The Outlaw

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The Outlaw
The Outlaw poster.jpg
Theatrical Poster
Directed byHoward Hughes
Produced byHoward Hughes
Written byJules Furthman
StarringJack Buetel
Jane Russell
Walter Huston
Thomas Mitchell
CinematographyGregg Toland
Edited byWallace Grissell
Production
company
Howard Hughes Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 5, 1943 (1943-02-05) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$5,075,000 (est. US/Canada rentals)[1]
The Outlaw

The Outlaw is a 1943 American Western film, directed by Howard Hughes and starring Jack Buetel, Jane Russell, Thomas Mitchell, and Walter Huston. Hughes also produced the film, while Howard Hawks served as an uncredited co-director. The film is notable as Russell's breakthrough role, turning the young actress into a sex symbol and a Hollywood icon. Later advertising billed Russell as the sole star.

Plot[edit]

Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) welcomes his old friend Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) to Lincoln, New Mexico. Doc is looking for his stolen horse and finds it in the possession of Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel). Despite this, the two gunfighters take a liking to each other, much to Pat's disgust. This does not prevent Doc from trying to steal the horse back late that night, but Billy is waiting for him outside the barn.

After that, Billy decides to sleep in the barn, and is shot at. He overpowers his ambusher, who turns out to be curvaceous young Rio McDonald (Jane Russell), out to avenge her dead brother. It is implied the he also rapes her after ripping off her dress.[2]

The next day, a stranger offers to shoot Pat in the back while Billy distracts the lawman. However, he is only setting the Kid up. Billy, suspicious as always, guns him down just before being shot himself. There are no witnesses, and Pat tries to arrest Billy. Pat does not understand when Doc sides with the Kid. As the pair start to leave, Pat shoots Billy, forcing Doc to shoot the gun out of his hand and kill two of Pat's men.

Doc flees with Billy to the home of Rio and her aunt, Guadalupe (Mimi Aguglia). With a posse after them, Doc rides away. Instead of killing the unconscious Kid, Rio instead nurses him back to health, a process that takes a month. By the time Doc returns, Rio has fallen in love with her patient. Doc is furious that Billy has stolen his girlfriend. After Doc's anger subsides a bit, the Kid gives him a choice: the horse or Rio. To Billy's annoyance, Doc picks the horse. Angered that both men value the animal more than her, Rio fills their canteens with sand. The two ride off without noticing.

On the trail, they find themselves being pursued by Pat and a posse. The pair surmise that Rio tipped the sheriff off. Doc kills a few men from long range, but leaves Pat unharmed.

When Doc wakes up one morning, he finds Billy gone and Pat waiting to handcuff him and take him back. Stopping at Rio's, the two men find that Billy has left Rio tied up in sight of water out of revenge. Suspecting that Billy loves Rio (even if he himself does not realize it) and will return to free her, Pat waits. Sure enough, the Kid comes back and is also captured.

On the way back to town, however, they find hostile Mescaleros all around. Pat reluctantly frees his prisoners and returns their revolvers after extracting a promise from Doc that he will give them back and make Billy do the same. They manage to elude the Indians, but Doc refuses to honor his word.

As Doc tries to leave with his horse, Billy stops him. The two men decide to duel it out, with a pleased Pat expecting Billy to lose. However, as they await the signal (the end of a cuckoo clock signalling eight o'clock), Billy realizes that Doc is a true friend, and moves his hands away from his guns. Doc tries to provoke him, inflicting minor wounds in one hand and both ears, but the Kid still will not fire. The two reconcile. Furious, Pat calls Doc out, despite not having a chance. Doc makes no attempt to shoot his friend and is himself fatally wounded. Pat is aghast.

After Doc is buried, Pat offers to give Billy their friend's revolvers. He also persuades Billy to give him his guns, saying that he can then claim that it is Billy in the grave. The Kid can leave his past behind him and have a fresh start in life. However, it is all a trick. Pat had removed the firing pins from Doc's revolvers. However, while comparing the guns, he had inadvertently switched one of Doc's for his. As a result, neither his gun nor Pat's fires. Billy pulls out a second, working gun. He handcuffs Pat, judging that the lawman will still state that Billy is dead rather than admit the Kid left him helpless. As he is riding away, Billy stops and looks back; an overjoyed Rio gets on his horse.

