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Jesse James Rides Again

Before he was the Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore played Jesse JamesTHE DINGUS PROJECT
James James in Film #08

Who was that masked man? Well, in 1947 actor Clayton Moore was playing Jesse James, not The Lone Ranger. That TV role came later. The Lone Ranger role on TV was surpassingly similar to the imaginary "good" Jesse James who thrilled Saturday matinee movie-goers with high action melodrama. Also look for the actress later to play Lois Lane in the TV series Superman.

Jesse James Rides Again (1947)
13 episodes, A Republic Serial
Clayton Moore, Linda Stirling, Roy Baracroft

Jesse James Rides Again on the Dingus ProjectThe series trailer begins with a bang as a barn explodes into splinters. The excited narrator announces: "Desperate, dangerous men, hooded and masked, ravaged the land -–robbing, killing, setting fire to homes and farms, evading the law by blaming all their crimes on Jesse James. To prove his innocence and bring the raiders to justice – JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN!

Historically the concept of James as the good guy fighting for law and order is ludicrous, but it made great box office just after World War II. Baby Boomers will be surprised to hear the deep mellow voice of Jack Carlton "Clayton" Moore (1914 – 1999), later known as television’s masked Lone Ranger. In the first episode (out of 26 on this two-tape set) Jesse is being framed for the Northfield Bank robbery, which in real life, he did commit. "Won’t they let a man be honest?" Jesse asks his friend. "Not if his name is Jesse James," his friend replies.

Amazingly, Moore went on to play another bandit-turned-good-guy in a reprised role as Zorro in the 1949 film Ghost of Zorro. By the time Guy Williams next resurrected the Zorro character in the Disney series, Moore was equally well known as TV’s Lone Ranger, a third outlaw hero. "Ladies love outlaws," as Kris Kristopherson sings, and so do American males.

Forced to hit the road in this movie series, Jesse James teams up with "Steve", the generic sidekick and son of "Fred" a former bandit. They head no where in particular, and end up in Peaceful Valley, TN. But it isn’t peaceful. The pair end up at a farmhouse of crippled farmer Bolton and his attractive young daughter Ann (played by Linda Stirling, later TV’s Lois Lane) just as they are being attacked by "the black raiders" in black capes and hoods. Jesse drives them off. Clearly the bad guys want the Bolton farm, but why? They plan next to blow up the levee to flood the farmer out, but daughter Ann Bolton gets wind of the plot and is kidnapped aboard the river ferry. Jesse swims onto the departing Dixie Bell ferry and fights with the goons from the Black Raider gang.

Dingus INdex 

This is high melodrama straight out of early theater and silent films. The music stays at fever pitch throughout. Ann is tied up as Jesse fights it out with the gang solo. But a fuse leading to the barrels of dynamite are lit and the fuse burns across the floor as the battle continues. Then ka-boom, the entire ferry goes up in a spectacular explosion. There is no way Jesse and Ann could have escaped – or could they? The following week viewers learn that they both jumped off the ferry just in the nick of time. The great thing about early melodramas was that, unlike in today’s films, the clock is never accurate. What seems like seconds is actually minutes – and the hero ALWAYS wins.

The Dingus Project


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