6.5/10
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49 user 24 critic

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.

Director:

Arthur Penn

Writers:

Leslie Stevens (screenplay), Gore Vidal (play)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Newman ... Billy The Kid
Lita Milan ... Celsa
John Dehner ... Pat Garrett
Hurd Hatfield ... Moultrie
James Congdon James Congdon ... Charlie Boudre
James Best ... Tom Folliard
Colin Keith-Johnston ... Tunstall
John Dierkes ... McSween
Robert Anderson ... Hill (as Bob Anderson)
Wally Brown ... Deputy Moon
Ainslie Pryor Ainslie Pryor ... Joe Grant
Martin Garralaga ... Saval
Denver Pyle ... Ollinger
Paul Smith ... Smith
Nestor Paiva ... 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:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

17 May 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Billy the Kid See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$700,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Interestingly, the title of this movie promotes a common misconception that was proved untrue in 1986. Two almost identical tintypes of Billy the Kid were taken at the same time in 1880. The original of one tintype disappeared years ago. The second original tintype was preserved for years in the Sam Diedrick family and came to light only in 1986. Since tintypes are reversed images, the picture from the first tintype led to the myth of the left-handed gun. After the second tintype came to light, the reversed image was reversed to show the Kid as he actually posed, with a Winchester carbine in the left hand and his holstered Colt single-action on his right hip. See Utley, Robert M., Billy the Kid, A Short and Violent Life, University of Nebraska Press, 1989. Statement following page 110 alongside the picture of Billy the Kid. See more »

Goofs

The film is about western outlaw Billy the Kid, who was in fact right-handed. See more »

Quotes

Billy The Kid: They had me dead! That amnesty - that's for THEM! For Moon and hill and Grant! They walk around! I'm buried! They put dimes on my eyes!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Legends of the West (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Rock of Ages
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady and music by Thomas Hastings
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Interesting revolutionist vision of Billy the Kid
6 February 2008 | by robb_772See 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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