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Billy Bonney is a hot-headed gunslinger who narrowly skirts a life of crime by being befriended and hired by a peaceful rancher, Eric Keating. When Keating is killed, Billy seeks revenge on the men who killed him, even if it means opposing his friend, Marshal Jim Sherwood. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jim 'Holy' Sherwood:
On the level, Billy. You ought to get off the bottle.
Bottle? I've never been drunk in my life.
Jim 'Holy' Sherwood:
I don't mean liquor. I mean another kind of bottle - excitement... phony adventure. It's no good, Billy.
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Of all the versions of the Billy the Kid saga this is one of the loosest ones with the facts. Even the names are completely changed in this film with only Robert Taylor retaining Billy's most known alias of William Bonney. Even Brian Donlevy does not get to play Pat Garrett, he's Jim Sherwood in this.
But this is the standard Billy the Kid story, a young outlaw who goes to work for a straight arrow rancher during a range war. Then later when the rancher, in this case Ian Hunter, is gunned down at that point the tragic end that Billy will come to is irreversibly set for him.
This was Robert Taylor's first western and it would be another eight years before he did another. After that westerns became pretty standard film fare for him. Taylor, like his good friend, Ronald Reagan, loved horses and probably if MGM hadn't made him a romantic heart throb, he would have loved to have been a cowboy actor. Like Reagan he certainly looked at home hosting Death Valley Days later on.
Jim Sherwood(Pat Garrett)is a different part for Brian Donlevy to play. Donlevy was at the high point of his career as a screen villain and being a good guy for him is almost a case of an alternate universe. But being the professional he was, Donlevy carries off the portrayal in fine style.
Ian Hunter is just fine as the English gentleman rancher who tries to set Taylor on the straight and narrow. And you will not find a sneakier more loathsome villain than Gene Lockhart as the local boss of the area who is provoking a range war with Hunter.
Billy the Kid is not the best western that Taylor ever did, but it certainly opened a whole new career vista for him.
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