Cast & Crew
Former outlaw Frank James, brother of the late Jesse James, lives a quiet life in Colorado with his wife Emily and their two children. One day, outlaw Matt Riley calls on Frank, hoping to lure him back to a life of crime, but Frank refuses. As Riley and his cohort Fenton ride away, Riley comments that if Fenton had a beard, he would be a dead ringer for Frank. The two then arrive in the nearby town of Creede in time to witness a showdown between marshal John Kelly and Bob Ford, the man who shot Jesse. Bob is killed, and when John goes to console Bob's former girl friend, Cynthy, they end up declaring their love for each other. Riley and Fenton bring the news of Bob's death to his brother Charlie, who is shocked by Fenton's resemblance to Frank, and they enlist Charlie's participation in a scheme to frame Frank for crimes they will commit. Meanwhile, John finds Cynthy's uncle Clem drunkenly entertaining a crowd at the saloon, and he offers to make Clem his deputy, hoping the new responsibility will reform him. Riley, Charlie and Fenton, now sporting a beard, soon assemble a gang and rob a silver wagon, making sure the victims identify Fenton as Frank James. When news of the robbery reaches town, John and Clem ride out to Frank's house, and John notices that Frank's horse has been ridden hard. They question Frank about the robbery, and his young son Johnny comes forward and says he, not Frank, was riding the horse. After John and Clem leave, Frank punishes his son for lying to John, then sets off to find Charlie and kill him, despite Emily's protests. Riley and his men commit a string of daring robberies, and stories of the "new James gang" soon fill the headlines. John remembers that two members of Jesse's old gang recently left their jobs at the saloon, and he begins to suspect that the new gang was organized in town. After getting into a fight with saloon owner Dan Simons, John rides out alone in search of the gang, and eventually catches up with Frank. Convinced of Frank's innocence, John tells him to go home and stay in touch with Clem. Meanwhile, at the gang's hideout, Fenton announces that they will rob the bank in Creede the next day, which will bring John back to town so they can kill him. The next day, Simons gets Clem drunk, then suggests that he collect the reward for a couple of gang members who are hiding at Charlie's cabin. In a drunken stupor, Clem rides out to Charlie's empty cabin, then turns around and heads back to town. While Clem is away, Fenton and the gang rob the bank and escape to their hideout with Cynthy as their hostage. John returns to town soon after that, followed by Frank, and he forces Simons to lead the posse to the gang's hideout. Following a shootout, in which Frank kills Fenton, the gang members are captured. Frank, John and Cynthy then return to the James home, where they find Clem recovering from a ferocious hangover.
Robert L. Lippert
The working title of this film was Dead Ringer. The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "It isn't always necessary to look in a mirror to see one's self. A 'Dead Ringer' will serve just as well. Or so discovered a retired outlaw named Frank James..." The onscreen credits read: "Written, produced and directed by William Berke." Gunfire marked the motion picture debut of Tommy Farrell (1922-2004), an actor and nightclub comedian who was the son of long-time character actress Glenda Farrell. For information on the historical figure Frank James, see entries for Jesse James and The Return of Frank James (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2212 and F3.3703).