Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Might've Been: The Legend of Jesse James (1965)

Someone at 20th Century Fox felt that amidst all the Westerns, there needed to be one that used an outlaw as a protagonist. So, they figured, why not the most famous outlaw of them all?

The Legend of Jesse James was sold to ABC in 1965, and about the best thing going for it seems to be the swinging theme song. Christopher Jones landed the title role as Jesse, who, along with brother Frank (Allen Case, ex-The Deputy), lived with their mother (Ann Doran) when not on the road. Not sure if Mrs. James had any inkling of what her sons did for a living, though.

Dwighttfrye uploaded the series premiere, "Three Men From Now", with guest star Jack Elam:

Forgive the poor condition of the video, as that is apparently the only episode available now on YouTube. Fox didn't have much luck with some Westerns in the mid-60's. Mind, too, that this was the same year that Fox had sold Rod Serling's The Loner to CBS, and that also was a 1 year wonder. There were just too many Westerns on the air, just as there'd be a glut of crime dramas in the next decade.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I think it was also about timing as well as making an outlaw the protagonist. Westerns were falling out of favor with networks who wanted more action adventure/spy shows along with supernatural and rural themed sitcoms.

Today, I can see it working better - think Western shows like "Deadwood" or a series like "Dexter" (with a serial killer protagonist n o less! Makes the James boys look like choir boys by comparisons). The James brothers have a lot of legends between them - many writing that even they had a moral code they followed. If someone were to thoroughly research them while putting a series together, you might find they weren't necessarily the black hearted men some remember them as.

hobbyfan said...

Someone contact the History channel! That's a project that could work for them.