I Shot Jesse James (1949)

I Shot Jesse James (1949), written and directed by Samuel Fuller.

In this version Bob Ford wants to quit the gang to marry his girl. He shoots James for the amnesty and reward. Things go badly for him and we have a noir-like descent to the tragic conclusion. Several incidents are used again in the recent The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Ford's attempt to replay the murder on the stage, and his encounter with a balladeer singing about that "dirty little coward."

Fuller's first film, it is a traditional looking western where the outlaws dress like gentlemen and everyone is pretty clean. Loud, lyrical musical score. It's mostly static and not very exciting, and yet there is something about it... part western, part noir and weepie.

It must be John Ireland. Soft voiced but with a menacing aura, he's much better than I remember him, hard but full of pain and guilt. He did it for love, but the act removed any chance of happiness. The director doesn't go soft on him, and neither do we.

Criterion Eclipse DVD. Optional subtitles but no menu control for them.