Jesse James (1939)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Outlaw (Gunfighter) Film  |   Release Date - Jan 27, 1939 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Turkey , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Historians will shudder at Jesse James, a biopic which is much more interested in the legend of the famous outlaw than in the facts, but viewers looking only for entertainment will be quite happy with this rip-roaring adventure tale. While the story has been whitewashed, credit should be given to the creators of Jesse for at least not making the title character as pure as the driven snow. Though the motivation they have devised for his first forays into crime make him out to be something of an avenging angel, as time goes on they show that greed does enter into his continued career. Still, with matinee idol Tyrone Power playing the part, there's only a certain amount of "sullying" that can come into play. Power does very well with the part, turning in a powerful performance that anchors the film and handling his dramatic scenes with aplomb. As brother Frank, Henry Fonda's role is much smaller, but he makes a terrific impact; granted, the part is written as a bit of a scene stealer, but Fonda really runs with it and his scenes are especially memorable. Nancy Kelly is only so-so, but the rest of the supporting cast is right on target. Henry King's direction is nimble and deft.