Cast & Crew
At the end of the Civil War, in Missouri, brothers Frank and Jesse James and their cohorts, the Younger Brothers, are pursued by the Union Army for their involvement in the notorious Confederate renegade gang, Quantrill's Raiders. At the Jameses' family farm, a group of Union soldiers are about to lynch Dr. Samuels, Frank and Jesse's stepfather, for refusing to reveal Frank's whereabouts when Frank and his men ride up, guns blazing. During the ensuing gunfight, Frank kills a Union soldier, then flees with Jesse. Later, after peace is declared, Frank goes to Independence to apply for amnesty and is assured by the provost marshal, Major Trowbridge, that he and his fellow Confederate "partisans" will receive parole if they take a pledge of allegiance. Trowbridge does not intend to honor his promise, however, because, unknown to Frank, the Union soldier Frank shot was the major's brother and the major wants revenge. When Frank, Jesse and their men head for town, they are ambushed by a group of soldiers, who ignore their white flags of surrender. Jesse is wounded in the gun battle, which also claims four Union soldiers. Mrs. Samuels takes Jesse to recover at his aunt's farm in Nebraska and warns the others to lay low. While recuperating, Jesse meets his cousin, Bee Moore, and the two become sweethearts. Weeks later, after Jesse reunites with Frank on the family farm, he and Frank are provoked into an armed confrontation with some Union soldiers. Now wanted men, the James brothers hide out in the woods with the rest of their gang, and at the urging of Cole Younger, agree to start robbing Union banks. After they hold up their first bank, Trowbridge orders Frank brought in, and the James house is once again surrounded by soldiers. Frank and Jesse again escape, then undertake a series of bold robberies that infuriate Trowbridge. In St. Louis, a year later, Trowbridge announces at a bankers' meeting that he has retired from the military and opened his own detective agency. Still bent on revenge, Trowbridge vows to capture the elusive James brothers and assures the bankers that he has spies working for him. Sometime later, Frank, who has returned from California with Jesse and is hiding out on the farm, becomes suspicious of the neighbor's chatty new hand, Jack Ladd. Frank's suspicions prove well-founded when, after Bee and Jesse's wedding, Jack secretly leads a night-time raid on the farmhouse. Frank and Jesse manage to elude capture, but Jack tosses a flaming bottle into the house, severely injuring Mrs. Samuels' arm. Upset over his mother's maiming, Jesse ignores Bee's protests and again returns home. There, Jesse deduces Jack's duplicity and outdraws him in a gunfight. The gang then resumes its bank holdups, specifically targeting institutions protected by Trowbridge's company, and eventually turn to train robbing. Using an alias, Frank takes a job as a hand on the Bauer farm and quietly begins to romance Bauer's daughter Mary. After one of their train heists goes awry, two members are killed by Trowbridge's men and Bob Younger, Cole's young brother, is wounded. While the Youngers are tracked and caught, Frank and Jesse ride back to the Bauer farm. Frank hides Jesse in the barn, but fellow hand August overhears Frank confess his identity to Mary and confronts him at gunpoint. Jesse shoots August first, however, and Frank, Jesse and Mary take off. Later, Jesse and the recently married Frank and Mary join Bee and Mrs. Samuels in their new town home and assume new identities. Although there is a $10,000 reward for his capture, Jesse eventually forms another gang, but Bee has grown tired of the outlaw life and complains about the uncouth recruits he brings to the house. Then one night, at the Jameses' house, the brother of a former James gang member is shot by new member Dick Liddil. Dick, fearing Jesse's wrath, turns himself in to Trowbridge and, in exchange for a pardon, tells the detective to persuade Bob Ford, who has been rejected as a gang member, to kill Jesse for the reward. At the Jameses', meanwhile, Frank informs Jesse that he is through with crime and is going to Europe with Mary. Frank beseeches Jesse to do the same, then leaves. Later, after Trowbridge is killed by a pickpocket, Jesse informs Bob and his brother Charles that he has decided to join Frank. As he is about to depart, however, he turns to straighten a portrait of his mother and is shot in the back by Bob. Hearing the blast, Bee rushes to Jesse, who dies in her arms.
