The Outlaw (1943)

Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) maintains order in the town of Lincoln, New Mexico. One day, his old pal Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) arrives, looking for his stolen horse.

The Outlaw 1943 movie poster
(Image via DaVinci Emporium)

Doc finds his horse in possession of none other than Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel). Doc plans to steal back his horse, but he doesn’t exactly make a new foe in Billy; the two share a mutual admiration and respect.

Soon enough, in true Old West fashion, a gunfight breaks out, and Billy is involved. Doc stands up for Billy, and the two leave town together — but not before killing two of Pat’s men. They hide out at the home of Doc’s girlfriend Rio (Jane Russell) and her aunt Guadalupe (Mimi Aguglia), but they know that Pat will be coming after them — and soon.

The Outlaw was directed by Howard Hughes and written by Jules Furthman.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I chose to watch a film that may be most known for its director’s obsession with its leading lady’s chest, but The Outlaw is an odd film.

From the beginning, everything just seemed a little bit off. Rather than gruff, old-West arguments, most of the characters sounded like they were plucked from mid-century suburbia. Jack Buetel, playing Billy the Kid, seems like he found himself on the wrong set and was expecting a role as an average college fella. Even Walter Huston, the film’s Doc Holliday, seems more silly than menacing.

Glammed up to suit Hughes’ wishes, Jane Russell also seems out of place in the world of the famed outlaws but does at least bring some energy to the film. She isn’t given much to do, story-wise (are we surprised?), but her angry and vengeful moments are some of the film’s best. She plays lovesick very convincingly, too.

The Outlaw 1943 film still
(Image via JustWatch)

Of the men, Thomas Mitchell was the scene-stealer for me, predictably good in his role as Doc’s lawman friend-turned-foe.

Also on the positive, though the print I watched was terrible, I could tell that the landscapes must have been gorgeous when the film was in better shape.

The Outlaw is pretty a slow-moving picture, reducing Billy the Kid’s notorious adventures to 116 somewhat dull minutes. While I didn’t entirely dislike it, I can’t say I’d recommend it — unless you share Howard Hughes’ adoration of Jane Russell.

6 thoughts on “The Outlaw (1943)

  1. Back in the ’80s there was a show out of LA called Mad Movies, where a group would re-dub voices in scenes from a movie, and create an entirely new and comedic plot from the scenes. ‘The Outlaw’ was one of the films, and that was the only time I’ve ever seen it! So, all I can say is, as a comedy, ‘The Outlaw’ is outstanding!

    Although I guess I have to admit that now, I’d like to see how Jane Russell’s twins work themselves into the storyline.


    1. Merry Christmas, Todd! No snow here this year (it’s our warmest Christmas since the ‘90s!) but I do have plenty of holiday re-watches queued up. 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful (and movie-filled) Christmas, too!


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