Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Alias Jesse James (1959) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Bob Hope stars in ALIAS JESSE JAMES (1959), which will be released on Blu-ray next week by Kino Lorber.

By coincidence this is one of two "ALIAS" titles being released in the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line this month; the other is ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949) starring Ray Milland.

ALIAS JESSE JAMES is an amusing trifle which finds Hope playing Milford Farnsworth, a hapless New York insurance salesman in the 19th century. Milford is being let go by his company due to his lack of success, when suddenly he meets a man (Wendell Corey) who agrees to pay cash for a $100,000 life insurance policy.

Milford's boss (Will Wright) is thrilled...until he picks up a newspaper and realizes Milford has just sold a life insurance policy to Jesse James, a man likely to be gunned down at any moment!

Milford is told to follow James west and buy back the life insurance policy as quickly as possible so that the company can avoid the inevitable $100,000 payout. Jesse, however, has a plan: He lends Milford his clothes, thinking he can pass him off as "Jesse" and have him bumped off in his place; Jesse's fiancee Cora Lee (Rhonda Fleming) will cash in the policy, and they'll live happily ever after.

Jesse isn't counting on Cora Lee falling for Milford, however...nor does he expect the high-powered help Milford receives from a slew of Western stars in the final shootout!

I found this an enjoyable Hope film. While I prefer him in relatively small doses, I always like to check out his films for the supporting casts, especially as he worked opposite some wonderful leading ladies. Indeed, Fleming is quite delightful in this as the smitten Cora Lee; Fleming's fans should really enjoy her in it. She also has the chance to sing a nice number with Hope at a barbecue which is one of the best scenes in the movie.

It's also rather a fun joke that Wendell Corey, a good actor normally identified with more milquetoast roles, is cast as the dangerous Jesse James. Corey seems to be having a terrific time with the part, playing Jesse as a rather dimwitted type, and I really enjoyed him.

The other big plus is the finale with nine TV and movie Western stars edited in to help Milford mow down the bad guys. I'll leave their identities to be discovered by viewers, but will mention that at some point James Garner's Bret Maverick is said to have been in the film but was edited out.

Jim Davis plays Jesse's brother, Frank James. Mary Young as the oddball Ma James lends the Jameses a sort of bizarre ADDAMS FAMILY style twist.

A host of familiar faces fill out the supporting cast, including Glenn Strange, Gloria Talbott, Fred Kohler Jr., George E. Stone, Iron Eyes Cody, and Emory Parnell, to name a few.

ALIAS JESSE JAMES runs 92 minutes. It was directed by Norman Z. McLeod and filmed by Lionel Lindon. The screenplay was cowritten by William Bowers and Daniel B. Beauchamps from a story by Robert St. Aubrey and Bert Lawrence. Bowers, who always had a way with sharp, witty dialogue, also cowrote last week's film THE WEB (1947).

The Blu-ray picture for the most part is quite sharp and attractive, with redheaded Fleming looking particularly lovely. Sound quality is excellent. The lone extras are the trailer and 13 additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber, most starring Hope.

Hope fans may wish to know that ALIAS JESSE JAMES is one of a number of the comedian's films released by Kino Lorber in recent months. The most recent Hope releases include CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT (1941), NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (1941), and MY FAVORITE BLONDE (1942).

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

3 Comments:

Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I keep pushing "Ain't-a-Hankerin" on folks, but it is a darn cute song that needs to be appreciated!

3:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, I thought the song and the performance of it were charming.

Best wishes,
Laura

5:23 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I always remember the ending of this one, cuz it is just sooooo much fun. The rest is a little slow, but has some good parts.

5:39 PM  

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