Monday, May 22, 2023

Frank James Changes His tune

 May 22, 2023

   It's been said that Frank James resembled his father and that Jesse favored his mother. A newspaper reporter, John Newman Edwards, rode out to the James family farm north of Kearney, Missouri, and interviewed the brothers and captured the differences between them, in a St. Louis Dispatch article, published on November 22, 1873:

“Jesse laughs at everything—Frank at nothing at all. Jesse is light-hearted, reckless, devil-may-care—Frank sober, sedate, a dangerous man always in ambush in the midst of society. Jesse knows there is a price upon his head and discusses the whys and wherefores of it—Frank knows it too, but it chafes him sorely and arouses all the tiger that is in his heart. Neither will be taken alive. Killed—that may be."

Daily Whip Out: "The Sober One"

   Now, contrast that description of Frank, with this comment by him late in life:

“The dad-binged play glorifies these outlaws and makes heroes of them…. I am told the Gilliss Theatre was packed to the doors last night, and that most of those there were boys and men. What will be the effect on these young men to see the acts of a train robber and outlaw glorified?”

—Frank James, in 1902, seeking a court order to prevent the play, The James Boys in Missouri, from being staged in Kansas City

   Sorry Frank, it has been all downhill from there:

Movie poster for Jesse James Rides Again

   By my count there have been at least 35 movies, so far, on the life of Jesse James. And what does this say about us?

"A distinctly American bandit has been remembered in a distinctly American fashion, through tourism, mass media, and show business."

—Erin H. Turner, editor of "Badasses of the Old West" 2010


  1. Bless his heart. . . . I have always found Frank the most interesting of the two, maybe for these very reasons. My friend, Greg Higginbotham, has portrayed Frank for years and a few years ago we were walking the streets of St. Joe and Greg was walking up to folks, shaking hands, welcoming them to St. Joe. "Howdy, I'm Frank James." As we walked away, I heard a couple of ladies behind me whispering, "I thought he was dead."

    1. Anonymous5:16 PM

      Love that story!!

  2. I accidentally saw your post, it's great with a lot of interesting information.


Post your comments