Billy Bonney is a hot-headed gunslinger who narrowly skirts a life of crime by being befriended and hired by a peaceful rancher, Eric Keating. When Keating is killed, Billy seeks revenge on the men who killed him, even if it means opposing his friend, Marshal Jim Sherwood.
Billy the Kid is the first of many westerns that Robert Taylor starred in, and boy did he find his nitch in the entertainment field. The film was loosely based on the book The Saga of Billy the Kid, by Walter Noble Burns. Although the real Kid was ruthless and a cold blooded killer, it is known that he did find some peace with a rancher who took him in and tried to help reform him. He rides into town to save Pedro, his friend, from jail and falls into the company of Dan Hickey played by Gene Lockhart in a rather ominous role of a crook. Billy goes to work for Hickey, and starts trouble for rancher Sherwood, played by Ian Hunter. Hunter is great as the laid back rancher who takes Billy in and persuades him to stop running. Brian Donlevy is Billy’s boyhood friend who is the foreman of the ranch and later the marshal. Mary Howard is Hunter’s sister and Donlevy’s fiancée, but is strangely attracted to Billy. They never have a romance, but it is refreshing to see Billy’s innocence with her. When Hunter is killed by the Hickey people, Billy goes on the rampage and kills all including shooting Hickey in the back. The most outstanding scene is the last when Billy is waiting for Donlevey, his blue eyes the only thing you see in the darkened shed. Of course he dies at the hands of his best friend. I think this role established that Taylor could play good and evil equally well, as he went on to do his best film Johnny Eager a couple of years later. The wonderful color photography is only dimmed by the magnificent looks of a young Robert Taylor, his blue eyes as icy as the role he played. This is a don’t miss for all fans of great westerns. A note of interest is that Taylor practiced for months to fast draw with his left hand. In every western he made he would switch from left hand to right hand draw.