This dark, gloomy Western chronicles the shame and self-destruction of Bob Ford, the real-life James Gang member that murdered Jesse James for the reward money. In this fictionalized account, James (Reed Hadley) tends to Ford (John Ireland) after he is wounded during a heist. When Ford's longtime love, Cynthy (Barbara Britton), gains a new admirer, he decides that settling down and buying a farm is the only way to win her for himself. He learns that the governor issued a 10,000-dollar reward and amnesty for Jesse's murder, and, after some deliberation, shoots his savior in the back when the outlaw turns to straighten a painting. Neither the government nor Cynthy takes kindly to his treachery: Ford is jailed, collects only 500 dollars, and is dumped. He is reduced to re-enacting the infamous murder in a stage show, hearing a traveling minstrel sing about his dirty deed, and running from the would-be gunfighters that hope to kill the man who shot Jesse James. The film follows Ford's vain attempts to achieve redemption and win back Cynthia's heart. I Shot Jesse James suffered through several casting related problems. Producer Robert L. Lippert refused to hire Lawrence Tierney, director Fuller's first choice to portray Ford. Barbara Woodell replaced Ann Doran as Jesse James' wife only days before production. Lastly, casting director, Yolanda Molinari's, name was misspelled "Yolondo" in the film's opening credits, making many believe that she was a man.
by Aubry Anne D'Arminio synopsis