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Jesse James at Bay

Jesse James at Bay on SeacoastNH.comTHE DINGUS PROJECT
Jesse James in Film #1

In this 1941 feature length film, Roy Rogers takes on Roy Rogers in a dual role.  Roy plays both Jesse James and the bad guy. But whait a minute -- isn't Jesse James the bad guy? Not in this World War II melodrama that includes Gabby Hayes and not a whisker of historic fact.

 

 


Jesse James at Bay (1941)
54 minutes, b&w
Roy Rogers, Gabby Hays

Roy ROgers in Jesse James at Bay / Dingus Project on SeacoastNH.comUnscrupulous land dealer Phineas Kraeger offers settlers the chance to develop and buy farmland for $3 an acre, but then demands $100 an acre. Sheriff Gabby Hayes says the citizens need help from a man who has been long been fighting the railroad – Jesse James. Roy Rogers makes a sleek and athletic Jesse. (This film, like many others, is based only the totally unsupported Robin Hood myth that the James Brothers gave a portion of their stolen loot to poor farmers. The story was invented by Confederate-sympathizer and journalist John Newman Edwards.) Coincidentally, in this film, a Jesse James lookalike and card shark named Clint Burns appears on the scene, also played by Roy Rogers. Paid by Phineas Kraeger, Burns agrees to commit a few crimes in order to turn public opinion against Jesse James. The fake-Jesse burns the home of the sheriff, who just happened to be having a chicken dinner with two female reporters from the St. Louis Times. The have come to prove they can report the news as well as men. They want to hear the sheriff’s tales about James. The real Jesse shows up just in time to save Sheriff Gabby from the flames. 

Confusing? You bet, and it gets worse. The real Jesse then asks Sheriff Gabby to spread the rumor that he is wounded at a place out of town. Doppelganger Clint Burns heads there to ambush Jesse, and so do the two lady reporters who want to meet and interview Jesse for their newspaper. In the fracas that follows, the real Jesse shoots the fake Jesse, and switches clothes, so Jesse is now impersonating Clint, instead of the other way around. One of the reporters falls instantly in love with Jesse, who finally breaks out into a song.  Then, pretending to be Clint Burns, Jesse gets back to gambling, but during a poker game, his fast draw gives him away.

54 minutes, b&wRoy Rogers, Gabby HaysUnscrupulous land dealer Phineas Kraeger offers settlers the chance to develop and buy farmland for $3 an acre, but then demands $100 an acre. Sheriff Gabby Hayes says the citizens need help from a man who has been long been fighting the railroad – Jesse James. Roy Rogers makes a sleek and athletic Jesse. (This film, like many others, is based only the totally unsupported Robin Hood myth that the James Brothers gave a portion of their stolen loot to poor farmers. The story was invented by Confederate-sympathizer and journalist John Newman Edwards.) Coincidentally, in this film, a Jesse James lookalike and card shark named Clint Burns appears on the scene, also played by Roy Rogers. Paid by Phineas Kraeger, Burns agrees to commit a few crimes in order to turn public opinion against Jesse James. The fake-Jesse burns the home of the sheriff, who just happened to be having a chicken dinner with two female reporters from the St. Louis Times. The have come to prove they can report the news as well as men. They want to hear the sheriff’s tales about James. The real Jesse shows up just in time to save Sheriff Gabby from the flames.  Confusing? You bet, and it gets worse. The real Jesse then asks Sheriff Gabby to spread the rumor that he is wounded at a place out of town. Doppelganger Clint Burns heads there to ambush Jesse, and so do the two lady reporters who want to meet and interview Jesse for their newspaper. In the fracas that follows, the real Jesse shoots the fake Jesse, and switches clothes, so Jesse is now impersonating Clint, instead of the other way around. One of the reporters falls instantly in love with Jesse, who finally breaks out into a song.  Then, pretending to be Clint Burns, Jesse gets back to gambling, but during a poker game, his fast draw gives him away.

Dingus INdex

(The real Jesse James, of course, was no quick draw artist, at least according to many early accounts.) Sheriff Gabby, Jesse James and the local judge finally unite to shoot it out with Mr. Kraeger and his henchmen. Jesse rides into the sunset with one of the female reporters played by actress Gale Storm (who 15 years later got her own TV comedy – The Gale Storm Shjow.) The idea for the love interest may have come from the Henry Fonda film “Return of Frank James” released the year before in 1940 in which Frank falls for a female reporter. Frequently one Jesse James movie is based, not on history, but on previous films.    

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