Thursday, January 20, 2011

Young Gene Tierney

For some reason, I thought I had recommended the movie The Return of Frank James before, but apparently I haven't. It's airing tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Frank James is played by Henry Fonda, reprising a role he had played a year earlier in the movie Jesse James. Jesse was killed by the Ford brothers, and now Frank wants to gain revenge on them, since the law was happy that Jesse was dead and was willing to pardon the killers after a summary trial. So, Frank hides his identity and heads west to find Robert Ford (John Carradine), who killed Jesse.

The Return of Frank James has some nice things going for it. One, it's directed by Fritz Lang, who is probably better known for suspense and more modern crime movies. So Lang doing a western is certainly interesting. Next, like a lot of movies of the day, there are quite a few good character actors showing up in their usual smaller performance: there's Donald Meek if you know where to look; Henry Hull; and even an almost-grown-up Jackie Cooper as the son of one of the members of the James Gang. Also, this one is in very nice Technicolor. However, perhaps the most interesting thing here is the presence of Gene Tierney, making her movie debut. She plays a lady reporter who follows Frank-in-disguise along to get the story, as the disguised Frank claims to have inside information about the James brothers. Her character was originally supposed to be a love interest for Frank, but that got written out for various reasons, leaving this slightly incongruous female reporter. Still, Tierney is lovely to look at.

The Return of Frank James isn't a particularly great movie, but it's entertaining enough, and fun to watch Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney do their things. The movie has also made it to DVD, so you don't have to worry when the Fox Movie Channel decides to put it back in their vault.

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