The Left Handed Gun is another look at Billy the Kid, probably America's most constantly celebrated juvenile delinquent. In this version he's Billy, the crazy, mixed-up Kid. The picture is a smart and exciting western paced by Paul Newman's intense portrayal.

The Left Handed Gun is another look at Billy the Kid, probably America’s most constantly celebrated juvenile delinquent. In this version he’s Billy, the crazy, mixed-up Kid. The picture is a smart and exciting western paced by Paul Newman’s intense portrayal.

The screenplay is based on a [1955] teleplay by Gore Vidal called The Death of Billy the Kid. The action is concerned with the few events that led up to the slaying of the Brooklyn boy by lawman Pat Garrett. Scripter Leslie Stevens emphasizes the youthful nature of the desperado by giving him two equally young companions, James Best and James Congdon. The three team after Newman’s mentor, cattleman Colin Keith-Johnston, is shot by a crooked officer of the law. Newman is determined to avenge the cattleman’s death, and the plot becomes a crazed crusade in which Newman, Best and Congdon are all killed, the death of a badman and the birth of a legend.

The best parts of the film are the moments of hysterical excitement as the three young desperados rough-house with each other as feckless as any innocent boys and in the next instant turn to deadly killing without flicking a curly eyelash.

In his first picture, director Arthur Penn shows himself in command of the medium. Newman dominates but there are excellent performances from others, including Lita Milan in a dimly-seen role as his Mexican girl friend, John Dehner as the remorseless Pat Garrett, and Hurd Hatfield, a mysterious commentator on events.

The Left Handed Gun

Production

Warner/Haroll. Director Arthur Penn; Producer Fred Coe; Screenplay Leslie Stevens; Camera Peverell Marley; Editor Folmar Blangsted; Music Alexander Courage; Art Director Art Loel

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1958. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Paul Newman Lita Milan Hurd Hatfield James Congdon James Best John Dehner
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