Cast & Crew
Reginald Le Borg
Former Confederate soldier and outlaw Jesse James awakens from a nightmare about a whipping he received from a Yankee officer during the Civil War. Jesse's wife Zee attempts to comfort him, but he angrily lashes out against their lifestyle, which has forced him into using an assumed name to avoid arrest. Moments later, Jesse is surprised when Bob Ford, a former friend and outlaw, visits with his friend, Sam Wells. Ford and Wells urge Jesse to partner with them in stealing a gold shipment from Big Bob Williams' mine in Colorado. Jesse decides to join them so he can use his portion of the theft to move his family across the border. The next day, Jesse leaves a distraught Zee to round up a crew of trusted friends. Among them is gunfighter Arch Clements, who needlessly murders a sheriff as Jesse breaks him out of jail; powderman Elias Hobbs, a religion-spouting gambler who is about to be killed for cheating at cards when Arch and Jesse rescue him; and wagon driver Johnny Jorrette, son of Jesse's deceased friend Pat, whom the crew saves when his ranch is raided by his father's killers. Although Johnny is not an outlaw, his father's murder has embittered him and he eagerly agrees to the robbery plan. Jesse and his crew arrive in Creede, Colorado, where they meet Ford at his saloon. A fistfight breaks out between Johnny and Arch over Ford's dancehall girl friend Kate, but Jesse breaks them up. Ford provides them lodging and food, and his unusual generosity prompts Elias to suspect that Ford has his own secret plan. The next day, the gang rides to Wells's cabin near the mine, where he explains his plan to blast through an old mine tunnel to access the gold in the newer tunnels, after which Johnny will transport the gold using an abandoned stagecoach route. That day, Ford returns to town after the crew blasts open an old mine entrance, and plans to return in three days with a wagon. While he is away, the rest of the men work in the tunnels. When Ford returns with Kate and leaves her alone outside, Arch attempts to force himself on her. They fall down a slope during the struggle and Kate is knocked unconscious. Later, Arch lies that Kate slipped and fell. When she awakens, Kate murmurs Johnny's name, which infuriates Ford. Jesse prevents him from attacking Johnny, and Kate later thanks him for protecting the young man, and verifies Arch's story about her injuries. Later in the mine, Ford and Wells discuss Ford's secret plan to have corrupt lawmen kill Jesse and his friends when they attempt to transport the gold. Wells and Ford will then share the reward for Jesse's capture. However, when Wells expresses his suspicion that Ford will also betray him, Ford murders him and later claims Wells was killed by a cave-in. As their work nears completion, Arch, who is guarding the cave entrance, is knifed in the back by a member of the secret posse. Arch lives long enough to warn his comrades, all of whom suspect that Ford betrayed them. Their plan to escape through the mine tunnels fails when Elias blasts open a wall into an underground river, in which he drowns. Jesse, Kate, Ford and Johnny are forced to retreat to the mine entrance and are met by gunfire. Although they safely escape to the wagon, the posse throws a stick of lighted dynamite underneath. Ford and Jesse escape with their lives, but Kate and Johnny are killed in the explosion. Jesse and Ford later part ways in the desert. When Ford rides past a wanted poster for Jesse offering a large reward, he ruefully burns the poster.
Reginald Le Borg
Bob Lippert Jr.
Robert L. Lippert Jr.
George Van Marter
The Daily Variety review notes that The Great Jesse James Raid marked Robert L. Lippert, Jr.'s debut as a producer. For more information on the many other films about Jesse James, please consult the entry for the 1939 Twentieth Century-Fox film entitled Jesse James in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
The Great Jesse James Raid marked the final screen appearance of actor Tom Neal (1914-1972). Neal and actress Barbara Payton were married during the film's production, and this was their only film together. For information on their relationship and a well-publicized 1951 scuffle with actor Franchot Tone, please see the entry below for Lady in the Iron Mask. In the mid-1960s, Neal was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his third wife. Neal died several months after his release from prison.