The Left Handed Gun
|The Left Handed Gun|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Arthur Penn|
|Produced by||Fred Coe|
|Screenplay by||Leslie Stevens|
by Gore Vidal
|Music by||Alexander Courage|
|Cinematography||J. Peverell Marley|
|Edited by||Folmar Blangsted|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
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", befriends a cattle boss named John Tunstall, who is known as "The Englishman". Tunstall is murdered by corrupt rival cattlemen led by the local sheriff in the Lincoln County War. Bonney plans to avenge the crime by hunting down those responsible and killing them in provoked gunfights. His violent actions endanger his surviving friends and the territorial amnesty proclaimed by New Mexico Territory governor Lew Wallace. Billy's former friend, Pat Garrett, becomes a sheriff and sets out to hunt him down.
Billy's worshipful companion, Moultrie, lionizes Billy's actions, fueling a series of dime novels that transform Bonney into a legend. Billy is disgusted with his fictionalization, and he rejects Moultrie. Embittered, Moultrie betrays Bonney to Garrett. In a final showdown, Garrett ambushes and kills the exhausted Bonney, who faces his nemesis unarmed in the hopes of ending his own life.
- Paul Newman as Billy The Kid
- Lita Milan as Celsa
- John Dehner as Pat Garrett
- Hurd Hatfield as Moultrie
- James Congdon as Charlie Bowdre
- James Best as Tom Folliard
- Colin Keith-Johnston as John Tunstall
- John Dierkes as Alexander McSween
- Robert Anderson (credited as Bob Anderson) as Hill
- 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
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. In 1961 it won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.
- Quinlin, David (1983-12-01). The Illustrated Guide to Film Directors. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-389-20408-4.
- Slatta, Richard W. (2001-11-20). The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO. pp. 45–48. ISBN 978-1-57607-151-9.
The Left Handed Gun marks the evolution of the Kid's character from one of either evil or romantic extremes to that of an illiterate victim of circumstance.
- Denis, Fernand (2014-11-23). "Cinematek fête les critiques". La Libre Belgique (in French).