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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>
"Billy the Kid" was supposed to be a remake of the 1930 classic which starred Johnny Mack Brown and Wallace Beery. About the only things this version has going for it are the beautiful technicolor photography and its supporting cast of recognizable faces.
William Bonney, aka "Billy the Kid" (Robert Taylor) is on the run for gunning down his father's killer some years earlier. He and his sidekick Pedro (Frank Puglia) ride into the town of Lincoln. Billy joins up with local bad guy Hickey (Gene Lockhart) who is trying to drive popular rancher Eric Keating (Ian Hunter) out of business. While on a stampede raid one night, Billy meets up with his childhood friend Jim Sherwood (Brian Donlevy). Sherwood and Keating gradually persuade Billy to come over to their side.
All goes well until first, Pedro and then Keating are murdered. Billy then decides to take matters into his own hands with the predictable results.
Taylor, Donlevy and Lockhart are all woefully miscast. Taylor was just too pretty to be taken seriously as Billy. Donlevy, whose character replaces the Pat Garrett character for some reason, was more at home in gangster films. Similarly, Lockhart did better as evil bankers or corrupt businessmen in contemporary dramas.
Lovers of the "B" series westerns of the period will have fun spotting some of their favorite villains and character actors from that genre. The baddies include Lon Chaney Jr., Grant Withers, Dick Curtis, Cy Kendall and George Cheseboro. On the right side of the law we have Kermit Maynard, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Chill Wills and Ray Teal.
Others in the cast include Henry O'Neill as the newspaper editor, Joe Yule (Mickey Rooney's father) as a bartender, Arthur Houseman (the resident "drunk" in the old Laurel & Hardy shorts) as a drunken janitor (what else?), Connie Gilchrist as a saloon lady and a young John Raitt as a singer in the musical number.
As mentioned previously, the outdoor color photography is breathtaking. Unfortunately, they spoiled it by inserting many of those phony looking close up process riding shots.
I expected better from MGM.
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