Legendary Outlaws

legendaryoutlawHoward Hawks once said in an interview that he often visited fellow director John Ford as Ford neared the end of his life.  He told the writer that Ford was doing little more than watching endless B-Westerns on the TV. It’s not hard to imagine that the movies in this collection were among the sorts of films Ford might have been enjoying.

On this box set of Robert Lippert-produced films, there’s a lot of muck, but there are a few shiny bits, like I Shot Jesse James (1950). John Ireland, who, incidentally, had worked with Hawks in Red River (1948), stars as an amateur hold up guy, on the lam and on the skids, who allows himself to represent the recently murdered Jesse James with the remaining members of James’ gang. Renegade Girl (1946), starring Ann Savage, is a real study in cowgirl feminism and utterly absurd—try imagining a woman running about shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of ex-Quantrill raiders, blackmailing them into helping her kill a Cherokee warrior, by promising to marry whoever gets her closest to the guy.

All six films in this collection are about outlaws: the James boys, the Daltons and Billy the Kid. In a way, they all comment on the way films took bits of history and scrambled it with complete fictions, but the Ireland movie is actually about the perpetuation of the myth of James among those who worshiped him at the time.

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