Louis Jean Heydt
Ellen Drew, 1914-2003
She was born Esther Loretta "Terry" Ray on November 23, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri. The daughter of a barber, her family moved to Chicago when she was still an infant and she lived a very quiet childhood far removed from the glamour of Hollywood. She was encouraged by some friends to enter a beauty contest when she was just 17. After winning, she tried her luck in Hollywood, but found that they were no immediate offers for her particular talents.
She eventually took a waitressing job at C.C. Brown's, a famed Hollywood Boulevard soda fountain, and had virtually abandoned her dreams as a starlet when William Demarest, a popular actor's agent and well-known character actor, spotted her. Demarest arranged a screen test for her at Paramount, and she was promptly placed under contract for $50 a week.
For the first few years, (1936-38), Drew got only bit parts, and was often uncredited. When she finally got prominent billing in the Bing Crosby musical Sing You Sinners (1938), she decided to change her name, from Terry Ray to Ellen Drew. She earned her first major role in Frank Lloyd's If I Were King (1938) opposite Ronald Colman, yet for the most part of her career, rarely rose above "B" material and second leads. Still, she had some fine exceptions: Preston Sturges' enchanting comedy Christmas in July (1940), with Dick Powell; Tay Garnett's lighthearted war romp My Favorite Spy (1942) co-starring Kay Kyser; Julien Duvivier's taut The Imposter (1944), holding her own with a brooding Jean Gabin; and Mark Robson's chilling low-budget chiller Isle of the Dead (1945) opposite Boris Karloff. Drew made some notable television appearances in the late '50s including Perry Mason and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, before retiring from the entertainment industry. She is survived by her son David; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Ellen Drew, 1914-2003
The film opens with voice-over narration spoken by Anne Revere as her character, "Mrs. Samuels." Although Screen Achievements Bulletin lists Frank Gruber's 1949 novel Broken Lance as the source of the film, no other publication credits the book. As depicted in the film, during the Civil War, Jesse and Frank James were members of Quantrill's Raiders and, after Jesse was wounded while surrendering, turned to a life of crime. The Jameses joined forces with the Younger brothers, and the gang was pursued for many years by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Frank and Jesse's mother lost her arm during a raid on their farmhouse, as dramatized in the film. Jesse married his first cousin, Zee, after a nine-year courtship. Frank also married and both wives pressured the brothers to go straight. In the film, the James-Younger gang is destroyed after a disastrous train robbery, but the real outlaws were undone during a bank holdup in Minnesota. In 1881, with a $10,000 reward on his head, Jesse and Zee moved to St. Joseph, MO, and attempted to lead an inconspicuous life.
In 1882, however, Jesse, needing money to buy a farm in Nebraska, formed a new gang, recruiting Bob and Charles Ford. Bob Ford shot Jesse in the back of the head while he was straightening a picture, but neither Ford collected any reward money. Instead they were tried for murder and sentenced to hang, but later received pardons. Frank, who had gone straight, surrendered six months after Jesse's murder but was acquitted twice on robbery charges.
Location shooting for The Great Missouri Raid took place in Sonora, in Northern California. According to a ParNews item, a new type of "uplift" camera car, made from a four-wheel drive surplus weapons carrier and hydraulic camera mount, was used for the first time on the picture. Cinematographer Ray Rennahan also utilized a high-powered generator in order to illuminate the train car interiors sufficiently to match them with the bright Sonora sunshine. No process shots were used in the moving train sequences, according to ParNews.
For more information about the James brothers and other films based on their lives, see entry for the 1939 Twentieth Century-Fox film Jesse James in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40. For information about the Younger family and other films based on their lives, see entry for the 1941 Warner Bros. picture Bad Men of Missouri in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.