Silent cowboy star Fred Thomson raised quite a bit of controversy by portraying the famous outlaw in a sympathetic vein -- there were still a few oldsters around in those days who remembered the furor raised by the James gang. This role was a surprising turn for Thomson, whose films were generally known for their non-violent, clean-living heroes. Here, he polishes up Jesse James' character, gives him a love interest (Nora Lane), then uses the better part of the film to do what Thomson always did best -- perform elaborate tricks with his horse Silver King. The only difference from his prior films was a higher production value -- this was his first film for Paramount. While Hollywood features, for the most part, have dispensed with history in favor of drama (or the star's or director's whims), Thomson's take on Jesse James was not taken lightly, and this disapproval was quite a turnaround from the widespread esteem the actor was used to receiving.
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