Billy the Kid (1930)

95 mins | Western | 18 October 1930

Director:

King Vidor

Cinematographer:

Gordon Avil

Editor:

Hugh Wynn

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

For information on the historical person known as Billy the Kid and films made about him, please consult entry for the 1941 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (M-G-M) production Billy the Kid , directed by David Miller and starring Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy.
       M-G-M first announced in the 1 May 1929 Var plans to produce an adaptation of Walter Noble Burns’s 1926 novel The Saga of Billy the Kid under the working title The Saga, as a John Gilbert starrer. Willard Mack was said to be writing the adaptation, and production was expected to begin on 1 Jul 1929. Soon after, the project was halted. The 15 Jan 1930 Var indicated that M-G-M had resumed pre-production on the biopic, and the 22 Feb 1930 Motion Picture News reported that John Mack Brown would star in the title role, replacing John Gilbert. According to the 16 Aug 1930 issue, Gilbert had greatly wanted to play “Billy the Kid,” but M-G-M instead selected newly signed Brown for the part.
       On 5 Mar 1930, Var named King Vidor as the director, and Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson as writers, but only Stallings received credit for writing the dialogue. The 5 Apr 1930 Inside Facts of Stage and Screen credited Wanda Tuchock for adapting the story, and Willard Mack received no further mention for his contribution.
       The 31 Mar 1930 FD added Lucille Powers and Russell Simpson to the cast. As late as Sep 1930, a month before the film’s release, Photoplay was still reporting Powers as Brown’s co-star, but at some point before the picture ... More Less

