Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)

R | 106 mins | Biography, Western | May 1973

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HISTORY

Although most contemporary sources refer to the film's title as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid , the viewed print renders the title as Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid . The viewed print, a 2005 Warner Home Video release, ran 115 minutes and was a reconstruction by editor Paul Seydor, who combined parts of the 106 minute 1973 theatrical release with the 121 minute director’s rough cut. The viewed print, as well as the rough director’s cut, contains a prologue set in 1909, twenty-eight years after the main action of the film takes place. The prologue, which was excised from the theatrical release, depicts “Pat Garrett” being riddled with bullets by members of the Santa Fe Ring, the same group that hired him to kill “Billy the Kid” in 1881. These scenes are intercut with a scene of Billy shooting chickens for target practice in 1881. The 1909 sequence is shown in sepia tone while the 1881 sequence is in color.
       In a Jun 1973 NYT article, director Sam Peckinpah delineated other scenes that were in his rough cut but eliminated from the theatrical release. Peckinpah stated that, in addition to the prologue, there was an epilogue that dissolved back to the shooting death of Garrett, thus creating a bookend for the prologue sequence. The 1973 theatrical version of the film ended with a smiling two-shot of Garrett and Billy; the 2005 reconstruction also eliminated the epilogue, but ended with Garrett riding off into the distance alone. Also deleted from the theatrical release was the scene between Garrett and his wife “Ida," and a scene in ... More Less

Although most contemporary sources refer to the film's title as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid , the viewed print renders the title as Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid . The viewed print, a 2005 Warner Home Video release, ran 115 minutes and was a reconstruction by editor Paul Seydor, who combined parts of the 106 minute 1973 theatrical release with the 121 minute director’s rough cut. The viewed print, as well as the rough director’s cut, contains a prologue set in 1909, twenty-eight years after the main action of the film takes place. The prologue, which was excised from the theatrical release, depicts “Pat Garrett” being riddled with bullets by members of the Santa Fe Ring, the same group that hired him to kill “Billy the Kid” in 1881. These scenes are intercut with a scene of Billy shooting chickens for target practice in 1881. The 1909 sequence is shown in sepia tone while the 1881 sequence is in color.
       In a Jun 1973 NYT article, director Sam Peckinpah delineated other scenes that were in his rough cut but eliminated from the theatrical release. Peckinpah stated that, in addition to the prologue, there was an epilogue that dissolved back to the shooting death of Garrett, thus creating a bookend for the prologue sequence. The 1973 theatrical version of the film ended with a smiling two-shot of Garrett and Billy; the 2005 reconstruction also eliminated the epilogue, but ended with Garrett riding off into the distance alone. Also deleted from the theatrical release was the scene between Garrett and his wife “Ida," and a scene in which the rancher “Chisum” appears.
       A Jun 1973 NYT article and Time magazine film critic Jay Cocks, who saw the rough cut in a projection room, noted that M-G-M literally took the print away from Peckinpah after the public previews. According to Peckinpah’s biography and audio commentary on the 2005 DVD by film editor Seydor, who wrote an authoritative book on Peckinpah, James Aubrey , the head of M-G-M, demanded that the film be ready for release by Memorial Day, which meant that editing would have to be completed in two-and-a-half months. To accomplish this, Peckinpah worked with a team of six editors. Peckinpah’s contract guaranteed him two invitational screenings and after the screenings, the studio decided to make a duplicate of the Peckinpah’s rough cut and reedit it. In order to preserve Peckinpah’s vision, Robert L. Wolfe and Roger Spottiswoode, two of the original editors on the film, agreed to work with M-G-M to trim the film. Their efforts would result in the 1973 theatrical release.
       In Mar 1973, one month after the completion of principal photography on Pat Garrett and Billy & Kid , Aubrey announced that M-G-M would cease to exist as a producer-distributor of theatrical films. According to a Dec 1973 HR news item, Peckinpah sued M-G-M for three million dollars, charging that the studio released a version of the film that was “substantially different” from his own final cut and damaged his good name as a director.” The suit also asked for an injunction preventing M-G-M from using Peckinpah’s name in connection with the film’s promotion. The outcome of that suit has not been determined.
