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The Left Handed Gun (1958)

Approved | | Western | 17 May 1958 (USA)
After his employer is murdered by rival cattlemen, a troubled and uneducated young cowboy vows revenge on the murderers,

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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James Congdon ...
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John Dierkes ...
McSween
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Hill (as Bob Anderson)
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Deputy Moon
Ainslie Pryor ...
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Paul Smith ...
Smith
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Pete Maxwell
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Storyline

William Bonney - Billy the Kid - gets a job with a cattleman known as 'The Englishman,' and is befriended by the peaceful, religious man. But when a crooked sheriff and his men murder the Englishman because he plans to supply the local Army fort with his beef, Billy decides to avenge the death by killing the four men responsible, throwing the lives of everyone around him - Tom and Charlie, two hands he worked with; Pat Garrett, who is about to be married; and the kindly Mexican couple who take him in when he's in trouble - into turmoil, and endangering the General Amnesty set up by Governor Wallace to bring peace to the New Mexico Territory. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

This is William Bonney, a juvenile "tough" from the back-alleys of New York... a teenager wanted dead or alive throughout the West. This is the screen's first real story of the strange teen-age desperado known to legend as "Billy the Kid"... See more »

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

17 May 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Billy the Kid  »

Box Office

Budget:

$700,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Newman was widely felt to be miscast as Billy the Kid since at 33 he was considerably older than the character. Billy was supposed to be 18 at the beginning of the film. See more »

Goofs

Billy and the others are at a lake. You see the reflection of the moon in the water. One of them shouts "the moon" and they start shooting the reflection of the moon. When the camera zooms out, you see Billy and his pals are facing the camera, so the moon was in their back all the time. Hence there couldn't have been a reflection of the moon. See more »

Quotes

Celsa: Stay here. They'll kill you!
Billy The Kid: They've been killin' me. Now I don't wait. I go first!
Celsa: What are you going to do?
Billy The Kid: I don't run. I don't hide. I go where I want. I DO what I want!
[He puts scarf around her neck and pulls her toward him in a provocative way]
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Connections

Referenced in A Natural Born World-Shaker: Making 'Cool Hand Luke' (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Rock of Ages
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady and music by Thomas Hastings
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User Reviews

 
Interesting revolutionist vision of Billy the Kid
6 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Based on Gore Vidal's play (which had already been filmed once for television with Newman), THE LEFT HANDED GUN is an unusual addition to the western genre, with several considerable attempts at psychoanalysis that were slightly ahead of the time for this type of picture. The film is more or less a bio of infamous outlaw Billy the Kid, with the novelty that Billy (played by Newman) is sympathetically portrayed more as a misunderstood youth rather than an outright criminal. Director Arthur Penn and screenwriter Leslie Stevens (working from Vidal's original play) have done a commendable job at presenting Vidal's revolutionist vision of Billy, even though the film sometimes rambles and lacks the streamlined momentum that made Penn's similar BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) an American film masterpiece. The entire story was filmed much more effectively in Sam Peckinpah's cult classic PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1973), but THE LEFT HANDED GUN stands as an interesting curio and a film that (aside from some overwrought acting) has aged very well.

This was yet another role that was originally intended to be played by James Dean that Newman stepped into after that young actor's tragic death. Unlike 1956's SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (which Newman played to perfection), I actually think that Dean might have actually been better suited to play Billy the Kid, as his nervy stance and cocksure demeanor have yet to be match by anyone and possibly could have enhanced the role even further. Newman is still quite good, however, playing the role as closely to Vidal's original concept as possible, and there is a particularly lovely scene with Newman's reaction as Billy to a Biblical verse remaining one of my favorite pieces of reactive acting ever. The sympathetic portrayal of Billy the Kid also gave Newman his first real shot at playing an anti-hero, a task that he would later perfect in the 24-Karat film masterpieces THE HUSTLER (1961) and HUD (1963).


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