JESSE JAMES (1939) C 105m dir: Henry King

w/Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott, Henry Hull, Brian Donlevy, John Carradine, Jane Darwell, Donald Meek, Slim Summerville

From The Movie Guide: "This classic Western unfolds the legendary saga of the notorious James boys, notably Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882). Director King directed this blockbuster that captures the image and era of the infamous outlaw, if not the reality of his character.

"Until this film the 24-year-old Power had been an attractive matinee idol, but here he proved that he could really act. Though Fonda has fewer scenes, he renders his stalwart, prosaic character so effectively that Fox cast him in the successful sequel, THE RETURN OF JESSE JAMES. JESSE JAMES was the film that made Fonda a star.

"Both [writer-producer Nunnally] Johnson and King had been eager to do a film on the legendary outlaw. Johnson researched Jesse James in Missouri, drawing most of his historic notions from the Sedalia Gazette, a strongly pro-James paper which promoted the idea that the notorious lawlessness of the James boys was caused by railroad and Union Army persecution following the Civil War. In the beginning this was true, but even Missouri residents grew tired of this excuse as the James-Younger gang went on looting for almost two decades; in fact, Jesse James was at large for eighteen years before being gunned down by Bob Ford on April 3, 1882. Screenwriter Johnson opted for nostalgia and legend and left out much of the outlaw's grim career. Jo Frances James, granddaughter of Jesse James, was hired as a consultant to the production, but she was later disappointed with the film, commenting: 'I don't know what happened to the history part of it. It seemed to me the story was fiction from beginning to end. About the only connection it had with fact was that there once was a man named James and he did ride a horse.'

"The old Technicolor process has never been more richly reproduced than in JESSE JAMES, which offers spellbinding hues of deep green, brown, and gold, giving the countryside portrayed the soft appearance of mellow history. There have been many films dealing with America's most celebrated outlaw, but this is the best."