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Alias Jesse James

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Alias Jesse James, starring Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming
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A very funny Bob Hope movie, set in the American old west, with Bob Hope playing an inept insurance salesman.  He’s sold a life insurance police to Jesse James, and now needs to keep him alive.  But Jesse James has other plans …. Culminating in a big gun battle with cameos from virtually every western star of the day

Alias Jesse James, starring Bob Hope, Rhonda Fleming

Alias Jesse James, starring Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming

Alias Jesse James is one of Bob Hope‘s funniest movies.   Set in the American old west, Bob plays the part of Milford Farnsworth. He’s telling the story of his success as an insurance salesman. And the bulk of the movie is the flashback of how the young Milford foolishly sold a life insurance policy to Jesse James…. Worth $100,000 dollars!  And now has to keep him alive.   Jesse James, however, doesn’t have the same compunction. He plans to have Milford dress up in Jesse’s clothes, and have him murdered.  Allowing him to walk away from his life of crime without being hunted, as well as collecting the $100,000.   Complicating things is Jesse’s fiancee, Cara Lee (played by the lovely Rhonda Fleming), who doesn’t love Jesse.  But people don’t say “no” to Jesse James and live to talk about it.

Comedy highlights

Despite the somewhat serious premise, Alias Jesse James is a hilariously funny movie. It gives Bob Hope plenty of room to play his cowardly every man character, with many funny moments.   For instance, during a celebration at the James ranch, he grabs (what seems to be) a rope. And he frightens away a wild animal.  Only to realize that he’s holding onto a rattlesnake.   During a train robbery, Jesse decides that enough is enough.  Especially with Farnsworth having begun falling in love with Cara Lee.  And he shoots Farnsworth in the back!   Only to have Farnsworth show up alive at his ranch, oblivious to the fact that his “friend” Jesse has been trying to kill him. He survived by having “borrowed” antique armor from Jesse’s collection.

One of the comedy gems of the movie is Jesse’s mother. Bob Hope first meets her on Jesse’s front porch as she’s cleaning a gun.  Bob hates to bother her, but she replies that it’s all right, she’s finished cleaning the big guns.  Then, they walk into the house, and see a massive arsenal of weaponry…. With Ma James complaining about how she’s always having to pick up after the boys.

Hilarious conclusion

The movie has a hilarious conclusion. Bob Hope/Farnsworth disguises himself as the preacher who’s going to marry Cara Lee and Jesse.  And he takes the opportunity to “spike” the punch with a drug that makes everyone move in slow motion.  Followed by Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming doing a very slapstick escape. Bob gets stuck in a horse drawn carriage. Where he’s fallen through the wood of the carriage, and has to run to keep up.  A moment worthy of the Looney Tunes.

The final showdown happens in town. The inept Farsnworth is trying to hold his own in a gunfight with the James gang.  And a variety of TV and movie cowboy heroes shoot the villains one by one …. As Farnsworth thinks he’s become a great gunslinger.   Some of the cowboy heroes include Gary Cooper, James Arness, Ward Bond, Roy Rogers. And a very funny cameo appearance by Bing Crosby.

Back in the “present”, the older Farnsworth is finishing his story.  He tells the person in his office that he, personally, is insured against every conceivable situation.  As his wife, Cora Lee, comes in, with their growing brood of children.  And Bob Hope/Farnsworth tells the audience: “Well, you can’t be insured against everything“.  A very funny movie, and highly recommended to any Bob Hope fan.

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