Billy the Kid Week 2010: Review of Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw (1943)

Billy the Kid Week

Welcome to the beginning of Billy the Kid week where I will watch and review a bunch of movies featuring the historical character Billy the Kid. This started with the 20th birthday of Young Guns II on Aug 1.  It will continue throughout this week and will include a review of Young Guns which turns 22 years old on Thursday, Aug 12.

The first movie I’ll review for Billy the Kid Week will be Howard Hughes’ infamous The Outlaw from 1943.

The Outlaw

This movie introduced audiences to the gorgeous Jane Russell.  The movie became highly controversial and extremely famous for the battle Hughes had in trying to release it.  At the time, movie makers followed what was called the Hays Code which was a set of strict guidelines that movie makers had to follow when portraying women, their clothing and sex.  In making this movie, Hughes completely ignored this code.  Howard Hughes produced this movie (even co-directing it with Howard Hawks) and used it to push the boundaries of what a movie could show…sex-wise.  Hughes picked Russell because of her looks and even designed a brand new bra to contain Russell’s breasts (however she refused to wear it).

Here are some of the famous promotional photos Russell took for the movie.

Jane Russell 1 Jane Russell 2

And that is the outfit she would wear throughout the movie. It was constantly falling down and barely containing her cleavage.  Ms Russell was indeed a knockout.  The censors felt the movie showed too much and refused to allow Hughes to release it.  Hughes played this to the public and the outcry allowed Hughes to release it for a short time in 1943.  It was quickly banned, then released again in 1946, was banned again, then released several more times into the 1950s.  While it wasn’t a box office smash, it cemented Russell’s status as a sex symbol and movie icon.

The Outlaw poster

I watched this movie many years ago during one of my “Billy the Kid” movie marathons. I haven’t seen it since the other day when I got the movie from Netflix and proceeded to watch it again.  The movie itself is not that great.  The novelty of Jane Russell’s breast controversy is easily the most interesting thing about this movie.  The plot involves Jane Russell’s character, Rio, caught in a love triangle between Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday, who apparently happen to be friends.  Obviously, this movie is not based on history at all.  Since there’s no basis in historical fact, you’d think they could have come up with a more interesting or engaging story, but they didn’t.  The filmmakers let the movie live or die on Jane Russell and her “assets” (or, “boobets”, I guess) which are the best part of the movie.  Plus the movie is nearly 2 hours long and feels every second of it.

I can’t really recommend this movie except as a curiosity.  If you’ve already watched other more interesting Billy the Kid movies, and want something different, give this one a try, otherwise, just pop in Young Guns (I or II) again.

However, in case you don’t want to heed my warnings, you can actually watch the entire 2 hour movie on Google Video right here.

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2 Responses to “Billy the Kid Week 2010: Review of Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw (1943)”

  1. My friend and I watched this during a huge westerns period in our movie night. It was stuck in to cover the sex-westerns (like Lust in the Dust and Duel in the Sun.) We were mostly unimpressed and in the end got the feeling that, that whole sub-genre is kind of boring. I don’t know why we were expecting more (especially due to the Hayes code which you brought up obviously.)

  2. Dr. Mike Says:

    Mmmmm. Jane Russell.

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