       According to Seydor, Peckinpah, aided by editor Garth Craven and several other studio employees, covertly secured his actual rough cut print. Peckinpah’s rough cut was finally screened at the Norris Auditorium on the campus of the University of Southern California on 20 Apr 1986. That version was 121 minutes long, and according to Spottiswoode as quoted in a 7 May 1986 Var news item, contained "all the scenes that he [Peckinpah] liked, but he didn’t have time to refine it. I’m sure he would have tuned it up more.”
       In 1988, three years after Peckinpah’s death, Ted Turner, who had acquired the M-G-M film library in 1987, supplied the funding to do a full restoration of the film. However, the scene in which Garrett meets Ida had been cut from the rough cut print between the time Peckinpah took it from the studio and the time Turner decided to restore it, and consequently does not appear in the 1988 version. The 1988 Turner version was shown at a special invitational screening on 6 Oct 1988 at the DGA theater and was sponsored by Turner; the Z Channel, a Los Angeles cable station that specialized in showing cult and art movies; and the American Film Institute’s Third Decade Council.
       Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid was filmed in Durango, Mexico and marked the first time that singer Bob Dylan, who played the character “Alias” and also wrote the film’s soundtrack, appeared as a fictional character in a film. The song “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” from the movie became a significant hit that has been covered by many other musical artists. Kris Kristofferson, the country music singer and songwriter who played “Billy the Kid” was married at the time to singer Rita Coolidge, who played “Maria.” Chill Wills, Katy Jurado, Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Barry Sullivan, Dub Taylor, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Paul Fix were all well-known character actors who had appeared in many Westerns.
       Reviews of the film were mixed. Cocks, the only critic to review Pat Garrrett & Billy the Kid who had actually seen the rough cut, wrote in his Time review about the theatrical release: “The changes ordered by the studio are mostly stupid but not disastrous. Even in the maimed state in which it has been released, Pat Garett and Billy the Kid is the richest, most exciting American film so far this year. The Newsweek reviewer called the film “a casualty of a prolonged shoot-out between director Sam Peckinpah and M-G-M president James Aubrey …This is Peckinpah country without the salvation of style—without the consistently tight, brilliant editing and compelling crescendos of tension…” However, the LAT reviewer noted that the film “emerges as a remarkable film that is perhaps Peckinpah’s best, most mature work to date.”
       There have been many films based on the life of Billy the Kid. For information about those films, please consult the entry above for the 1941 film Billy the Kid .

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Jun 1973
p. 4595.
Daily Variety
22 May 1973.
---
Daily Variety
15 Sep 1988.
---
Filmfacts
1973
pp. 86-89.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1972
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 1972
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 1988.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
23 May 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 May 1973.
---
New York Times
30 Mar 1973.
---
New York Times
24 May 1973
p. 53.
New York Times
17 Jun 1973
p. 113.
Newsweek
11 Jun 1973.
---
Time
11 Jun 1973.
---
Variety
30 May 1973
p. 13.
