The Left-Handed Gun reviewed by Gary Dobbs
This movie was originally intended for James Dean and would have
been the stars only true western had the fatal car crash not robbed the
world of Dean's talent. Paul Newman had already taken over Dean's role
in another project, Somebody up there Likes me (see previous post) and
so he was once again selected to take the lead role.
stage in Newman's career he certainly has a lot of both Brando and Dean
in his method acting style which interestingly he would tone down as he
became more well known and comfortable in his own abilities. There are a
couple of scenes where Newman's teenage angst looks ridiculously over
the top and melodramatic - at times it seems all the young bandit needs
is a clip across the ear to put him on the right track.
by Arthur Penn, who would later make the western classic, Little Big
Man, The Left Handed Gun tells the legend rather than the story of the
west's most famous desperado, Billy the Kid. And it is a great western
that has grown in stature over time and is these days rightly regarded
as an important film in the development of the western.
is for the most part superb and portrays The Kid as an illiterate (in
reality The Kid was anything but illiterate as his famous letters to
Governor Wallace prove) and psychotic teenager who has to make his own
way in an uncaring society.
On its initial release the film
turned audiences away - westerns didn't usually concern themselves with
social comment - but it stands up well today and is an intelligent and
gripping movie that deserves a higher status in the western genre than
it currently enjoys.
Violent, gripping and compelling with a mostly great performance from all concerned.