Alias Jesse James
|Alias Jesse James|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Norman Z. McLeod|
|Produced by||Jack Hope|
|Music by||Joseph J. Lilley (uncredited)|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1.9 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
Alias Jesse James is a 1959 American Western comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod (his last) and starring Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming. Based on a story by Robert St. Aubrey and Bert Lawrence, the film is about an outlaw who tries to kill an insurance agent who has been mistaken for him in order to collect on a big policy. Costumes by Edith Head.
Milford Farnsworth (Hope) is a bumbling insurance agent who unknowingly sells a life insurance policy to the outlaw Jesse James (Wendell Corey). Farnsworth is sent out West to protect the insurance company's investment by "protecting" James.
James has his own plans to have Farnsworth killed while dressed as the outlaw, so that he and his soon to be "widow" Cora Lee Collins (Rhonda Fleming) can collect on the $100,000 insurance policy. Farnsworth avoids several attempts on his life while he and Collins fall in love with each other.
After the last attempt is made on his life, Farnsworth impersonates the justice of the peace who is supposed to marry James and Collins. When Farnsworth and Collins make a run for it, they end up in a gun battle with the James Gang where several Western heroes make their cameos to surreptitiously help Farnsworth. In the end Farnsworth is victorious, marries Collins, and becomes president of the insurance company.
- Bob Hope as Milford Farnsworth
- Rhonda Fleming as Cora Lee Collins
- Wendell Corey as Jesse James
- Gloria Talbott as Princess Irawanie
- Jim Davis as Frank James
- Will Wright as Titus Queasley
- Mary Young as 'Ma' James
- Jack Lambert as Snake Brice
- Mickey Finn as Tough #2 in Dirty Dog Saloon
- Bob Gunderson as James Gang member
- Fred Kohler, Jr. as James Gang member
- Ethan Laidlaw as James Gang member
- Glenn Strange as James Gang member
The gunfight scene at the end of the film features a number of cameo appearances by movie and television personalities. Though none are identified by character name in the film, each actor is dressed to resemble the iconic western character he or she played, and they each speak dialogue that echoes their famous catchphrases or identifiable habits:
- Fess Parker as Davy Crockett
- Gary Cooper as Will Kane from High Noon
- Roy Rogers (as himself)
- Jay Silverheels as Tonto
- Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp
- James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon
- Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams from Wagon Train (final film)
- Gail Davis as Annie Oakley
- Bing Crosby, dressed in western regalia, also makes an appearance at the gunfight's climax
- Scatman Crothers as a train porter
Following the theatrical release of the film, some later versions did not include all the cameos due to myriad legal problems with the rights, but Hope's clout at the time was so great that he managed to gather a dazzling array of screen cowboys for the original. The 2007 "MGM Movie Legends" DVD release of the film includes all of the cameos.