Variety
7 May 1986
p. 110.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Gordon Carroll-Sam Peckinpah Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Mexican asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Mexican prod mgr
Casting
Unit pub
SOURCES
SONGS
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Billy," words and music by Bob Dylan.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1973
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 23 May 1973
Production Date:
mid November 1972--early February 1973 in Durango, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42371
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23565
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1881 at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Pat Garrett tracks down his old friend, outlaw Billy the Kid, to suggest that Billy move to Mexico. Explaining he feels that the West is changing and has decided to change with it, Garrett tells Billy that he is taking over the job of sheriff of Lincoln County in five days and has been charged with making sure that Billy leaves the country. Accusing Garrett of selling out to the Santa Fe Ring, an alliance of politicians and businessmen involved in land-grabbing and shady financial deals, Billy informs Garrett that although the country may be changing, he does not plan to. Later, when asked by his gang why he did not kill Garrett, Billy declares that Garrett is his friend. The day after Garrett assumes his post as sheriff, Billy and two members of his gang are at their hideout, readying to steal some cattle. Unknown to them, Garrett and his deputies, Bob Ollinger and J. W. Bell, along with several other men, are poised on a ridge above the cabin with a warrant for Billy’s arrest. In the ensuing shootout, Billy’s confederates are shot and Billy is forced to surrender to Garrett. At the Lincoln jailhouse, Billy, in handcuffs and leg irons, plays cards with Garrett and asks why he became a lawman. Garrett replies that upholding the law means that whatever side you are on you are always right, adding that he plans to live to be rich, old and gray. Ollinger, a Bible-quoting bully, taunts Billy, averring that he would like to kill him. Soon after, Garrett leaves town ... +


In 1881 at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Pat Garrett tracks down his old friend, outlaw Billy the Kid, to suggest that Billy move to Mexico. Explaining he feels that the West is changing and has decided to change with it, Garrett tells Billy that he is taking over the job of sheriff of Lincoln County in five days and has been charged with making sure that Billy leaves the country. Accusing Garrett of selling out to the Santa Fe Ring, an alliance of politicians and businessmen involved in land-grabbing and shady financial deals, Billy informs Garrett that although the country may be changing, he does not plan to. Later, when asked by his gang why he did not kill Garrett, Billy declares that Garrett is his friend. The day after Garrett assumes his post as sheriff, Billy and two members of his gang are at their hideout, readying to steal some cattle. Unknown to them, Garrett and his deputies, Bob Ollinger and J. W. Bell, along with several other men, are poised on a ridge above the cabin with a warrant for Billy’s arrest. In the ensuing shootout, Billy’s confederates are shot and Billy is forced to surrender to Garrett. At the Lincoln jailhouse, Billy, in handcuffs and leg irons, plays cards with Garrett and asks why he became a lawman. Garrett replies that upholding the law means that whatever side you are on you are always right, adding that he plans to live to be rich, old and gray. Ollinger, a Bible-quoting bully, taunts Billy, averring that he would like to kill him. Soon after, Garrett leaves town and Bell continues playing cards with Billy while in the yard outside the jailhouse window, a gallows is being built to hang Billy. When Billy states that he has to go to the outhouse, Bell escorts him there and once inside, Billy extracts a gun concealed inside a pile of crumpled newspapers. After complaining to himself that Garrett has sold out to the Santa Fe Ring and wealthy landowners like cattle baron Chisum, Billy emerges from the outhouse, then, as he ascends the steps of the jailhouse, points his gun at Bell. Turning his back on Billy to walk away, Bell asserts that Billy would never shoot him in the back, but Billy fires, then grabs the shotgun from the dead deputy. When Ollinger runs out onto the street, Billy shoots him, too, then breaks his chains with an axe and rides out of town. Returning to Lincoln to find Ollinger’s body splayed out on the street, Garrett resignedly goes to the barber shop for a shave. There, Alamosa Bill Kermit, a wizened old gunslinger, introduces himself and Pat immediately appoints him as his new deputy. After his shave, Garrett goes to his white clapboard house