Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jesse James' Women -- A Southeastern

Brookhaven and the surrounding vicinity has always had its cattle and its horsemen, so it was only natural back in the 1950s that some enterprising businessman would decide to clear some land east of town, throw up some fencing and seating and host rodeos, bringing in B movie cowboy stars to help draw a crowd.

Don "Red" Barry was among these Hollywood celebrities who spent time in the area, shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs.  A native of Texas, Barry, who stood 5'4" tall, was best known for his role as Red Ryder, but by the time he visited Brookhaven, he was ready to branch out and produce and direct his own movies -- or so he thought.

Apparently impressed with what he saw, whether it was the local topography or the area's equally beautiful women, he returned the region, scouted a location in nearby Silver Creek, and with the financial backing from a Meridian businessman, Barry brought in a movie crew to film Jesse James' Women.  

He even cast a few locals in the film in featured roles -- among the Lincoln County sheriff's 20-year-old daughter, Betty Brueck, a former Brookhaven High School cheerleader and water carnival queen.  She played a gunslinging, hair pulling Cattle Kate.

The 1954 film is actually available for viewing on YouTube, if you don't mind sitting through a few commercials.

But don't get your hopes up. Of all of Barry's movies, this one is perhaps his biggest clunker, according to Western movie aficianados.  Below is a review by Boyd Magers of Western Clippings.com, a website dedicated to old Westerns, who gives it zero stars:

"JESSE JAMES’ WOMEN (‘54 Panorama) Barry as an actor was fine. Barry as a producer/director guiding his own work is inept. As Jesse James, he vainly romances, trifles, and quadruple-times four women: a saloon lady from New Orleans (Lita Baron), Cattle Kate (local Mississippi actress Betty Brueck), saloon owner Peggie Castle and banker’s daughter Joyce Reed. Highlight of the boring film is a clothes-ripping, hair pulling cat-fight between Brueck and Castle. Rambling plot makes it easy to see why this was Barry’s only directorial job. Financing for this oddity came from Lloyd Royal who owned the Royal Theatre Circuit in Meredian, MS. Filled with plenty of local actors, this was shot on location in Silver Creek, MS."
Barry, who was born in 1912, returned to Los Angeles and continued his Hollywood career.  In July 1980, after a domestic dispute, he committed suicide.  He was 68. He is buried in Hollywood's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Betty Brueck, according to Find-A-Grave, went on to marry Ernest Edward Langford, who served as an assistant football coach at BHS. They had a son, Ernest Edward Langford Jr. in 1957.  Sadly, the father and their 14-year-old son were killed in a car accident in 1972.

Betty later married Charles Ray Knight, who died in 1982.  Betty, born Sept. 26, 1934, died on Oct. 8, 1989, in Jackson.  She was 55.   She is buried in Brookhaven's Rose Hill Cemetery.

That's our own Betty Brueck on the saloon floor...


  1. The filming created great curiosity and excitement. Many locals, young men/boys and women, were used as extras. Did not know of Coach Eddie Langford's death. He was a small, fiery football and baseball coach.

  2. My late father James E Maxie played a part in this film. It was released a month before my birth. I am friends with Monte Royal son of Lloyd Royal. Gary Maxie