Blair Hawkins | Charlottesville, Virginia |

Jesse James (1939). Saturday September 2, 2017.

The most famous Hollywood film about Eminent Domain. First 15 minutes set up the injustice. Claiming government authority, a gang of well-dressed railroad execs move out to acquire land.

The 1st family farm gives in to intimidation. If you don't accept what we offer, we will condemn your land and take it and you'll get nothing. The farm just wants a fair offer. Same language as today.

The 2nd farm requires violence to seal the deal. To stop the beating of a family member, the owner signs the deed on the dotted line.

The 3rd farm is owned by the mother of Frank and Jesse James. She says we'll handle it in court. Railroad won't take "No" for an answer and introduces violence. Frank and Jesse defend the homestead, shoot the railroad boss in the hand when he tries to use a scythe as a weapon.

Railroad gang flees, complains to the court and returns with reinforcements. Frank and Jesse flee. Railroad boss throws dynamite into the house and kills the owner, the mother of Jesse James, who returns to kill the boss in front of many witnesses.

So Frank and Jesse begin a life of crime, robbing banks and trains. Newspapers champion the righteous cause. Jesse interrupts a church service to marry his sweetheart. The preacher talks about how the railroad stole his own family farm.

Plea bargain for a light sentence if Jesse turns himself in. When he does, the government/railroad collusion betray their word and call for the death penalty. Townspeople turn on the authorities and free Jesse James.

Soon the original cause is forgotten as the crime spree continues on.

The 1939 movie is a cautionary tale against the modern cycle of land stealing rooted in the Great Depression. Today we remember the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park as unnecessary and unjustified projects.

Blair Hawkins.

Blair Hawkins | Charlottesville, Virginia | | Résumé | Top