For information on the historical person known as Billy the Kid and films made about him, please consult entry for the 1941 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (M-G-M) production Billy the Kid , directed by David Miller and starring Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy.
       M-G-M first announced in the 1 May 1929 Var plans to produce an adaptation of Walter Noble Burns’s 1926 novel The Saga of Billy the Kid under the working title The Saga, as a John Gilbert starrer. Willard Mack was said to be writing the adaptation, and production was expected to begin on 1 Jul 1929. Soon after, the project was halted. The 15 Jan 1930 Var indicated that M-G-M had resumed pre-production on the biopic, and the 22 Feb 1930 Motion Picture News reported that John Mack Brown would star in the title role, replacing John Gilbert. According to the 16 Aug 1930 issue, Gilbert had greatly wanted to play “Billy the Kid,” but M-G-M instead selected newly signed Brown for the part.
       On 5 Mar 1930, Var named King Vidor as the director, and Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson as writers, but only Stallings received credit for writing the dialogue. The 5 Apr 1930 Inside Facts of Stage and Screen credited Wanda Tuchock for adapting the story, and Willard Mack received no further mention for his contribution.
       The 31 Mar 1930 FD added Lucille Powers and Russell Simpson to the cast. As late as Sep 1930, a month before the film’s release, Photoplay was still reporting Powers as Brown’s co-star, but at some point before the picture debuted she was replaced by Kay Johnson. No further information could be found to explain the recasting. Additional cast members included S. S. Simon, Dan Wolheim, Murdock McQuarrie , and six-year-old Jerry Madden, according to the 16 Apr 1930 and 7 May 1930 Var, and the 12 Apr 1930 and 10 May 1930 issues of Hollywood Filmograph. The 14 Jun 1930 edition also named Red Golden as assistant director.
       The 5 Apr 1930 Hollywood Filmograph production chart announced that principal photography was underway. The 9 Apr 1930 Var confirmed that production had begun the previous week, and stated that the picture was the first M-G-M production to be filmed in a widescreen format, using 70mm Eastman Kodak film, and Fox Film Corp.’s “Grandeur” cameras. M-G-M was reportedly “shooting blind” as they had no formal agreement with Fox for the use of the company’s cameras, and most theaters at that time did not have the technology to project widescreen films.
       The 19 Apr 1930 Hollywood Filmograph announced that Vidor’s company was on location near Chatsworth, CA, where “famed western star” William S. Hart had come out of retirement to appear in the film. Hart reportedly lent the production a gun that had belonged to the real Billy the Kid, which John Mack Brown used onscreen. The 22 Apr 1930 FD indicated that filming had moved to the nearby Porter Ranch area to avoid noisy onlookers who were disrupting the sound recording of the picture.
       On 4 May 1930, FD reported that Vidor had travelled to Gallup, NM, and set up a production camp with a company of seventy five persons to film additional exteriors. The 10 May 1930 Motion Picture News noted that filming in NM was scheduled for three weeks. The 31 May 1930 Hollywood Filmograph announced that the crew had returned to M-G-M Studios from NM where they had encountered “sudden May snowstorms that overtook them” while filming. Vidor reportedly filmed sequences in the Grand Canyon en route back to the coast. According to the 19 Jul 1930 Motion Picture News, Vidor was currently travelling to Utah’s Zion National Park for additional exteriors.
       The 23 Aug 1930 Motion Picture News announced that M-G-M had named its widescreen process “Realife,” which reportedly used standard film that could be shown in theaters with a “low-cost” projector attachment. Billy the Kid was set to be M-G-M’s debut Realife picture. The 20 Sep 1930 edition explained that the Realife process involved filming with a widescreen camera, using 70mm film, which was then printed on 35mm standard film stock to be viewed through a projector with a special lens attachment, thus producing the widescreen effect. M-G-M estimated the cost of the projection lens adapter to be an affordable $100. However, exhibitors would still have to incur the expensive cost of installing a wide screen in their theaters.
       The 4 Oct 1930 Motion Picture News indicated that a screening audience was pleased with the widescreen scenic shots, but the picture had been re-cut and a new ending had been added.
       Although the 30 Aug 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World stated that the west coast premiere, shown in Realife, would take place in Sep 1930 at the Criterion Theatre, the world premiere was held on 16 Oct 1930 in Detroit, MI, at the Paramount Theatre, according to the 18 Oct 1930 Motion Picture News. The New York City opening was held on 17 Oct 1930 at the Capitol Theatre, as confirmed in the 22 Oct 1930 Var review.
       Reviews of Billy the Kid were mixed. Var praised the “panoramic exteriors,” but claimed that the picture would only appeal to “youngsters.” However, the 19 Oct 1930 FD review deemed the film a “colorful and absorbing western” with “splendid” direction. Although the widescreen scenic shots were also applauded, FD complained that a night sequence appeared so dark that audiences “hissed” at the projection booth, believing it to be a technical glitch. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
12 Mar 1930
p. 11.
Film Daily
31 Mar 1930
p. 4.
Film Daily
15 Apr 1930
p. 8.
Film Daily
22 Apr 1930
p. 6.
Film Daily
4 May 1930
p. 4.
Film Daily
19 Oct 1930
p. 11.
Hollywood Filmograph
5 Apr 1930
p. 32.
Hollywood Filmograph
12 Apr 1930
p. 25.
Hollywood Filmograph
19 Apr 1930
p. 27.
Hollywood Filmograph
10 May 1930
p. 16.
Hollywood Filmograph
31 May 1930
p. 32.
Hollywood Filmograph
14 Jun 1930
p. 23.
Inside Facts of Stage and Screen
5 Apr 1930
p. 3.
Motion Picture News
22 Feb 1930
p. 17.
Motion Picture News
15 Mar 1930
p. 39.
Motion Picture News
10 May 1930
p. 48.
Motion Picture News
19 Jul 1930
p. 54.
Motion Picture News
16 Aug 1930
p. 47.
Motion Picture News
23 Aug 1930
p. 25.
Motion Picture News
30 Aug 1930
p. 31.
Motion Picture News
20 Sep 1930
p. 20.
Motion Picture News
4 Oct 1930
p. 30.
Motion Picture News
18 Oct 1930
p. 27.
New York Times
18 Oct 1930
p. 23.
New Yorker
25 Oct 1930
p. 77.
Screenland
Sep 1930
p. 97.
Variety
1 May 1929
p. 7.
Variety
15 Jan 1930
p. 14.
Variety
5 Mar 1930
p. 68.
Variety
9 Apr 1930
p. 11.
Variety
16 Apr 1930
p. 18.
Variety
7 May 1930
p. 24.
Variety
22 Oct 1930
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
WRITERS
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Ward
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Saga of Billy the Kid by Walter Noble Burns (Garden City, NY, 1926).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Saga
Release Date:
18 October 1930
Premiere Information:
Detroit premiere: 16 October 1930
New York opening: 17 October 1930
Production Date:
began early April 1930
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
23 October 1930
Copyright Number:
LP1671
Physical Properties:
Sound
Movietone
Black and White
gauge
35mm and 70mm (Realife).
Widescreen/ratio
1.18:1 and 2.13:1
Duration(in mins):
95
Length(in feet):
8,808
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Cattlemen Tunston and McSween arrive in a territory "governed" by Hatfield, and despite his orders that they move on, they decide to remain in the valley. Billy the Kid is caught stealing cattle and is about to be hanged by Tunston when the cattleman decides that he would be a welcome addition to his forces. Billy becomes devoted to Tunston, and when Tunston is killed in an open fight with Ballinger, Hatfield's henchman, the Kid decides to kill every man who took part in the fight, particularly for the sake of Claire, Tunston's intended wife. McSween, Billy, and his friends are trapped by Sheriff Garrett in McSween's house, and after extended gunplay, McSween tries to surrender and is killed; the house is set afire, and only Billy shoots his way clear and escapes. Although General Wallace discusses a treaty with Billy, offering him amnesty, he retreats to a cave in the hills, where he is trapped by Garrett. Billy escapes from jail but is shot by Garrett when he returns to see ... +


Cattlemen Tunston and McSween arrive in a territory "governed" by Hatfield, and despite his orders that they move on, they decide to remain in the valley. Billy the Kid is caught stealing cattle and is about to be hanged by Tunston when the cattleman decides that he would be a welcome addition to his forces. Billy becomes devoted to Tunston, and when Tunston is killed in an open fight with Ballinger, Hatfield's henchman, the Kid decides to kill every man who took part in the fight, particularly for the sake of Claire, Tunston's intended wife. McSween, Billy, and his friends are trapped by Sheriff Garrett in McSween's house, and after extended gunplay, McSween tries to surrender and is killed; the house is set afire, and only Billy shoots his way clear and escapes. Although General Wallace discusses a treaty with Billy, offering him amnesty, he retreats to a cave in the hills, where he is trapped by Garrett. Billy escapes from jail but is shot by Garrett when he returns to see Claire. +

GENRE
Genre:


Subject

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.