Saturday, January 30, 2010
THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940)
The Return of Frank James (1940). Western. Director: Fritz Lang. Cast: Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney. It is a sequel to Henry King's (1939) Jesse James. Written by Sam Hellman. The film is considered to be historically inaccurate, but was a commercial success.
After the Minnesota robbery, several members of their gang are killed, the James brothers decide to split up and Frank travels on to Missouri. Frank changes his to name Ben Woodsen, and becomes a farmer with his friends, Pinky and Clem. It is not long, when Frank hears that his brother Jesse has been shot in the back by one of the Ford brothers, who has been sentenced to hang for their crime. Frank decides it is better to let the law deal with the Fords until he reads that they have been pardoned and awarded money. Wanting them to pay for the murder of his brother, Frank goes looking for the Fords, who have headed West. Frank needing money robs the railroad express office, saying that it was the railroad who killed his brother. Things start to get complicated when Clem insists that he join Frank. In the gunfight, the watchman is killed and Frank is accused of the murder. McCoy, the head of the railroad, offers a reward for Frank, and his gang. George, follows the gang West, knowing that Frank will be hot on their trail. After reaching Denver, Frank and Clem come up with the story of Frank's death, which is picked up by newspaper reporter Eleanor Stone and printed in her father's paper. Eventually, Frank learns that his friend, Pinky has been arrested and is about to be hung. Frank, now has to decide what is more important getting the Fords or helping Pinky.
I think my favorite part of the film were the courtroom scenes, where Frank is being judged, by a very partial jury.
The studio changed the facts for entertainment. Frank surrendered 6 months after Jesse James' murder, both Ford brothers were already dead and Frank had nothing to do with their deaths.
The original script had Frank romantically involved with the reporter played by Gene Tierney, but the studio was worried of a possible lawsuit by Frank's widow and/or son, so it was eliminated from the script.
Film debut of Gene Tierney.