I am a fugitive from a James gang: Tyrone Power as Jesse in Jesse James (dir. Henry King, 1939).
Is "Tyrone Power" the best name ever or what? If ever there were a moniker you would think for sure had to be dreamed up by an agent, there it is--but the Powers are actually a venerable old family, and Tyrone was named after a long line of fathers and grandfathers. The next thing you'd think is that this guy was just a cardboard cut-out with a nice physique and smile, but he's convincing as Jesse, especially when he's got a few days' growth of beard to cover over the look of pampered innocence. I really want to believe that the following quote I found attributed to him on IMdB is genuine, but my confidence level is low: "Some day I will show all the motherfuckers who say I was a success just because of my pretty face. Sometimes I wish I'd have a really bad car accident so my face would get smashed up and I'd look like Eddie Constantine."
The movie is pure Hollywood: unrepentant historical distortion, anachronistic hair and makeup, endless schtick of all sorts. It's also a fun ride, and has some nuance here and there. There are even a few moments when the technicolor popcorn-fest darkens to admit some chilling vignettes, as when some neighborhood kids play outlaw in the front yard, pointing sticks at little Jesse Junior and shouting "You're Jesse James! You're dead!" "I'm dead," he agrees quietly, with hands folded across his chest, as his father looks on in consternation--moments before going to live out the scene in earnest himself.
Labels: Henry King