Cast & Crew
"Lucky" Barnet is driving the stage to town when a gang of robbers attack, wound him and steal the strongbox. When a passenger claims to recognize one of the bandits as the long-dead outlaw Billy the Kid, U.S. Marshal Steve Langdon is sent to investigate. In Tombstone, Steve watches as Harmony Haines leads tours highlighting the Kid's exploits and sells the tourists buttons from the outlaw's shirt. After identifying himself as a U.S. Marshal, Steve deputizes Harmony and orders him to take him to the Kid's gravesite that night. Under cover of darkness, the two unearth the Kid's coffin, which they discover is empty, just as an armed rider sneaks up and fires at them. Although the man escapes, Steve notices the Swinging J brand on his palimino. The next day, Lucky and his sister Carol visit their father, Wilfred Barnet, the owner of the stage line, and pledge to recover the stolen gold. Soon after, Steve and Harmony ride into town and introduce themselves to Barnet. When Harmony notices that Lucky's horse bears the Swinging J brand, he and Steve follow him out of town. Meanwhile, the bandits, perturbed at Steve's arrival, decide to take cover in the hills. On the trail, Steve catches up to Lucky and arrests him for shooting at him at the cemetery. Just then, Carol rides to her brother's rescue, and when Steve learns that Barnet is their father, he apologizes and releases Lucky. Suspecting that Barnet may be the Kid, Steve searches the Barnets' ranch house, but is interrupted by Carol's arrival, When Steve informs Carol of his suspicions, she rummages through her father's papers and discovers a letter written by Pat Garrett, the sheriff who allegedly killed Billy the Kid. Disturbed, Carol rides into town to question her father about the letter, and he admits he is the notorious gunman. As Barnet explains to Carol that Pat Garrett gave him a second chance to change his identity and go straight, Wheeler, the clerk in the stage office and a member of the robbers, overhears their conversation and rides to inform his compatriots. Lucky follows Wheeler to the hideout, but is taken prisoner by the outlaws. Dave Shurlock, one of the gang who knew the Kid, claims that Lucky's father is the infamous outlaw, thus convincing Lucky to remain silent about the location of the hideout. After releasing Lucky, Shurlock visits Barnet and threatens to expose him unless he cooperates by substituting gang members for the stage driver and guards. Meanwhile, Lucky warns Steve of an impending robbery. After assuring Steve that he will be driving the stage, Lucky proposes that the sheriff and his posse wait at the springs to trap the robbers as the stage rolls by. When the stage, commanded by Shurlock's men, fails to reach the springs, Steve and the others track down the robbers and kill one of the gang, although the rest escape with the gold. Thinking that Lucky deliberately misled them, Steve rides to the Barnet ranch and arrests him. Upon learning of his son's arrest, Barnet boards the dead outlaw's horse, hoping that the animal will lead him to the hideout. Steve follows, and the two become allies, taking refuge in a shack to hold off the outlaws while Harmony rides to town for reinforcements. The sheriff, a victim of Harmony's button scheme, refuses to believe his story, however, and locks him in jail with Lucky. After Carol slips Lucky a gun, they escape and ride back to the hideout, arriving just as Barnet is mortally wounded. After the gang is apprehended, Barnet dies of his wound and, deciding to let the old man rest in peace, Steve reports that Billy the Kid died long ago.
The film opens with the following written prologue: "William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, was killed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico on July 14, 1881. So the official records state. But was he? The supposed killing was done by his lifelong friend, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and has long been disputed, even by members of Billy's outlaw band." Modern sources add Ray Jones, Eddie Laughton, Lloyd Bridges and George Morrell to the cast. For more information about the real-life Billy the Kid, for Billy the Kid.