Cattle baron William Donovan prepares to use violence to drive off settlers in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The new arrivals find an ally in young gunman Billy the Kid, who shoots one of Donovan’s gang. The settlers’ leader is on his way to marry his fiancée Claire, who has just arrived from the East, when he is murdered by Donovan’s henchmen. Billy swears vengeance on the entire gang. Neither Claire nor sheriff Pat Garrett, who both secretly approve of Billy’s plan, can stave off a bloody feud, which costs 28 men their lives. “You’ve made life here liveable”, Claire says to Billy after the gun battle … In keeping with the hagiography of the titular famed outlaw, King Vidor has stripped most of the factual history from the story of the 1878 Lincoln County cattle war. Instead, the director turned the camera’s lens to the vast, open country, where he sets the wheels of vengeance so precisely and ruthlessly in motion that it might have been the story of Chicago’s gang wars of the era. The film was originally shot in both 70mm Reallife and 35mm. An alternative tragic ending edited specifically for the European market has been lost to posterity.
by King Vidor
with Johnny Mack Brown, Wallace Beery, Kay Johnson, Wyndham Standing, Karl Dane, Russell Simpson, Blanche Friderici, Roscoe Ates, Warner Richmond, James Marcus
USA 1930 English 97’ Black/White


  • Johnny Mack Brown
  • Wallace Beery
  • Kay Johnson
  • Wyndham Standing
  • Karl Dane
  • Russell Simpson
  • Blanche Friderici
  • Roscoe Ates
  • Warner Richmond
  • James Marcus


Director King Vidor
Screenplay Wanda Tuchock
Story Walter Noble Burns The Saga of Billy the Kid (1926)
Dialogue Laurence Stallings, Charles MacArthur
Cinematography Gordon Avil
Editing Hugh Wynn
Art Director Cedric Gibbons
Costumes David Cox

Produced by

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew’s, Inc.)

Additional information

Print: George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY, on loan from a private collector

King Vidor

Filmography (selection)

1919 The Turn in the Road; Lost film 1925 The Big Parade (Die große Parade) 1928 The Crowd (Ein Mensch der Masse) 1929 Hallelujah 1934 Our Daily Bread (Der letzte Alarm) 1938 The Citadel 1940 Northwest Passage (Nordwest-Passage) 1947 Duel in the Sun (Duell in der Sonne) 1949 The Fountainhead (Ein Mann wie Sprengstoff) 1956 War and Peace (Krieg und Frieden) 1959 Solomon and Sheba (Salomon und die Königin von Saba)

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020