Billy the Kid (1941 film)

Billy the Kid is a 1941 American color remake of the 1930 film of the same name. The film features Robert Taylor as Billy and Brian Donlevy as a fictionalized version of Pat Garrett renamed "Jim Sherwood" in the film. Directed by David Miller and based on the book by Walter Noble Burns, the cast also included Gene Lockhart and Lon Chaney Jr..[2] The film was not as well received as the 1930 original, Billy the Kid, which had starred Johnny Mack Brown and Wallace Beery and been shot in an experimental widescreen process.

Billy the Kid
Theatrical poster
Directed byDavid Miller
Produced byIrving Asher
Written byWalter Noble Burns (book)
Gene Fowler
Howard Emmett Rogers
Bradbury Foote
StarringRobert Taylor
Brian Donlevy
Gene Lockhart
Lon Chaney Jr.
Music byDavid Snell
CinematographyWilliam V. Skall
Leonard Smith
Edited byRobert J. Kern
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 1941 (1941)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,432,000[1]

Plot summary

The year is 1880 and William Bonney (Robert Taylor) is already a famous gunslinger, known as "Billy the Kid". In Lincoln, New Mexico, Billy helps his friend Pedro Gonzales (Frank Puglia) escape from jail, where he was put by mean sheriff Cass McAndrews (Cy Kendall).

Later, Billy and Pedro go back to a saloon from which Pedro was thrown out earlier by the locals because of his ethnicity. One of the cattle barons, Dan Hickey (Gene Lockhart), recognizes Billy and hires him to scare up some farmers into joining Hickey's business. Billy and the rest of Hickey's men start a stampede among the farmers' cattle, wreaking havoc and creating chaos. A farmer is killed during the stampede, and afterwards Billy feels guilty of what he has done.

During the stampede, Billy encounters one of his childhood friends, Jim Sherwood (Brian Donlevy), who works for a man named Eric Keating (Ian Hunter). Jim arranges for Billy and Pedro to come and work for the non-violent Keating instead of the violent Hickey.

At the Keating ranch, Billy meets Eric's beautiful sister Edith (Mary Howard) and is instantly attracted to her. He finds himself well at home at the ranch, until Pedro is shot in the back and killed by one of Hickey's men. Keating convinces Billy not to take revenge, but to wait until he has talked to the governor about the violent situation in the region.

However, Keating doesn't return from his visit to the governor. At Edith's birthday party, Keating's horse comes back with an empty saddle. Billy decides to go after Hickey and his men to seek justice. When Hickey finds out about Keating's men coming for him, he tries to make them change their minds by sending them a messenger who lies and tells them that Keating died while trying to get away from the sheriff. Keating's men doesn't buy the lie, so Hickey tries to stall them with negotiations, while sending for reinforcements.

After talking to Hickey, Jim seems to have switched sides, telling the sheriff to lock up Billy and another one of Keating's men, Tim Ward (Henry O'Neill). He says it's for their own protection, but Billy doesn't believe him.

Hickey tries to make the sheriff shoot Billy and say that he was trying to escape from jail, but Ward manages to disarm the sheriff, and later Billy kills him, thinking he is still trying to kill them.

Billy and Ward track down the men who killed Keating and shoots them one by one. When they are all dead, Jim and Hickey turns up. Jim tries to stop Billy from shooting Hickey, but when Hickey flees the scene Billy shoots him in the back.

The story ends with Billy challenging his old friend Jim, but he has shifted hands and is now using his right hand to draw instead of his usual quick left. Because of this, Jim is faster and kills Billy, and afterwards Jim realizes that Billy shifted hands deliberately and let him win.[3]


Ormond B. Ruthven and Albert Mannheimer wrote the song "Viva La Vida" for the film.



Parts of the film were shot in Monument Valley. [4]:287

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $1,518,000 in the US and Canada and $914,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $41,000.[1]

See also


  1. "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  2. Bosley Crowther (June 20, 1941). "NY Times review". New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2008.
  4. D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
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