Friday, March 19, 2010


When Brokeback Mountain was initially hyped, a few years back, as the “first gay Western,” observant fans of the genre laughed our asses off. Examples are legion, but for red-hot, thinly-disguised cowpoke yearning, few movies can compete with Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw. Shot in 1941, given a limited release in 1943 and then a wide release in 1946, the film is best known as a debut showcase for Jane Russell. But her role is decorative, if spectacularly so…

The crux of the script by Jules Furthmann, with the uncredited hands of Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks, involves a triangle between Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) and the title character, Billy the Kid (Jack Beutel). Pat is jealous as a schoolgirl—an armed and dangerous schoolgirl—over the shine that Doc takes to Billy. The actors, whether by obliviousness or Herculean self-restraint, play it straight—or, rather, straight-faced—but The Wizard of Oz and All About Eve and Valley of the Dolls and Moulin Rouge notwithstanding, this is just about the gayest thing you’ll ever see.

This splendid curio is on Turner Classic Movies Saturday at 9 a.m. Phoenix time, but you can also watch the movie online, in its entirety, here.

RIP to Fess Parker, who has passed on at 85. He’ll be remembered as Disney’s Davy Crockett & TV’s Daniel Boone, of course, but I’ll always remember his great scene as the pilot wrongly thought mad in Them!

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