The Left Handed Gun

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The Left Handed Gun
Left Handed Gun (1958).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Fred Coe
Screenplay by Leslie Stevens
Based on Teleplay 
by Gore Vidal
Starring Paul Newman
Lita Milan
John Dehner
Music by Alexander Courage
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley
Edited by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • May 7, 1958 (1958-05-07)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Left Handed Gun is a 1958 American western film and the film directorial debut of Arthur Penn,[1] starring Paul Newman as Billy the Kid and John Dehner as Pat Garrett.

The screenplay was written by Leslie Stevens from a teleplay by Gore Vidal, which he wrote for the television series The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse 1955 episode The Death of Billy the Kid, in which Newman also played the title character. Vidal revisited and revised the material in 1989 with a TV-movie entitled Billy the Kid. The title refers to the belief that Billy the Kid was left handed, and he shoots left handed in the film, though it is possible that this was a false conclusion drawn from a reversed photograph. The film attempts to portray Billy the Kid as a misunderstood youth who got mixed up in a cattle war and was dragged down by the hostile population of New Mexico.


Drifter William Bonney (Paul Newman), known as 'Billy the Kid' loses his horse and is befriended by cattle boss Tunstall, known as 'The Englishman', who is soon murdered by corrupt rival cattlemen led by the local sheriff. Bonney's plan for revenge, hunting down and killing all responsible via provoking gunfights endangers not only his surviving friends, but the territorial amnesty proclaimed by New Mexico governor Lew Wallace, causing his former friend Pat Garrett to finally become a sheriff and hunt him down. Meanwhile groupie Moultrie sends material fictionalizing and lionizing him back East, where it is turned into dime novels that make Billy the Kid a legend, causing Billy to confront Moultrie and throw his kit of materials in his face in rejection, ending in Moultrie betraying him to Garrett to eliminate the embarrassing real-life character so that his fictionalized version won't be disturbed. This leads to the finale where Garrett kills the exhausted discouraged Bonney after he faces him with an empty holster in an apparent attempt at "suicide by cop".[2]


The film was a flop in the United States, but was praised by French film critics for its bold experimentation with the stereotyped American Western genre. It won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.


  • Paul Newman as Billy The Kid
  • Lita Milan as Celsa
  • John Dehner as Pat Garrett
  • Hurd Hatfield as Moultrie
  • James Congdon as Charlie Boudre
  • James Best as Tom Folliard
  • Colin Keith-Johnston as Tunstall
  • John Dierkes as McSween
  • Robert Anderson as Hill (as Bob Anderson)
  • Wally Brown as Deputy Moon
  • Ainslie Pryor as Joe Grant
  • Martin Garralaga as Saval
  • Denver Pyle as Ollinger
  • Paul Smith as Smith
  • Nestor Paiva as Pete Maxwell
  • Jo Summers as Bride
  • Robert Foulk as Sheriff Brady
  • Anne Barton as Mrs. Hill
  • George Bell as Deputy
  • Joe Bell as Peddler
  • Orlando Beltran as Mexican Farmer
  • George Berkeley
  • Lane Chandler as Townsman on Street with Mason
  • Mary Lou Clifford as Gypsy woman
  • Stephen Coit as Alexander Ganz, Photographer
  • Cecil Combs as Deputy
  • Jess Franco as Young Gypsy Man
  • Terry Frost as Angry Townsman
  • Robert Griffin as Morton
  • Norman Leavitt as General Store Clerk
  • Eve McVeagh as Mrs. McSween
  • Tina Menard as Mexican Woman
  • Boyd 'Red' Morgan as Soldier
  • Tessie Murray as Gypsy Woman
  • Joseph V. Perry as Clerk
  • Stephanie Pond-Smith
  • Henry Rowland as Man on Street with Deputy
  • Oreste Seragnoli as Priest
  • Morgan Shaan as Man in Crowd
  • Dan Sheridan as Bucky
  • Fred Sherman as Clerk
  • Jorge Treviño as Ramírez
  • Glen Turnbull as Sergeant
  • Ernesto Zambrano as Old Gypsy Man


External links[edit]