The Left Handed Gun (1958)

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    Plot Summary
    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

    Paul Newman ... Billy The Kid
    Lita Milan ... Celsa
    John Dehner ... Pat Garrett
    Hurd Hatfield ... Moultrie
    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 ... Joe Grant
    Martin Garralaga ... Saval
    Denver Pyle ... Ollinger
    Paul Smith ... Smith
    Nestor Paiva ... Pete Maxwell
    Jo Summers ... Bride
    Robert Foulk ... Sheriff Brady
    Anne Barton ... Mrs. Hill
    Boyd 'Red' Morgan ... Soldier (uncredited)
    and many more...

    Arthur Penn

    Writing Credits
    Leslie Stevens ... (screenplay)
    Gore Vidal ... (play)

    Fred Coe ... producer

    Alexander Courage

    J. Peverell Marley

    Paul Newman was widely felt to be miscast as Billy the Kid since at 33 he was considerably older than the character. Billy was supposed to be 18 at the beginning of the film.

    The movie was a flop at the US box office.

    The film originally was to have been made in 1956 with James Dean in the lead role.

    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.

    The character of "Tunstall" was based on a real person, John Henry Tunstall, an English immigrant who was murdered in 1878, aged 24 or 25 at time of death, under circumstances very similar to those portrayed in this film. However, in this, and every other film in which there's a portrayal of "Tunstall" [this film], "Henry Tunstall" [Chisum (1970)], or "John Tunstall" [Young Guns (1988)], not only is a different version of Tunstall's name used, but the actors portraying the Tunstall character have been double (or more) the age of the real life Tunstall at the time of his death. At the time of production of this film, Colin Keith-Johnston was approximately 61 years old; at the time of production of Chisum, Patric Knowles was approximately 58 years old; and at the time of production of Young Guns, Terence Stamp was approximately 49 years old.

    The sets for the town of Medaro were actually left over from Warners' 1939 epic Juarez (1939). Although they were in state of great disrepair, parts of them were salvaged for use in "The Left-Handed Gun."

    Cinematic directorial debut of Arthur Penn.

    Gore Vidal greatly disliked this well-received film version of his television play, "The Death Of Billy The Kid", once describing it as "a film only someone French could like." He was greatly annoyed when director Arthur Penn expressed criticisms of his original script and brought in Leslie Stevens for rewrites. In 1990, the TV movie "Billy The Kid" was made, not only as a remake of this film, but as a rebuttal of it, written and largely controlled by Vidal himself. He declared himself pleased with it, but the 1958 film remains better-known.

    Warner Bros. reportedly interfered with the production and would not allow Penn to shoot the ending he wanted. In addition, the director was cut out of the editing process.

    First film for producer Fred Coe.

    Shot in only 23 days.

    Factual errors
    The film is about western outlaw Billy the Kid, who was in fact right-handed.

    The "Englishman" describes his origins as from Ayrshire, a county in South West Scotland. In that case he would be a Scot and not English.

    Billy and the others are at a lake. You see the reflection of the moon in the water. One of them shouts "the moon" and they start shooting the reflection of the moon. When the camera zooms out, you see Billy and his pals are facing the camera, so the moon was in their back all the time. Hence there couldn't have been a reflection of the moon.

    Memorable Quota

    Filming Locations
    Columbia/Warner Bros. Ranch - 411 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, California, USA
    Laramie Street, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios - 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA
    Stage 2,27,27A,28,28A Warner Brothers Burbank Studios - 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA

    Watch the Movie



    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Left Handed Gun is a 1958 American western film and the film directorial debut of Arthur Penn
    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.

    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

    User Review

    Billy the Kid Story
    3 February 2016 | by Claudio Carvalho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

    Best Wishes
    London- England