Cast[edit]

Jack Buetel and Jane Russell in the film.

Production[edit]

Famous publicity still used to promote both the film and Russell

In 1941, while filming The Outlaw, Hughes felt that the camera did not do justice to Jane Russell's bust. He employed his engineering skills to design a new cantilevered underwire bra to emphasize her figure. Hughes added curved structural steel rods that were sewn into the brassiere under each breast cup and connected to the bra's shoulder straps. This arrangement allowed the breasts to be pulled upwards and made it possible to move the shoulder straps away from the neck. As a result, the design allowed for a larger amount of Russell's bosom to be exposed. Contrary to many media reports afterward, Russell did not wear the bra during filming; according to her 1988 autobiography, she said the bra was so uncomfortable that she secretly discarded it.[3][4] She wrote that the "ridiculous" contraption hurt so much that she wore it for only a few minutes, and instead wore her own bra. To prevent Hughes from noticing, Russell padded the cups with tissue and tightened the shoulder straps before returning to the set. She later said, "I never wore it in The Outlaw, and he never knew. He wasn’t going to take my clothes off to check if I had it on. I just told him I did."[5] The famed bra ended up in a Hollywood museum—a false witness to the push-up myth.[6]

Although the film was completed in February 1941, Hughes had trouble getting it approved by the Hollywood Production Code Administration due to its emphasis on and display of Russell's breasts. The Production Administration set the standards for morally acceptable content in motion pictures, and ordered cuts to the film. Hughes reluctantly removed about 40 feet, or a half-minute, of footage that prominently featured Russell's bosom. However, 20th Century Fox decided to cancel their agreement to release The Outlaw; as a result, Hughes stood to lose millions of dollars. Ever the resourceful businessman, he schemed to create a public outcry for his film to be banned. Hughes had all his managers call ministers, women's clubs and housewives, informing them about the 'lewd picture' Hughes was about to release. The public responded by protesting and trying to have the film banned, which generated just the publicity Hughes needed to establish a demand for the film and get it released. The resulting controversy created enough interest to get The Outlaw into theaters for just one week in 1943, before it was pulled due to violations of the Production Code. The film was finally released widely on April 23, 1946, when United Artists premiered the film in San Francisco, where it became a box office hit.

Hughes then sued Classic Film Museum, Inc. and Alan J. Taylor for unlawful distribution of Hell's Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw. When it emerged that The Outlaw had fallen into the public domain in 1971 for lack of copyright renewal, the case was settled, with Classic Film Museum agreeing to stop distribution of the two copyrighted titles, and Hughes withdrawing his claim on The Outlaw.[7][8]

The film was colorized (an alteration of a finished work of art) twice. The first colorization was released by Hal Roach Studios in 1988. The second colorized version, produced by Legend Films, was released to DVD on June 16, 2009, featuring both the newly colorized edition, and a restored black and white edition of the film. The new DVD version also featured an audio commentary by Jane Russell and Hughes' alleged wife, actress Terry Moore. Russell approved of the colorization, stating, "The color looked great. It was not too strong, like in many of the early colorized movies that made the films look cheap."

Some film critics and historians believe that the film has homosexual overtones to it. Author Robert Lang writes that the true expression of sexuality in this film comes from the relationship between Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid. He further writes that the film is about "the complications that arise when Doc Holliday falls in love with Billy the Kid, and Pat Garett becomes jealous of the bond that develops between the two men."[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, January 6, 1960 p 34
  2. ^ 20/20 Movie Review of The Outlaw (1943)
  3. ^ "Jane Russell". The Economist. March 12, 2011. p. 101.
  4. ^ "Jane Russell". March 1, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2011. A joke at that time was that 'Culture is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands.'
  5. ^ Thornton, Michael (March 2, 2011). "The siren with the TWO greatest assets in Tinseltown: Behind the sex-goddess image of Jane Russell was a very different woman". Daily Mail Online. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  6. ^ Jessica Seigel (February 13, 2004). "The Cups Runneth Over". New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Court case: Agreement, Summa Corporation v. Classic Film Museum, Inc., Civil Action No. 75-81 N.D. Howard Hughes Files collection, Archives Division, Texas State Library.
  8. ^ Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal. 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313.. See note #17.
  9. ^ Robert Lang (2002). Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films. Columbia University Press. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-0-231-11300-7.

External links[edit]