Frank goes after the Ford brothers, who killed Jesse, but gives himself up for trial to save his black servant.
Jesse James is shot in the back by Robert Ford (John Carradine). Frank James (Henry Fonda) is believed dead and farms, telling Pinky (Ernest Whitman) to call him Ben Woodson. Young Clem (Jackie Cooper) tells Frank that Jesse was killed by Robert and Charles Ford; but Frank tells Clem not to tote a gun. Frank learns that the Fords are going to be hanged; but he reads they were pardoned and given the reward. Frank takes his gun and leaves without Clem. Robert Ford offers a drink to Major Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull), who declines and blames George Runyan (J. Edward Bromberg) also. Major warns Robert about Frank, and Robert decides to go west. Frank comes to editor Major. Pinky tells Frank that Clem ran away. Frank robs an express office, and Clem comes in and fires his gun. Men are aroused and shoot, killing the watchman. Frank and Clem escape with the money. McCoy (Donald Meek) says it was Frank and offers a reward. Runyan goes after Ford.
In Denver Clem calls Frank Woodson and says Frank was killed. Reporter Eleanor Stone (Gene Tierney) asks him and Clem about Frank's death. Clem tells a story of Frank's heroic death. It is published, and Eleanor asks her father for a job on his paper. Frank attends a play with Robert and Charles Ford rescuing a woman from Jesse and Frank. They see Frank standing and flee. Frank and Clem chase them. Charles falls from a cliff and is killed. Runyan finds Eleanor and asks her about Clem and his friend. He proves Woodson is Frank by showing her his photo. Runyan holds a gun on Frank and Clem, but they manage to tie him up. Eleanor gets a note to see Frank, who apologizes for lying. Eleanor shows Frank that Pinky is to be hanged and pleads that he save him. Frank says that he will give himself up after he gets Robert Ford. Randolph Stone (Lloyd Corrigan) is angry at Eleanor, who says she must go to Liberty. Frank leaves Clem to go save Pinky, and Clem goes with him. Frank swaps horses and leaves $50, and he buys a carriage. Frank makes a man flag a train to stop.
In Liberty Eleanor and Major try to delay Pinky's hanging. Frank arrives and is arrested by Runyan. Pinky is released, and Frank is put on trial. Major defends Frank against a railroad lawyer, and they admit the robbery. Clem blames Eleanor. Frank testifies why he came back and says the watchman was shot from the outside. Major orates against the railroad and Yankees. Frank sees Robert Ford. The jury finds Frank not guilty, and Ford runs out. Clem is shot and dies. Frank loads Clem's gun and goes into a barn after Ford, who shoots at him and is found dead. Frank is pardoned, and in the final scene he says good-bye to Eleanor.
Except for the fact that Frank James turned himself
in and was acquitted, this is a fictional revenge quest. Ironically
Frank James lived to old age and opposed heroic dramatizations
of his earlier criminal career.