In real life: There is no arguing that the two knew each other and there is a very slight possibility they may have rustled together, but as far as the two being close friends and having a sort of “older-brother-younger-brother” relationship, there was nothing of it.
In the movie: While the Kid plays possum, Garrett and Dave Rudabaugh hide in the bushes as some bounty hunters ride up on them. After a gunfight, the Kid is shot in the thigh by a wounded bounty hunter.
In real life: This incident never happened. The only time the Kid was shot in the thigh was during the Sheriff Brady shooting.
In the movie: Soldiers catch up with the Kid in Fort Sumner. After a few shots are exchange, the Kid rides off pony express style out of the village. Tom Folliard watches the whole incident with excitement and applauds the Kid’s escape.
In real life: There is nothing to applaud, because this incident never happened as well.
In the movie: Governor Lew Wallace sends a feeler out to the Kid to meet with him. During the meeting, he offers leniency for the Kid if he would testify against Murphy’s men in court. The Kid says he’ll do it for a full pardon. The governor agrees, only if the Kid leaves New Mexico for good. The deal falls through and the Kid escapes.
In real life: This is one of the most crucial moments in the Kid’s life and Hollywood never gets it right. It was the Kid that contacted the governor and he offered to testify in exchange to have his charges dropped. During the meeting, the governor promised the Kid a pardon if he testified against Dolan for murder and Colonel Dudley for sending in the troops during the siege at McSween’s house. The Kid agreed to the terms and submitted to a fake arrest. As promised the Kid testified in court and told the governor the ins-and-outs of the rustling trade. The Kid stuck to his end of the deal, but the governor backed out on his. The district attorney was then going to put the Kid on trial for murder, so without the protection of Gov. Wallace, the Kid escaped custody.
In the movie: The Kid, Pat Garrett, and Dave Rudabaugh disguise themselves as the lynch mob to rescue Doc Scurlock and Chavez from the underground jail. When suddenly, the real lynch mob rides in. All hell breaks loose and the town is left in shambles, followed by Sheriff Kimbrell resigning from office.
In real life: The whole thing did not happen. The screenwriter’s imagination got a little carried away here, but after all, it is a movie. Sheriff Kimbrell did not resign, but ran again for sheriff when his term was over, but would lose to Pat Garrett.
In the movie: The Kid meets Tom Folliard stealing scraps in Beaver’s Saloon.
In real life: The Kid and Folliard met during the Lincoln County War and the two became inseparable friends.
In the movie: “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh was from Arkansas, Tom O'Folliard was a fifteen-year old orphan from Pennsylvania, and Jane Greathouse was a prostitute who ran a whorehouse in White Oaks.
In real life: Dave Rudabaugh was born in Illinois and grew up in Ohio. As for his nickname, it was “Dirty” Dave because he didn’t bathe and wore filthy cloths. Tom O'Folliard (actually it's Folliard-no O') was from Texas, born in 1858 making him at least a year older than the Kid. Jane Greathouse never existed, but her character in the movie was based on Jim Greathouse, who owned a station house about 50 miles northeast of White Oaks, not a whorehouse in White Oaks.
In the movie: The Kid demands Chisum to pay $500 owed to him. Chisum denies the debt, so the Kid then vows to kill one of his cowboys for every five dollars owed.
In real life: This scene is based on a popular Billy the Kid myth. Though, the Kid did believe Chisum owed him fighting wages from the late Lincoln County War, he did not kill his men. Instead, the Kid rustled his cattle for compenstation.
In the movie: Governor Wallace and John Chisum appoint Pat Garrett Sheriff of Lincoln County.
In real life: Pat Garrett ran for office against Sheriff Kimbrell and won. He would not be Sheriff of Lincoln County until January 1, 1881. In the meantime, he was appointed Kimbrell’s deputy, but was fallaciously appointed U.S. Marshall so he could go after the Kid. Garrett, without proper authority, arrested the Kid on December 23, 1880. This then explains why Garrett was denied the reward money by Governor Wallace. Either that or Wallace was a huge flake to everyone.
In the movie: Ash Upson tagged along with Pat Garrett to document the hunt for Billy the Kid.
In real life: Unlike in the movie, Upson did not ride along with the posse. When Garrett was writing his biography on Billy the Kid, he turned to Ash Upson to write about the Kid’s early years as a youngster, while Garrett wrote about tracking down, capturing, and then the final hunt and death of Billy the Kid.
In the movie: While visiting Jane Greathouse’s whorehouse in White Oaks, the Kid and his gang are surrounded by a lynch mob led by Deputy James Carlyle. The mob holds Jane Greathouse hostage and threaten to burn her if the Kid didn’t come out and surrender.
In real life: It was Jim Greathouse, not Jane and the mob didn’t threaten to burn him. When Carlyle went in the house to talk with the Kid, Greathouse did go outside as a hostage. The deal was if anything should happen to Carlyle the posse threatened to shoot Greathouse.
In the movie: The Kid dresses Carlyle up like an Indian to satisfy the lynch mob. He then shoves the deputy out the door and the mob guns him down by mistake.
