The Very First Movie About Jesse James Was Filmed in Michigan, 1908
The legendary outlaw, Jesse James, was born September 5, 1847 and died of a bullet to the head on April 3, 1882. He was only 34 years old.
Numerous movies, shorts, features, videos, and TV shows have been made about the exploits and crimes of Jesse and his brother Frank. Many of these portrayed Jesse as a hero, robbing banks & trains, stealing from the rich, and giving the money to those in need. Not true. The James Gang - to historians’ knowledge - never gave any of their stolen money to anyone except to each other.
The very first film ever made about Jesse James was made right here in Michigan…Berrien Springs, to be exact. The year was 1908 and the name of the movie was “The James Boys In Missouri”, the highlight being a bank robbery re-enactment in downtown Berrien Springs. The building that was being used as the bank was on the northwest corner of Main and Ferry streets. The real-life robbery this was depicting took place in Northfield, Minnesota.
The movie was only eighteen minutes long and was released on April 12, 1908 by the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. Jesse had been dead just 26 years and the memory was still fresh in the public’s mind…many still thought of him as a hero. Even though photos exist of the film, the movie itself is believed to be lost, like so many other silent films.
Once you see the photos below, you may want to take a roadtrip to Berrien Springs and see the film site for yourself.
One last thing about the legend of Jesse James which is ironic, in a way…
In 1882, at the age of 34, Jesse was shot and killed by a member of his gang, Robert Ford.
In 1892, at the age of 30, Ford was shot and killed by a stranger, Edward O’Kelly.
In 1904, at the age of 46, O’Kelley was shot and killed by police officer Joe Burnett for resisting arrest.
In 1917, at the age of 49, Burnett died from a stroke.
1st Jesse James Film Shot In Michigan, 1908
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