“Jesse’s gone, that’s true, and maybe Frank’s gone too — and then again, maybe he ain’t. The boy’s always had a mighty peculiar way of turning up just when you least expect him.”
When his brother Jesse is shot in the back by former accomplice Bob Ford (John Carradine), Frank James (Henry Fonda) and his spirited young ward (Jackie Cooper) set out to seek revenge.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Fritz Lang’s first western was this “satisfying sequel” to Jesse James (1939), with several actors — including Henry Fonda, John Carradine, Slim Summerville, Henry Hull, Donald Meek, and J. Edward Bromberg — reprising their original roles. While it’s difficult to see much evidence of Lang’s signature style in TROFJ, Peary points out that the story represents Lang’s interest in depicting “individuals… at the mercy of groups of people”. Henry Fonda gives a typically subdued performance as James, erupting into action at just the right moments, while Gene Tierney (in her screen debut) is fine but somewhat annoying as a plucky female reporter who falls for James. The story (probably not based on historical fact!) rarely flags, and the outcome — will James successfully avenge his brother, and if so, at what cost? — remains a suspenseful mystery until the very end.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Henry Fonda as Frank James
- The exciting rocky shootout between Frank and Charlie Ford (Charles Tannen)
- Clem (Jackie Cooper) telling a tale tale to Tierney about how Frank died nobly in Mexico
- Frank watching a melodrama in which the Fords play nobler versions of themselves (as Peary notes, this is “a great scene”)
- J. Edward Bromberg as George Runyan
- Sam Hellman’s smart, often witty script
No, but it’s recommended.