I just watched Howard Hughes's little-remembered 1941 film "The Outlaw" -- a thinly-disguised (or not disguised at all) launching vehicle for the career of then-19 year old Jane Russell. This review hits the bazoom right on the nipple:
Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5
Summary: One star for each...
Comment: Having recently seen the 2004 film THE AVIATOR about millionaire aircraft designer Howard Hughes, I was compelled to see THE OUTLAW, a major motion picture directed by Hughes in 1941. My interest was purely intellectual, mind you. It had nothing to do with the director's fixation on the cleavage and opulent ... well, you know ... of its 19-year old starlet, Jane Russell, which sparked a spirited battle between Hughes and the censors of the Production Code Administration, delayed the film's release until 1943 (and almost immediate withdrawal), and resulted in subsequent edits and re-releases in 1946 and 1950.
Hughes should have stuck with building airplanes.
THE OUTLAW may be a classic, but that doesn't prevent it from also being patently ridiculous. It brings together the outlaw/bad boy Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel), lawman Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), and dentist/gambler/gunfighter Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) in New Mexico in the summer of 1881. Here, the Kid and Holliday get chummy despite quarreling over a horse and Doc's petulant girlfriend, Rio (Russell). In the meantime, Sheriff Pat becomes jealous that his heretofore good friend Holliday is spending so much time with the notorious outlaw Billy, whom Garrett would just as soon arrest or shoot dead for fame's sake. After being chased by the de rigueur band of hostile Native Americans, the four principals - six, if you count Jane's ... well, you know - gather round for a final confrontation. Here, Garrett's attempt to disarm Billy is so dopey and so awkwardly choreographed with unbelievably bad dialogue that it virtually reduces this sagebrush drama to farce. It doesn't help that Buetel's the Kid occasionally comes across as a young and sweet tempered Jimmy Stewart - someone you'd be thrilled to have your teenage daughter marry.
Hollywood never shirks from playing fast and loose with historical fact. So, while viewing THE OUTLAW, one should keep in mind that:
1. Pat Garrett did indeed gun down Billy the Kid in July 1881.
2. There's no evidence that either Garrett or Billy ever met Doc Holliday.
3. Holliday died in his bed of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, CO on November 8, 1887.
After seeing this film, I was amazed that Hughes managed to squeeze perhaps 30 minutes of substance into 1 hour and 58 minutes, and that Jane's ... well, you know ... caused such a scandal in shots that were positively innocuous by today's standards. At one point, after Rio falls into a pond, Hughes declined the opportunity to display Russell in full-frontal, wet T-shirt glory. I was crushed, but believe in my heart that Howard considered the option for a brief moment at least.
If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't waste my time with this nonsense. I am, however, awarding two stars - one to each of Jane's ... well, you know.