Starring: PN, John Dehner, James Best, Hurd Hatfield, Lita Milan
Directed by: Arthur Penn
Summary: Effective Western follows the exploits of Billy the Kid from the Lincoln County cattle wars until his death at the hands of Pat Garrett. One of the best of several Westerns to deal with the legend of Billy the Kid. (courtesy Video Movie Guide 1993)
"I'm not dead no more, I've come awake!"
Trivia:Considered one of the most accurate portrayals of the Billy the Kid legend. This was the first feature film directed by Arthur Penn. Paul was 33 playing the 21 (and under) Billy the Kid. Also, strangely contains the quote "Rally 'round the flag!" the title of another PLN film from 1958.
The Newman Factor and Rating: Based on teleplay and story (The Death of Billy the Kid/The Saga of Billy the Kid) by longtime Newman friend Gore Vidal who called the movie version "a film only someone French could like", alluding to its cult-like following. I believe it's original lack of critical appeal was due to it being a new and different kind of Western- the hero doesn't ride off into the sunset, the day is not saved. It probably is one of the first in the line that began with films like The Searchers and ultimately lead to The Wild Bunch. Warner Brothers wanted a happy ending to the film and wanted to excise as much of Vidal's references to BTK being "rampantly homosexual. This film is an early example of PLN bringing a provocative performance to the screen. In this "boys will be boys" story, PLN plays Billy as an impish half boy, half man with "animal cunning and an almost boyish insouciance." PLN: 8, Movie: 7.