Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here

Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here is a 1969 Technicolor Western film based on the true story of a Chemehuevi-Paiute Indian named Willie Boy[2] and his run-in with the law in 1909 in Banning, California, United States.

Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAbraham Polonsky
Produced byJennings Lang
Philip A. Waxman
Written byAbraham Polonsky
Harry Lawton (book)
StarringRobert Redford
Katharine Ross
Robert Blake
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyConrad L. Hall
Edited byMelvin Shapiro
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 18, 1969 (1969-12-18)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,411,583 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The film was written and directed by the once blacklisted Abraham Polonsky, who, due to his blacklisting, had not directed a film since Force of Evil in 1948.


The film's story revolves around the Paiute Indian outlaw Willie Boy (Robert Blake), who escapes with his lover, Lola (Katharine Ross), after killing her father in self defense. According to tribal custom Willie can then claim Lola as his wife. According to the law, Deputy Sheriff Cooper (Robert Redford) is required to charge him with murder.

Willie Boy and Lola are hunted for several days by a posse led by Cooper. Willie manages to repel the posse's advance when he ambushes them from the top of Ruby Mountain. He only tries to shoot their horses, but ends up accidentally killing a bounty hunter, resulting in another murder charge.

Days later, as the posse closes in, Lola dies by a gunshot wound to the chest. It is left deliberately ambiguous whether Lola shot herself in order to slow down the posse's advance or whether Willie killed her to keep her out of the posse's hands. Cooper is inclined to believe the latter and then goes off ahead of the posse to bring in Willie dead or alive. As soon as Cooper catches up, he comes under fire from Willie, who is positioned at the top of Ruby Mountain. Cooper narrowly avoids being shot on several occasions.

In the film's climax, Cooper maneuvers behind Willie, who has donned a ghost shirt, and tells him he can turn around if he wants to, which he does. The two pause before Willie raises his rifle at Cooper, who beats him to the draw and shoots him. Fatally struck in the chest, Willie tumbles down the hillside. Cooper picks up Willie's gun and finds that it wasn't even loaded, making it apparent that Willie deliberately chose death over capture. Abashed, Cooper carries the slain outlaw the rest of the way down Ruby Mountain and delivers him to other Paiutes, who carry the corpse away and burn the remains.

When confronted by the county sheriff, Cooper is told that the burning of Willie's body will ruin the people's chance to see Willie in the (now-dead) flesh, denying them the ability "to see something". Cooper retorts: "Tell them we're all out of souvenirs".



Source material for the film is Harry W. Lawton's 1960 book, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here.[3]

As depicted in the movie, Willie Boy and Lola (her actual name was Carlota, though she was also called Isoleta and Lolita in various accounts)[4] did run through the Morongo Valley. Carlota was found shot in the back in an area known as The Pipes in northwest Yucca Valley. She was either killed by Willie Boy or shot accidentally by a posse member. Willie Boy did ambush the posse at Ruby Mountain, killing several horses and accidentally wounding a posse member.[4] He ended his 'last stand' by suicide on the flanks of Ruby Mountain west of the current site of Landers, California.[5]

Willie Boy's grave monument can be found at 34°17′30″N 116°32′15″W. The monument itself bears the inscription “The West’s Last Famous Manhunt”, alluding to the notion that this was the last effort of its type before the use of a posse was generally replaced by modern, 'fully' staffed and empowered law enforcement agencies.

See also


  1. "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11
  2. "Willie Boy". Find a Grave.
  3. Lawton, Harry W. (1960). Tell Them Willie Boy is Here. Balboa Island, CA: Paisano Press. p. 218. OCLC 968317.
  4. Landis, Mark. "Legendary chase put dramatic cap on Old West". The Sun. Archived from the original on August 27, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  5. Niemann, Greg (2006). "6: Pursuit of a Renegade Indian". Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego, CA: Sunbelt Publications. ISBN 978-0-932653-74-1.

Further reading

  • Lawton, Harry W. (1976). Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0939046270.
  • Sandos, James A.; Burgess, Larry E. (1996). The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian-Hating & Popular Culture. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0806128436.
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