Well, he did. In the early 70’s “The Big Film” would be on ITV at the weekend, in the evening. Most likely it would be a 10 to 15 year old western. They were not – and perhaps still aren’t – high art: they were oaters, horse operas. I admit it, I love(d) them too; Rio Bravo, The Searchers, The Comancheros, The Big Country, Shenandoah: big Technicolor®, Cinemascope® movies. How are you not going to paint in broad strokes on that kind of canvas? And the soundtracks, half the time by Dmitri Tiomkin (I always thought he was secretly a Bert Higgins from Dulwich), were bombastic stuff too.
Anyway, today I watched “Chisum”, a late-ish film in the John Wayne canon. Perhaps you don’t know, but this is a film with one of Hollywood’s favourite Cowboy characters – no, not John Chisum – Billy the Kid, William Bonn(e)y Jr. Chisum’s portrayal of Billy is no great shakes, there’s one particularly ham-fisted scene which closes with Billy holding a six-gun in his right-hand and a bible in his left*. Hokey isn’t the word. One interesting thing about Chisum’s Billy is that he was played by Geoffrey Deuel, brother of Pete D(e)uel , who himself played Hannibal Heyes in TVs Alias Smith and Jones. The word/phrase that sums up this film’s Billy is “Two-Dimensional“.
Anyway here, in no particular order, as they say, are some other celluloid Billys, including the word/phrase that sums their particular Billy up, for me. *see title below
The Left-Handed Gun
Paul Newman, practising for Cool Hand Luke, Hombre, and Hud. Pretty much the same performance in all three. Word/Phrase: Cool.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
My favourite Billy film, James Coburn is fantastic, Kristofferson almost manages to act AND… well, come on, you know who did the soundtrack (we’ll forgive him his acting) and what the most famous music from that soundtrack is, don’t you? Word/Phrase: Mythic.
Oh, dearie, dearie me. Least said soonest mended. Word /Phrase: Silly Billy.
Dirty Little Billy
This is my second favourite, probably the most likely version to resemble the truth, if I’m honest. Word/Phrase: Iconoclastic
Do feel free to comment.