Greatest Film Scenes
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The Left Handed Gun (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Left Handed Gun (1958)

In director Arthur Penn's revisionist, autobiographical, psychological western film (and his debut film) based on the teleplay The Death of Billy the Kid by Gore Vidal, but unfortunately a box-office failure:

  • after the title credits, the introduction of the main character - legendary 21 year-old outlaw Billy the Kid (aka William Bonney) (a Method Acting-influenced portrayal by Paul Newman) stumbling along with his saddle equipment over his shoulder (from his sick horse left behind on the open range); he was portrayed as an anguished, misfit, unstable, simple-minded, troubled, and suicidal juvenile delinquent - a tormented James Dean-like anti-hero character
Pat Garrett
(John Dehner)
William Bonney
(Paul Newman)
  • after the unprovoked murder of his unarmed cattle rancher boss "Englishman" John Tunstall (Colin Keith-Johnston), a father figure, the illiterate and crazed William Bonney vowed vengeance against the four corrupt individuals who shot Tunstall dead - he extended his hand with four bullets destined for the killers: ("I got all four names"): Lincoln County (NM) Sheriff Brady (Robert Foulk), rival rancher Mr. Morton (Robert E. Griffin), and the two hired killers Moon (Wally Brown), and Hill (Bob Anderson)
  • the Freudian subtext of Bonney often fondling or gripping his six-shooter
  • his promiscuous relationship with Mexican girlfriend Celsa (Lita Milan), the pretty wife of Madeiro gun-maker Saval (Martin Garralaga) - and his provocative statement to her as he pulled her to himself by her black scarf: "I don't run. I don't hide. I go where I want. I DO what I want! I want you, with me"; although she resisted him, she kissed him
  • in the film's conclusion, the affecting scene of his death after being betrayed by disillusioned writer Moultrie (Hurd Hatfield), who had at one time exploited and promoted Billy's notoriety in fictionalized dime pulp magazines sold back East; while standing in an open doorway, Billy was warned by his former friend, lawman Pat Garrett (John Dehner) with his gun raised: "Billy, don't go for your gun. Keep your hands away from your side. Don't move, Billy. I don't wanna kill ya....Billy, come to me. Billy, come to me"; to suicidally draw fire, Billy pretended to draw a weapon - although he was unarmed; as he collapsed backward against the wall, he held out his empty left hand (although in real-life, he was right-handed) before stumbling further forward and dropping dead; he fell on his back onto horizontal wooden beam with his arms outstretched (an obvious crucifixion position)
  • shaken, Garrett walked forward and apologetically told his wife (Jo Summers): "He went for an empty holster. I couldn't see"; she hugged him, assured him: "You come home now," and they walked off together as the film ended
Garrett's Shooting of Unarmed Billy the Kid

Post-Title Credits

Four Bullets: To Seek Vengeance for Rancher Tunstall's Death

One of Many Shoot-Outs

Notorious Outlaw

Celsa (Lita Milan)


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