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Banned in the U.S.A.

Friday, December 11, 1992
The Outlaw
Howard Hughes USA, 1943/47

The most exciting shoot-outs surrounding The Outlaw were those with the heavily armed censors. Not surprising: Howard Hughes had set out to break with the traditional western and compose a story of down-to-earth sex and hair-trigger action. Your basic buddy film, beautifully shot by Gregg Toland, the plot finds Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid becoming partners in a lawless land. Their tenuous friendship is challenged by constant quarrels, first over Doc's horse, Red, then over Doc's girl, Rio. And it was over Rio, played by the as-yet-unknown Jane Russell-or rather Rio's cleavage-that much of the off-screen quarreling raged. A "breast shot deletion" list was compiled, and minor cuts were made. The film opened at San Francisco's Geary Theater in February 1943, was pulled from exhibition in April, and re-released four years later, with Hughes still as confrontational as ever. A Maryland judge declared that Russell's breasts "hung over the picture like a thunderstorm spread over a landscape. They were everywhere." But now, so was the (Sealless) film.

• Written by Jules Furthman. Photographed by Gregg Toland. With Jane Russell, Walter Huston, Thomas Mitchell, Jack Beutel. (111 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Swank)