Billy the Kid was born 'William Henry McCarty' on November 23, 1859, in New York City. Little is known about the early life of William McCarty (also known as Henry Antrim and William Bonney, an alias), but it is believed that his father died or left the family when Billy was very young, and he was orphaned at 15 when his mother died of tuberculosis. Shortly after, he and his brother got involved in petty theft.
McCarty had a slim physique, sandy blond hair and blue eyes, he could be charming and polite one moment, then outraged and violent the next. According to legend, he killed 21 men during his days as an outlaw, one for each year of his life, though he likely killed far fewer than that number.
On the run from the authorities, McCarty moved to Arizona briefly before joining up with a gang of gunfighters called The Boys to fight in the Lincoln County War. Known as "The Kid," McCarty switched to the opposition to fight with John Tunstall under the name "the Regulators." Barely escaping with his life, McCarty became an outlaw and a fugitive. He stole horse and cattle until his arrest in 1880 for the killing of Sheriff Brady during the Lincoln County War. After being sentenced to death, he killed his two guards and escaped in 1881.
Billy the Kid was just 21 years old when he was hunted down and shot dead by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Shortly after the shooting, Sheriff Garrett wrote a biography of McCarty, the hugely sensationalized "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid". The book was the first of many accounts that would turn the young outlaw into a legend of the American frontier. (Biography.com)
|John Mack Brown|
John Mack Brown as Billy the Kid (1930) directed by King Vidor. The film is noteworthy for being simultaneously shot in an early 70mm widescreen process and in standard 35mm, though only the standard format version has since survived.
Billy the Kid Wanted (1941) was the first of 13 Billy the Kid films starring Buster Crabbe for poverty row studio PRC. The others were - Billy the Kid's Round-Up (1941), Billy the Kid Trapped (1942), Billy the Kid's Smoking Guns (1942), Law and Order (1942), Sheriff of Sage Valley (1942), The Mysterious Rider (1942), The Kid Rides Again (1943), Fugitive of the Plains (1943), Western Cyclone (1943), Cattle Stampede (1943), The Renegade (1943) and Blazing Frontier (1943)
Billy the Kid (1941) starring Robert Taylor and directed by David Miller, was the first big budget Billy the Kid movie and also the first in Technicolor. A remake of the 1930 King Vidor film of the same name, also starring Brian Donlevy, Ian Hunter, Mary Hunter and Lon Chaney Jr. Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.
The Outlaw (1943) became famous for sexy Jane Russell appearing in her first movie. Directed by Howard Hughes and starring Jack Buetel as Billy the Kid, the film was completed in 1941 run into censorship problems was eventually premiered in 1943 pulled out of circulation after just one week and finally went into wide release in 1946 after the Hollywood Production Code decided it was safe viewing for the movie going public.
Baby-faced war hero-cum-actor Audie Murphy played Billy in The Kid from Texas (1950).
Directed by Kurt Neumann and also starring Gale Storm, Albert Dekker, Will Geer and Frank Wilcox as Pat Garrett.
|The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954) Italian poster|
Robert Vaughn played Billy in the episode "Billy the Kid" (1957) from the western TV series Tales of Wells Fargo (1957-1962).
Paul Newman played the Kid in The Left Handed Gun (1958) directed by Arthur Penn and also starring Lita Milan, James Best and John Dehner as Pat Garrett. The belief that Billy was left-handed may be due to the publication of a reversed photograph taken of the kid.
|Clu Gulager in The Tall Man (1960-1961)|
Clu Gulager played Billy in 75 episodes of the TV series The Tall Man (1960-1961), Barry Sullivan starred as Pat Garrett. The series lasted two seasons.
Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966) starred John Carradine as Count Dracula and Chuck Courtney as William 'Billy the Kid' Bonney. The Western-Horror was filmed in 8 days and was released on a double bill with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.
|Geoffrey Deuel in Chisum (1970)|
Chisum (1970) was set during the Lincoln County War of 1878 and starred John Wayne as John Chisum, Forrest Tucker, Ben Johnson, Christopher George, Patrick Knowles, Bruce Cabot, Glenn Corbett as Pat Garrett and Geoffrey Deuel as Billy the Kid. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
Dirty Little Billy (1972) was directed by Stan Dragoti and starred Michael J. Pollard as Billy Bonney, Richard Evans and Lee Purcell. The film was Nick Nolte's movie debut (uncredited).
|Kris Kristofferson with Bob Dylan|
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring James Coburn as Garrett and Kris Kristofferson as the Kid, with Richard Jaeckal, Katy Jurado, Bob Dylan, Barry Sullivan as John Chisum and Jason Robards as Governer Lew Wallace. 106mins (122mins)
Sam Peckinpah and the studio fought over the film, it was eventually taken out of Peckinpah's hands and substantially re-edited. It would be more than 10 years before Peckinpah's version was released to video and to critical acclaim.
Probably the most historically accurate Billy the Kid movie to date, Young Guns (1988) was directed by Christopher Cain and starred Emilio Estevez as William Bonney alias Billy the Kid, with Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance and Patrick Wayne as Pat Garrett.
The film cost $11m and grossed $45m in North America. A sequel was released in 1990.
Dan Shor played Billy the Kid in the time-travelling comedy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) starring Keanu Reeves as Ted 'Theodore' Logan and Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston. Directed by Stephen Herek.
|Billy the Kid as Val Kilmer.|
Val Kilmer as William Bonney in the TV movie Billy the Kid (1989) directed by William A. Graham and also starring Rene Auberjonois, Wilford Brimley, Julie Carmen and Duncan Regehr as Pat Garrett. Screenplay by Gore Vidal.
|"I'll make you famous." Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid.|
Young Guns II (1990) directed by Geoff Murphy and starring Emilio Estevez as William 'Billy the Kid' Bonney, with Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, Viggo Mortensen, William Peterson as Pat Garrett and James Coburn as John Chisum. Oscar nomination for Best Song - "Blaze of Glory" Jon Bon Jovi.
Young Guns II cost $20m to produce and has grossed $44m in North America.