspect that Andrew Dominik's film might have rendered all previous Jesse James films obsolete. Apart from a handful of good moments, the film's only other asset is Carl Thayler as an appropriately simpering Robert Ford.
October 11, 2010
Nicholas Ray's take on Jesse James isn't really different than any other previous take, in fact it's a slight remake of a 1939 Henry King production, but using Cinemascope and his own idiosyncratic brand of angst and melodrama, Ray's Jesse is a 50's anti-hero, and it's no secret that James Dean would have starred if alive.

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.
½ September 9, 2010
I normally like movies on the James Gang but this is not as good as I expected ecspecially with the cast the had, Robert Wagner as Jesse James, and Alan Hale Jr. as Cole Younger.
September 4, 2010
Scenarist Walter Newman adapted Nunnally Johnson's screenplay from the 1939 Henry King western "Jesse James" with Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda for his script for "Johnny Guitar" director Nicholas Ray's quasi-remake "The True Story of Jesse James" with Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter as Jesse and Frank James. Ray and Newman cover all the main narrative points that the King film handled, but "The True Story of Jesse James" lacks anything in the way charisma, suspense, or surprises. Wagner plays the legendary folk hero here with little of the luster than most movies about the James' Gang muster. Whereas Power and Fonda were sympathetic outlaws, Wagner and Hunter are far from likable. "The True Story of Jesse James" differs in many respects from "Jesse James." This film lacks the sentimentality of the King epic. Mind you, Twentieth Century Fox encores scenes from the original where Jesse and Frank plunge their horses off a cliff into a river to elude a posse as well as their escape from the botched Northfield robbery by riding through a store. The final scene when Jesse is shot in the back by Bob Ford is virtually identical to the Power version. The problem with this revisionist take of the notorious James gang is that is consists of several flashbacks. Ray and Newman open the western with the disastrous bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, and the James' gang's desperate bid to escape the authorities. While they are holed up in a cave waiting for nightfall to elude the search parties, Frank and Jesse recount their lives, going back as far as when Jesse was beaten up by Union troops in the Civil War. The Younger Brothers emerge as far more likable than the James' brothers, and Cole Younger (a portly, pipe smoking Alan Hale, Jr., of "Gilligan's Island") is as close as any character comes to serving as comic relief. The scene when the gang is eating lunch at the home of a widow woman who needs $600 to pay off her landlord is as close as this movie comes to having comic relief. Cole gives the old woman the sum of twenty dollars rather than the ten cents that she says he owes her. He adds that he is Cole Younger and wants to be remembered well. Jesse hears the part about the old woman needing the $600 and gives her the money to prove that he--Jesse James--does take from the rich and give to the poor. No sooner has the gang left the premises than the landlord shows up and takes the $600 from the widow. Since the gang hasn't left the premises, Jesse holds up the landlord and recovers the six-hundred dollars that he gave the old woman. The fire-eating publisher that Henry Hull played in the original appears but doesn't hog the comic relief. Once again, the title suggests the reason for this remake.

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.
June 8, 2009
A good watch, but I prefered the Henry king Jesse James. H.Fonda was a much more convincing Jesse
Nicely done western, with good
September 9, 2008
This was a nicely paced western. Not really unique in its look or really overall story but it touches on an early take on an anti-establishment type of lifestyle, and the result that comes from it. Whether this was historically accurate or not, it still makes for a good watch for any western fan or not.
Super Reviewer
½ June 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.
May 23, 2008
There's a smattering too much of the melodrama in this telling of the Jesse James story, but otherwise it passes as a good watch.
½ March 20, 2008
Ok movie... I guess...
Super Reviewer
½ March 8, 2008
The performances and direction feel totally phoned in. The few nice moments it does have are outweighed by a really lack luster effort.
February 6, 2008
I loved this movie.liked Jeffrey Hunter
January 18, 2008
A good Nick Ray film that plumbs the cause of Jesse's (Robert Wagner, zombified) and Frank's (Jeffrey Hunter, intense) teenage rebellion. It's an easy and rewarding pleasure before the storm that is Ray's '57 'Bitter Victory.'
Super Reviewer
½ December 4, 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.
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