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Jesse James History Project Over one hundred years ago that dirty little coward Bob Ford killed Jesse Woodson James in his home in St Joseph Missouri Today the typical person has derived much if not all knowledge about the life and times of Jesse James from the movies Beginning with Jesse James Under the Black Flag in 1921 starring Jesse Edwards James referred to as Jesse James Jr and concluding with the 1980 film The Long Riders with James Keach movies have portrayed Jesse James on both sides of the coin He has been a hero or criminal murderer or saviour crafty individual or homicidal maniac and a money-hungry thief or a western Robin Hood And because of this dual portrayal the public is often times unable to distinguish between fact and fiction This study will deal mainly with the depiction of Jesse James on film in order to illustrate why people confuse the real person with the legend It will also explore how and why legends are made and it will consider the evolution of western movies and the cowboys in these movies Finally it will examine the mirroring effect that the public has on movie production and which movie scripts have on its audience In essence movie production companies are mirrors receiving an image of what they believe audiences want to see in a movie When the audience sees that movie they may perceive it as being more factual than it is not realizing that they indirectly helped to construct that image Movies did not give birth to the Jesse James legend but only continued with what had started before his death After the Gallatin Missouri bank robbery of 1869 John Newman Edwards editor of the Kansas City Times began molding the image of Jesse and Frank James A letter that Jesse supposedly wrote appeared in the Times This letter prepared the foundation for later letters which surfaced periodically In
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