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Although onscreen credits list David Buttolph as music director, earlier official billing sheets credited Alfred Newman with that role. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Sam Hellman's original treatment for this film was based on a "story pattern" by Nunnally Johnson. In story conferences, producer Darryl Zanuck proposed that Frank James should be hounded by the character of George Runyan from the film's opening to its close. Zanuck theorized that the difference between "outstanding" westerns like Stageocach and Jesse James and merely ordinary westerns resided in their "clever treatment and adaptation." Zanuck also suggested that Sam Hellman write a rough draft continuity because of his familiarity with the story.
Although the studio bought the rights to the James brothers lives, the real life that Frank James led was quite different from that told in the film. The real Frank surrendered six months after Jesse's murder, after living a peaceful life in Missouri. He was tried and acquitted twice. Neither of the Ford brothers were alive at the time of Frank's surrender, and Frank played no part in the death of either Ford. In the original story outline, Frank was romantically interested in reporter Eleanor Stone, but the studio, fearful of a libel suit by either Frank's widow or son, decided to eliminate the romantic interest. The film was shot on location in Bishop, CA. It was a sequel to Fox's 1939 film Jesse James. Henry Fonda, Henry Hull, John Carradine, J. Edward Bromberg, Donald Meek, Ernest Whitman, Charles Tannen and George Chandler reprised the roles that they played in the earlier film. This film also marked Gene Tierney's screen debut.