Dirty Little Billy

Only one Hollywood movie directly addressed the Vietnam War while the war was actually being fought. But virtually every Western made between 1965 and 1973 allegorized Vietnam in the context of earlier American history. Michael J. Pollard, sidekick to Bonnie and Clyde, plays the young Billy the Kid in this unrelentingly miserablist Western-a terminal expression of a genre that self–destructed, inadvertently timed for the war's bitter aftermath. "Everything is gray: the landscape, the light, the morality," Time wrote. "There are no heroes, only villains and victims." In the opening scene, new settlers raise the Stars and Stripes over a sea of muck that's pure Nixon territory. One day before the movie's belated New York opening, the president issued a communiqué that justified wiretaps, the Plumbers, and the Huston Plan, but continued to deny prior knowledge of the Watergate break–in or cover–up.

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