The Return of Frank James on Arte: the extremely rare deleted scenes that you will never see

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Find out what Fritz Lang’s cut scenes told in the script of his western “The Return of Frank James”.

Fritz Lang , king of the cut? Discover these moments of The  Return of Frank James cut before they were even shot, because they were unnecessary to the plot or a little heavy.

All the scenes mentioned below come from the shooting script of the film annotated by the director Fritz Lang and found in the background devoted to the director at the French Cinematheque. They have been consulted by the author of this article.

1- THE VISION OF THE GALLOWS

Twice the gallows to hang the black servant Pinky is mentioned in the script and removed.

  • It’s first a sequence during Frank’s trial in the last part of the film, where Clem asks Eleanor if her testimony in favor of brother James would change the situation of the trial. She replies that there is nothing he or she can do and the boy loses his temper, blaming the journalist for being responsible for the situation. This appears in the film, but the sequel was cut: pensive, upset, Eleanor sat down on a bench and thought about what Clem had just said to her. Her eyes focused on the gallows erected for Pinky and she put a hand to her mouth to keep from screaming.

Clem (Jackie Copper), Eleanor and Frank James

  • The second moment is the description of the sheriff’s office. One sentence read: “Outside the sound of pounding is heard and through the window one sees the outline of a gallows frame under construction”.

The desire to cut a vision of gibbet is probably a desire to keep a light tone of pure entertainment as was the previous film about the James brothers, The Beloved Brigand , released in 1939.

2- KEEP THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE INTACT

Frank and Clem are surprised at the hotel by Runyan the policeman, who ends up getting tied up. The scenario details in detail how the two bandits gag, bind, then attach the policeman to the coat rack in the closet.

Frank James (Henry Fonda)

This sequence is crossed out and annotated with an “Out”. On screen, the scene ends with a fade out of the bandits starting to tie up the lawman, and cuts directly to the scene of Eleanor getting dressed and her father coming to visit.

This creates the element of surprise, because when later in the film, the maid comes to make the beds, she first hears a noise which she takes for someone knocking at the door, for small little by little understand that it comes from the closet and thus discovers at the same time as the spectator, that the policeman was locked up there by Clem and Frank.

3- NO TEARS FOR THE JAMES FAMILY

Also cut are the procrastination sequences on the James family sentence. Thus, when Frank visits the “Major” (the local newspaper editor), the sentence lamenting that McCoy killed first his mother and then his brother is cut.

Major Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull)

Also scratched is the fact that the Major shows Frank an excerpt from the next day’s newspaper saying “The filthy little coward who killed Mr. Howard and drove poor Jesse to his grave”. Frank noticed on this occasion the good work of the major.

The insistence on the Major’s bias was rightly avoided since this character is constantly in support of Frank throughout the film, defends him at his trial, so we could narratively dispense with this scene.

4- NO LOVE FOR FRANK JAMES

A languid look from Frank James to the reporter interviewing him is deleted from the final script. According to director  Bertrand Tavernier in the DVD bonus features edited by Calysta Films and Sidonis Productions, this reference was cut at the request of producer Darryl Zanuck .

Eleanor Stone (Gene Tierney)

Frank James widow was still alive at the time and he didn’t want to risk a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox. He therefore limited the allusions to a possible love affair between Eleanor and the bandit.......