Jesse James at Bay (October 17, 1941)
Released on October 17, 1941: Railroad tycoons lure poor families to work and develop wasteland with the promise to sell it to them cheap, but then ignore the farmers and sell the land at great profit.
Directed by Joseph Kane
Written by Harrison Jacobs and James R. Webb.
The Actors: Roy Rogers (Jesse James / Clint Burns), George 'Gabby' Hayes (Sheriff Gabby Whitaker), Sally Payne (Polly Morgan), Pierre Watkin (Phineas Krager, Land Dealer), Ivan Miller (Judge Rutherford), Hal Taliaferro (Paul Sloan, lawyer), Gale Storm (Jane Fillmore, 'St. Louis Journal' Reporter), Roy Barcroft (henchman Vern Stone), Jack Kirk (henchman Rufe Balder), Rick Anderson (card player), Chuck Baldra (townsman), Hank Bell (Charlie Davis), William 'Billy' Benedict (young Davis), Fred Burns (homesteader), Budd Buster (homesteader), Foxy Callahan (card player), Bob Card (townsman), Ken Card (novelty performer), Chester Conklin (town drunk), Luke Cosgrave (Cartwright), John Dilson (Collins, Krager's clerk), Curley Dresden (townsman), Fern Emmett (Mrs. Emmy Davis), Kit Guard (bartender at the Double Eagle), Karl Hackett (homesteader), Lloyd Ingraham (card player), Ray Jones (townsman), Rex Lease (henchman Gregg), Duke R. Lee (homesteader), Theodore Lorch (townsman), Cactus Mack (townsman), Art Mix (henchman), Charles R. Moore (Mose), Chuck Morrison (Cole Younger), Jack O'Shea (Burt, townsman), Edward Peil Sr. (U.S. Marshal), Pascale Perry (townsman), Bob Reeves (henchman), Jack Rockwell (townsman), Paul Sells (novelty performer), Al Taylor (Frank James), Bill Wolfe (townsman), Bob Woodward (henchman).
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In 1941 it was very rare to see the 'villain' portrayed as the sympathetic good guy, but that is just what this story does. The movie begins with a text roll that states:" The Story that Jesse James was finally killed by a disloyal member of his gang is well-known and believed by many to be factual. But there is another legend - vouched for by many old-timers of Missouri - which goes like this . . . " When this motion picture was filmed, there actually were old folks still alive that knew and lived the era of the James gang, and this story may actually be based on more fact than fiction. Roy Rogers stars as the infamous Jesse James, and Gale Storm, a new movie actress, well before finding fame as a television sit-com star, is his romantic interest.
A railroad tycoon wants to own the Missouri land that he will run his railroad through, but the government won't sell him the land unless it is settled, so the unscrupulous man offers 'options' on parcels of land to unsuspecting folks and promises to sell them the land outright later for $3 an acre. After years of clearing land and creating fertile farms, the railroad tycoon purchases all of the land, and refuses to sell the farmers their acreage at less than $100 an acre - a number that they could never reach. As farm families start getting evicted from the farms that they carved out of wilderness with their sweat and tears, young Jesse James forms a gang that robs the tycoon's trains, and uses his money to pay for the deeds to the farmer's land at the $100 and acre price. The tycoon quickly realizes that the farmers are buying their deeds with the tycoon's own stolen money, and need to find a way to stop the James gang from robbing him. One day a gambler comes to town that is an exact double for Jesse, and after some confusion, everyone discovers that there are two men that look exactly alike, Jesse James and Clint Burns.
All of the townsfolk like Jesse James, because they know he is helping them get the land that they were promised, and that he only robs the tycoon and his railroad. To turn the town against Jesse, the tycoon hires Clint to impersonate Jesse at night and burn and loot the good townsfolk. Just about this time there are two female reporters from the big city newspaper that come to get the story of train robber Jesse James, and they get involved in the action.
This exciting tale has the hard-riding, fast shooting action that you come to expect in a good western along with a plot that just might be the true story of Jesse James. You won't be sorry for popping a big bowl of hot buttered popcorn and settling down for a good hour of historic entertainment with this Roy Rogers classic old movie.