Friday, 1 November 2013

The Outlaw by Howard Hughes, 1943

Click on the image to enlarge and read.

Hollywood veteran and aviator Howard Hughes directed only two films, Hell's Angels (1930) and The Outlaw (1943), and produced over two dozen films. I don't recall seeing any. This week I was going through the ebook version of Dime Mystery Magazine, September 1946, when I came across this vintage advert or plug about The Outlaw which, I assume, is his most famous film. 

Apparently, the western film was banned by US censors soon after its world premier in San Francisco in June 1944. Rather than cut some of the objectionable scenes which, I think, had to do with the scantily-clad Jane Russell, the filmmaker pulled out the film from theatres across the world. I don't know whether this was true. The taglines of the American and Australian posters—"The picture that couldn't be stopped! (left) and "Not suitable for children" (below)—indicates that it was, though I suspect the whole thing was a plug for the success of the film.

The Outlaw is about the complex relationship between seductress Rio McDonald (Jane Russell) and the three men she plays against each other—Jack Buetel (Billy the Kid), Doc Holliday (Walter Huston), and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), who shot the Kid in real life—in the backdrop of a battle with the Indians.


The film is described as "a story of the untamed West. Frontier days when the reckless fire of guns and passions blazed an era of death, destruction and lawlessness. Days when the fiery desert sun beat down avenginly on the many who dared defy justice and outrage decency." It seems like a good film to watch.


For previous vintage ads, see under Labels.

21 comments:

  1. Never seen the film, but obviously have heard of it, who hasn't? I always thought Hughes was a bit enigmatic, particularly with his obsessions in later life.

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    1. Col, I intend to see this film though I can't say I'd heard of it before. I believe Hughes led a colourful life.

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  2. I haven't seen the whole film though I've seen various snippets of it here and there. I'd probably watch it if I got a chance to.

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    1. Charles, the controversy, real or otherwise, has piqued my interest in the film. In the absence of TCM, I'll probably see it online, if possible.

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  3. I wrote about this film some time ago Prashant when I was doing a series on the Billy the Kid movies - frankly, I don't particularly rate it. Mitchell and Huston are good, Russell is quite an eyeful, but that's about it.

    Colin

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    1. Colin, thanks for your view on the film. A series on Billy the Kid movies is interesting and I'll be hopping over to your blog to check it out. I don't recall the last I saw the Kid in a film.

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  4. I have seen the film a few times, I suspect Jane Russell has inspired a good bit of male fantasies.

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    1. Hi Mel, I don't think I've seen Jane Russell in any of her films. In fact, even the rest of the cast is new to me.

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  5. I've never seen the film, though I remember when it was finally in general release in 1946. According to wikipedia, it had a limited showing a few years earlier, when it was pulled from theaters for lack of approval by the Production Code. Hughes engineered a public outcry calling for its banning, and that generated the interest that finally got it into theaters.Hughes may have made a cut or two to satisfy the censors. Russell claims that the special push-up device Hughes had designed to maximize her bust was too painful to wear and she discarded it without ever telling him.

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    1. Ron, thanks for the interesting titbits surrounding the film. I didn't know the censors were strict even in the 1940s. I have heard of controversies being kicked up, usually by the filmmakers or those close to them, just before the launch of a film. It has happened in India too.

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  6. I like the film. Offbeat western and, well, looking at Jane is easy. By chance I watched His Kind Of Woman yesterday that starred J.R. and Robert Mitchum and semi-directed by Hughes. Another weird entry in RKO canon.

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    1. David, I'm going to have to add HIS KIND OF WOMAN to my list of films to watch which, thankfully, is a lot shorter than my list of books to read.

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  7. Fascinating to see the comic strip version Prashant - the movie itself was designed by Hughes to bait the censors and he made a lot of capital through its NOT being screened. Originally Howard Hawks was directing but he walked off after Hughes kept interfering. It's still a good looking movie but the emphasis on Rio is faintly absurd - Russell was of course a much better actress than Hughes gave her credit for but she really does just exist as a sex object here - it's a pretty dull film unfortunately and I think the history around it is more interesting in fact.

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. I didn't know what to make of the comic strip that passes off as some kind of a gimmick, a paid ad plug. I thought Hughes might have created the fuss to get more people to see his film, speaking of which I didn't know Howard Hawks directed it initially. The focus on Russell appears to have taken some of the shine off the other lead actors.

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  8. Prashant, this post and all the comments were very interesting and entertaining. I find like reading about all aspects of Howard Hughes and his life.

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    1. Thank you, Tracy. Comments from more informed bloggers usually enrich my posts, as they have done here. I like reading about actors and filmmakers, too, especially about their art and the effort they put into it.

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  9. I can't recall ever seeing a movie with Jane Russell in it. Not sure why.

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    1. Patti, not even Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

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    2. Patti, I haven't seen any of her films either, not even GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES that Ron mentions, although I've heard a lot about it.

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  10. After seeing Aviator, I was fascinated by everything Howard Hughes.

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    1. Keishon, I've read about Hughes in the press though, I admit, I'm not familiar with his films. I haven't seen THE AVIATOR based on his true story. Thanks for the reminder.

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