to see his wife Ida. When Garrett argues that he has to pursue Billy because that was why he was elected sheriff, Ida accuses him of being dead inside, adding that she wishes he had never put on the badge. After a heated quarrel, Ida declares that she hopes Billy gets away. Garrett proceeds to the governor’s mansion where Governor Lew Wallace is dining with Lewellen Howland and Norris, businessmen allied with the Santa Fe Ring. Concerned that Billy’s freedom is a threat to their political and business interests, Howland and Norris warn Garrett that he will suffer dire consequences if he fails to eliminate Billy. When Norris offers Garrett a cash reward, Garrett tells him to “shove it up his ass and set fire to it.” Billy reunites with his gang at Fort Sumner, and soon after Garrett rides to the area and tries to recruit small town sheriff Cullen Baker to help him apprehend Billy. Muttering that he would rather be outside the law than wearing a badge for Lincoln and those who run it, Cullen later relents and agrees to help Garrett. Cullen’s stalwart wife “Mama” accompanies them, stuffing a handful of bullets under her shirt. With Mama hiding in the back of their waton, Cullen drives to Billy's cabin. When they open fire, Billy’s gang responds in kind, wounding Cullen. After Garrett kills gang member Black Harris, Cullen stumbles off to the nearby Pecos River to die and Mama runs after him. Later, as Garrett sits alone on the river bank, John W. Poe rides up and announces that the governor has hired him as Garrett’s deputy, although he is to answer only to Norris and Howland. When Poe praises Chisum and asserts that the time of outlaws and drifters is over, Garrett bristles. At a town near the Mexican border, Paco, a gentle sheep farmer on his way to Mexico with his flock and family, advises Billy to go to Mexico. Billy’s confederate, Luke Harris, observes that if Billy went, he would be just another "drunken gringo" in Mexico waiting for nothing. Deciding to take Paco’s advice, Billy heads for Mexico, leaving his gang behind. Soon after, Garrett and Poe arrive in town, then Garrett instructs Poe to ride out looking for Billy, arranging to meet him in Roswell in five days. On his way to Mexico, Billy stops at the Horrell Trading Post where he finds Alamosa Bill dining with the Horrell family. As Alamosa Bill, sporting his sheriff’s badge, glares at Billy, Billy recalls the days that he rode for Chisum and Garrett when Garrett was an outlaw. Knowing that there will be an inevitable showdown between himself and Alamosa Bill, Billy suggests they step outside, and as they pace off the ten stops for a duel, Alamosa Bill turns around and Billy shoots him. Continuing on his way to Mexico, Billy sees Chisum's men whipping Paco, having already raped his daughter and slaughtered some of his flock for crossing Chisum land. When Paco dies describing the ranch he dreams of building in Mexico, Billy determines return to Fort Sumner and make Chisum pay for his crimes. Meanwhile, in Roswell, Garrett slaps prostitute Ruthie Lee, a favorite of Billy’s, until she reveals that Billy has returned to Fort Sumner. Soon after, Poe arrives to meet Garrett and Garrett instructs him to find Sheriff Kip McKinney. When McKinney arrives, Garrett tells him they are riding to Fort Sumner to find Billy. Upon reaching the outskirts of Fort Sumner, Garrett and the others dismount and proceed into the fort separately on foot, planning to meet at Pete Maxwell’s house later. That night, Billy takes his girl friend Maria to Maxwell’s house to ask for a place to stay. As Garrett and McKinney close in on Maxwell’s house, Billy and Maria undress and begin to make love. When Garrett walks past coffin maker Will building a baby’s coffin, Will urges him to “get it over with.” Upon entering the gate leading to Maxwell’s house, Garrett hears Billy muttering “sweet Jesus” as he makes love and sits on the swing outside the bedroom, waiting for Billy to finish. Unknown to Garrett, Billy slips out of the bedroom to the kitchen to find some food just as Garrett sneaks into the house and discovers Maria alone in the bedroom. Outside on the porch, McKinney and Poe hear Billy stirring in the kitchen and McKinney urges Poe to shoot. Meanwhile, Garrett has gone to Maxwell’s bedroom in search of Billy, and when Billy hears Poe and McKinney whispering, he proceeds to Maxwell’s bedroom to tell him that he has visitors. When Billy enters, Garrett, who is sitting in a chair, raises his gun and shoots him in the chest, then turns toward a mirror on the wall and, seeing his own reflection, shoots dead center into it. At dawn, Garrett, who has spent the remainder of the night sitting on the porch swing, stands up, extracts the badge he has never worn from his pocket and pins it on his vest, then rides out of town. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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