Henry King's 1939 Jesse James sidestepped history to embrace folklore's version of the outlaw as a populist hero. This sequel is pure dime-novel fiction, with Jesse's brother (Henry Fonda) getting even, albeit reluctantly, with Bob Ford (John Carradine), "the dirty little coward" who back-shot his leader to win amnesty. The revenge theme would seem tailor-made for 20th Century-Fox's newly signed directorial talent, Fritz Lang, to whip up a fine Teutonic frenzy. However, the maestro of Die Nibelungen treated the material straight, like the good, impersonal Hollywood craftsman he was eager to be taken for, at that point in his career. Besides, Lang loved the West and Western lore, and was happy working in the Western genre. (Check out his next Fox assignment, Western Union, for a richer confirmation of this.) The Technicolor is vivid, nowhere more so than in the red lips of Gene Tierney in her screen debut. --Richard T. Jameson
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