Audie Murphy and Gale Storm in The Kid from Texas (1950)


(director: Kurt Neumann; screenwriters: story by Robert Hardy Andrews/Robert Hardy Andrews/Karl Lamb; cinematographer:Charles Van Enger; editor: Frank Gross; music: Milton Schwarzwald; cast: Audie Murphy (Billy the Kid), Gale Storm (Irene Kain), Albert Dekker (Alexander Kain), Shepperd Strudwick (Roger Jameson), Walter Sande (Crowe), Will Greer (O’Fallon), William Talman (Minninger), Martin Garralaga (Morales), Robert Barrat (General Lew Wallace), Dennis Hooey (Major Harper), Don Haggerty (Jameson’s ranch foreman, Morgan), Frank Wilcox (Sheriff Pat Garrett), Ray Teal (Sheriff Rand), Paul Ford (Sheriff Copeland); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Short; Universal; 1950)

The Audie Murphy film I liked best even if it wasn’t his best.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Audie Murphy film I liked best even if it wasn’t his best. Audie is perfectly cast to play Billy the Kid, and his performance outshines even Robert Taylor’s noted characterization of the Kid. This is the film Audie was recognized as a star. Audie was America’s most decorated Second World War hero, who went from the battlefield to Hollywood and had a fine career in mostly low-budget B-Westerns in the 1960s.

Though this supposedly true telling of the legendary story might not be all that accurate, I thought it captured Billy’s killer instincts better than other depictions. Audie seems as if he could be the real Billy. The German-born director Kurt Neumann (“Mohawk”/”The Fly”/”Watusi”) gives the pic a good flowing pace and treats the Kid as if he were a juvenile delinquent, with decent virtues but not sophisticated enough to deal with cunning authority figures. He’s viewed as psychologically needy, someone craving respect and affection. But unable to control his emotions or events, he already was a wanted man for killing 8 by the film’s start. By the film’s conclusion he has killed 21.

It’s based on a story by Robert Hardy Andrews, and is written by the author and Karl Lamb. They romanticize Billy as a good-guy killer, who was initially viewed with sympathy but by the conclusion became cornered into being a psychopathic killer. We are led to believe that Billy was driven to becoming a mass killer by living in a corrupt society.

In 1879, in Lincoln, NM, a range war is going on between the thuggish Major Harper (Dennis Hooey) and ranch partners Alex Kain (Albert Dekker), the arrogant lawyer, and the English gentleman rancher Roger Jameson (Shepperd Strudwick). When William Bonney (Audie Murphy) outdraws a bunch of thugs sent by the Major to intimidate the partners, he’s taken to Jameson’s ranch to work on the ranch and is willing to be a good citizen because Jameson is the only person who ever treated him with kindness. But when the Major’s thugs gun down Jameson in cold-blood, Billy vows to get revenge on each of the killers.

Jameson’s partner Kain meanwhile marries a much younger woman from Missouri (Gale Storm), who plays the piano and attracts Billy. This irritates the two-faced Kain, who turns out to be the film’s heavy. He authorizes Billy to get the cattle Harper’s men rustled and to take care of the rustlers. When Billy does what he’s told, the acting governor of the territory, General Lew Wallace (Robert Barrat, the author of Ben Hur) objects, the phony Kain then double-crosses the Kid and puts up the bounty money so that a $10,000 reward is put out for the Kid. Incidentally, he was named Billy the Kid by the working-class Mexicans who admired him more than the whites.

When Billy turns 21 he is gunned down by Pat Garrett (Frank Wilcox), the sheriff appointed by the General to keep the peace in Lincoln County.