The Left Handed Gun (1958)

The Left Handed Gun is an uneven movie. It begins with Paul Newman playing Billy the Kid as a borderline simpleton who somehow acquires a normal intelligence by the end of the movie. The first half of the movie is manic, with Billy and his two sidekicks talking loud, acting silly, and laughing at things that are not funny, probably because they are drunk, but ends as some kind of overwrought, psychological melodrama. I think it’s called Method Acting.

This movie would have us believe that we are seeing a demythologized version of this character from the Old West, but it depicts all his killings as being justified, and when he is shot by Pat Garrett (John Dehner), he has no gun in his holster, so he really is not beaten to the draw, all in keeping with the traditional mythology.

I have an idea. Why not make a movie in which Billy the Kid is an evil scumbag, played by an actor as dorky-looking as the real William Bonney? That would be some serious demythologizing.

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