Young Jesse James

Watch Young Jesse James

"The teenager who became the West's most hunted desperado!"
  • Passed
  • 1960
  • 1 hr 13 min
  • 4.9  (158)

Young Jesse James is a 1960 Western film directed by William F. Claxton and starring Ray Stricklyn as the infamous outlaw Jesse James. The movie follows the early years of the outlaw's life leading up to his first bank robbery. The young Jesse James is portrayed as an honorable and courageous young man who is forced to turn to a life of crime due to difficult circumstances beyond his control.

The movie begins with Jesse as a teenager living on the family farm with his mother and younger siblings. His father, a farmer and slave owner, is killed by Union soldiers during the Civil War, leaving the family in dire financial straits. Jesse's older brother Frank (Willard Parker) decides to join a group of Confederate guerrillas led by the notorious Bloody Bill Anderson (Robert Dix) to make money and exact revenge on the Union. Jesse, who is too young to join them, stays behind to take care of the family.

After the war, Frank returns home and enlists Jesse's help in robbing a bank to make some quick cash. Although Jesse initially hesitates, he ultimately agrees to help his brother out of loyalty and a desire to provide for his family. The robbery goes wrong, leading to a shootout with the law and the death of Jesse's friend and fellow gang member, Cole Younger (James Anderson). From there, Jesse and Frank become full-fledged outlaws, robbing banks and trains across the Midwest.

Throughout the movie, Jesse is depicted as a hero of sorts, fighting against corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen who take advantage of the common people. He is also portrayed as a defender of the South and its values, even though he is not particularly political himself. At one point, he even stands up to the Ku Klux Klan when they try to intimidate a black family living near his hideout.

Ray Stricklyn puts in a solid performance as Jesse, conveying both his earnestness and his ruthlessness as needed. Willard Parker is a suitable foil as Frank, the older and more experienced outlaw who takes Jesse under his wing. Merry Anders plays Zerelda, a young woman who becomes Jesse's love interest and helps him and Frank in their robberies. Although her character is not particularly well-developed, Anders manages to make her likable and sympathetic.

The movie moves at a brisk pace, with plenty of action and suspense to keep the viewer engaged. The Western landscapes and sets are well-done, adding to the film's overall atmosphere. The script is a bit simplistic at times, but it does a good job of balancing Jesse's sympathetic portrayal with the reality of his criminal activities. The supporting cast is also filled with familiar faces from the era, including James Anderson, Robert Dix, and Richard Erdman.

Overall, Young Jesse James is an entertaining and well-made Western that serves as a decent introduction to the legendary outlaw. While it may not be the most historically accurate portrayal of Jesse James, it does capture the spirit of the times and the appeal of the mythical figure. Fans of the genre or Ray Stricklyn in particular will likely appreciate this movie.

Young Jesse James
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 13 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    4.9  (158)