Archive for August, 2010

Billy the Kid Week 2010: Review of The Left Handed Gun (1958)

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Welcome to Day 2 of Billy the Kid Week 2010. I’ll be reviewing Billy the Kid movies all week. Yesterday I reviewed the 1943 Howard Hughes movie, The Outlaw starring Jane Russell. Today, I’m reviewing The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman.

The Left Handed Gun poster

In 1955 Gore Vidal wrote a teleplay for The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse called The Death of Billy the Kid.  It starred Paul Newman as Billy the Kid.  Several years later Vidal’s teleplay would be used as the basis for Leslie Stevens’ screenplay for The Left Handed Gun.  Originally, James Dean was cast to play Billy the Kid for this movie but he died in 1955 and the studio cast Paul Newman as Dean’s replacement.

Many critics of this movie believe star Paul Newman was miscast.  Newman, at the time, was 33 years old and seen as too old to play the teenage Billy the Kid.

I originally watched this movie back in the late ’90s when I was trying to watch as many movies that had Billy the Kid in it as I could find.  I thought, “Paul Newman as Billy? This should be pretty good.” However, I was wrong.  You can tell that this screenplay was written for a younger actor.  Dean probably would have been able to pull off the “troubled teenager” bit a little more convincingly than the mid-30 year old Newman.  But even with a more convincing lead, this movie is just boring.  Newman’s Billy seems like a petulant child and the events transpiring barely registered in my consciousness.  By the time the movie was over (what felt like 6 hours later) I had forgotten most of the story.  Plus, Billy’s “love interest” shows up half way through the movie and all of sudden they are in love.  It’s weird.  She’s played by Lita Milan, and she’s pretty, but she has a very distracting haircut; the infamous femme-mullet.  The whole movie feels like a jumbled collection of boring scenes capped off with a very unsatisfying ending.

Billy the Kid tintype

Per the movie’s title, for many years Billy the Kid was believed to be left handed.  The mistake occurred because the one known/verified photograph of Billy the Kid (above) was a ferrotype (or, tintype) which portrays a mirrored image of the subject.  Unfortunately, publishers over the years reproduced this photo in numerous books “as is” and didn’t document the fact that we are looking at the mirror image of Billy the Kid.  This led to the mistaken belief by many people that Billy was left handed (as that’s where his gun is holstered in the photo).  Extensive expert photo analysis has concluded that Billy wasn’t left handed and this image is in fact reversed.

Continue reading

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

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Paxton

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).

Continue reading

Billy the Kid Week 2010: Billy the Kid in pop culture

Posted in Billy the Kid, comic books, magazine, pop culture, toys with tags , , , on August 5, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Billy the Kid Week 2010 starts officially on Monday.  However, I thought I’d do a “soft opening” of the Kid Week today.

After seeing the Young Guns movies, especially the first one in 1988, I went on the hunt for a movie novelization and/or a souvenir magazine for either movie.  Back then, there was no Internet to search, I had to “pound the pavement” at all of my local malls and bookstores to find these items.  And I was never able to find anything.  Surprisingly, I now know, neither Young Guns movie had a novelization nor a movie souvenir book released.  And it crushed me.  I really wanted that novelization.

While I never found a souvenir mag or a novelization, there were plenty of Billy the Kid items I did find.  Some of them right away, some of them years later.  Here are some items I found throughout the years featuring Billy the Kid.


Billy the Kid Adv Mag 21 Billy the Kid Adv Magazine 24 Billy the Kid Adv Mag 10

Billy the Kid Adventure Magazine – This magazine began in 1950 and was published by Toby Press. It lasted 29 issues and finally ended in 1955.  The magazine featured old and new Wild West stories including tales told from the point of view of a killer bear as well as Katie O’Donnell, the first female prospector. The magazine also contained artwork by the great Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson and Mad Magazine’s Harvey Kurtzman.

Charlton Billy the Kid 80 Charlton Billy the Kid 23 Charlton Billy the Kid 124
Charlton’s Billy the Kid – Published sporadically throughout the ’60s and ’70s, this comic book featured artwork by the great Cracked magazine artist John Severin. The book told fictional tales featuring a fictional version of Billy the Kid. The comic was twice put on a year long hiatus in the ’70s and finally canceled in 1983.

Kenner's The Real West figs Kenner Real West playsets(via Plaid Stallions)
Kenner’s The Real West – Kenner originally planned to release these figures as a tie-in to the 1979 film, Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. The film was a prequel to the Redford/Newman classic from 1969 and it starred William Katt as Butch and Tom Berenger as Sundance.  Needless to say, the movie bombed and Kenner opened the line up to all mythical figures of the Old West and tried to re-brand it The Real West.  In the image on the left above, you can see the figures in the line which include Billy the Kid in the lower left corner.  Click the image to see it bigger over on Plaid Stallions.  The top five figures were all from the movie and released with the Butch and Sundance branding.  The bottom three figures (including Billy) were planned to be released as the second series with the new Real West branding, and were produced, but never actually released.  In the image on the right, you can see the Western Cafe playset.  Look familiar?  It was a redressed Star Wars Creature Cantina playset.

Continue reading

Young Guns II turns 20 years old today plus Billy the Kid Week

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, nostalgia, sequels with tags , , , , , on August 1, 2010 by Paxton

Young Guns II movie ad

As you know, we love movie anniversaries here on the Cavalcade. Together, you and I have seen huge franchises reach their 25 and 30 year anniversaries (Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back), which, I don’t know about you, makes me feel old as hell.  Anyway, today’s movie could still be considered a “young” one (compared to these other franchises, oh, and PUN!).  It was released in the first year of a new decade, 1990, but is hands down one of my favorite movies from when I was growing up.

Young Guns II was released on August 1, 1990, 20 years ago today.  I was 16 years old when this movie was released.

The original Young Guns was one of my favorite movies of all time. So, needless to say, in 1989, while watching MTV Movie News, when I first saw a report about the filming of Young Guns II: Hell Bent for Leather (original subtitle while it was filming), I nearly lost my damn mind. I had no idea they were going to make a sequel (oh, the days before the internet).

Young Guns II soundtrack

So, I saw this movie the day it came out and I loved it nearly as much as the original. In my mind, it had a few flaws but it was a solid sequel. Both of these movies touched off a love in me for the Old West.  I was soon reading everything I could get my hands on about Billy the Kid and other famous gunfighters like
Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Sundance Kid.  I even started reading Louie L’Amour novels (which are boring as all hell).  It was the Young Guns movies that got me to watch Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns (The Good, Bad and the Ugly) and newer “modern” westerns like The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Unforgiven, The Quick and the Dead and Tombstone.  I actually had a picture of Clint dressed as Josey Wales hanging above the bed in my college dorm for 4 years.  I still have a love for westerns (as well as Billy the Kid).
Continue reading