In real life: Yes, Carlyle was gunned by his own men, but not as an Indian. Remember when I said the mob would shoot Jim Greathouse if anything happened to Carlyle? Well, an accidental shot was fired outside and Carlyle thought his men shot their hostage, so he jumped through a window in fear of retaliation from the outlaws. The mob thought it was the Kid trying to escape so they opened fire and killed Carlyle. After realizing their mistake they took off and left the outlaws to escape. Although, it's possible the Kid and his gang may have also fired at Carlyle, but the killing was entirely blamed on him.
In the movie: Pat Garrett set Jane’s whorehouse on fire.
In real life: The White Oaks posse returned to Jim Greathouse’s stationhouse and burned it down, as well as homes of neighboring ranches.
In the movie: The Kid and his gang are riding for the “Mexican Blackbird” (a trail which will lead them to Old Mexico), the Kid and Tom O’Folliard race to the top of a ridge when the Kid spots Garrett’s posse and tells O’Folliard to skin out. In a mistake of identity, Garrett shoots the boy thinking he was the Kid. Garrett feels bad about the boy’s death.
In real life: Late at night in Fort Sumner (almost 200s miles north of the Mexico border -might I add) Garrett’s posse ambushed the Kid and his gang as they rode into the village. The Kid and the others escaped, but Folliard was badly wounded and taken prisoner. A few hours later, he dies. Unlike the movie, Garrett is unremorseful of his death.
In the movie: Doc Scurlock is killed at Stinking Springs.
In real life: No, it was Charlie Bowdre. Scurlock wasn't even there, but living in Texas.
In the movie: Chavez is fatally wounded during the escape at Stinking Springs. He and Henry French ride to Fort Sumner.
In real life: Chavez was not riding with the Kid after the war, so he was not fatally wounded. Like I mentioned before, he died an old man. Henry French (Jim French) also was not riding with the Kid at that time. I will also point out here that Fort Sumner is about 12 miles from Stinking Springs, but yet it takes Chavez and French 3 ½ months to get there! Remember the Kid was arrested at Stinking Springs on December 23, 1880, tried in court, escaped jail in April 28, 1881, and then rode 100 miles from Lincoln to Fort Sumner, but yet he still beats Chavez and French back to the Fort?
In the movie: Dave Rudabaugh escapes Stinking Springs and makes it to the Mexican border.
In real life: No one got away at Stinking Springs. The Kid and his gang surrendered and were all taken to jail in Santa Fe. Rudabaugh eventually escaped and did flee to Old Mexico. There are two different stories of what happen to him: 1) He was involved in a bar fight and killed two men and the outraged Mexicans beheaded him or 2) After a year, he left Old Mexico and headed to Montana where he lived a normal life, got married, and fathered three daughters. He lived to be a grumpy old man and died in Oregon in 1928.
In the movie: When sentencing Billy the Kid to death at the gallows, the judge stated, “You will be hanged until you are dead, dead, DEAD! …Now do you have anything to say young man?” The Kid defiantly replied, “Yes, your honor I do....you can go to hell, hell, hell,” and bursts into laughter.
In real life: In court the Kid knew he was going to get the book thrown at him and took his predicament seriously, so he was not in good spirits to be clowning around. One reporter stated the Kid sat quietly and sulked. When his sentence was being passed he was asked if he had anything to say, the Kid said “No.” The judge then sentenced him to death and closed with “and may you hang until your body be dead.”
In the movie: Jane Greathouse hides a gun in the outhouse for the Kid.
In real life: If the “gun in the outhouse” theory is true, who the gun hider was is not known (but it definitely wasn’t that imaginary character Jane Greathouse). I personally believe the version, that the Kid (who was handcuffed) slipped his small hand out of one of the cuffs and used it to hit Bell over the head. He then snatched Bell's gun and told him to throw up his hands. Bell panicked and ran down the stairs and the Kid reluctantly shot him. This is how Billy the Kid himself said it happened and would explain the two gashes found on Bell's head.
In the movie: After his jailbreak, the Kid gallops out of town yahooing and firing his gun in the air.
In real life: It was a good hour after his jailbreak, before the Kid rode quietly and leisurely out of town.
In the movie: The unarmed Kid walks in on Garrett hiding in Pete Maxwell's room, suddenly Garrett lights a lamp to make his presence known. He tells the Kid he has no choice but to shoot him. The Kid tries to bargain for his life as he makes his way towards a door. A shot is fired and Garrett strolls out of the room by himself.
In real life: Yes, the Kid walked in on Garrett in Pete Maxwell's room and he may have been unarmed. Garrett did not make his presence known, but instead remained quiet as he drew his gun. There were no deals or bargains to spare the Kid’s life. Garrett shot him and ran -not strolled- out of the room in a panic. Billy the Kid never knew who killed him.
In the movie: Garrett spared the Kid’s life and Brushy Bill Roberts, the dying old man in the beginning of the movie, was Billy the Kid.
In real life: I hate to disappoint this
happy ending for you, but Brushy Bill Roberts was not Billy the
Kid. William H. Bonney, about 19-20 years old, met his tragic end on July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner, shot in
the dark by Pat Garrett. He was buried between his two pals, Charlie Bowdre
and Tom O’Folliard.
For movie info from IMDb click here