Jack Buetel, the star of Howard Hughes’ steamy “The Outlaw,” has died in a Portland, Ore., hospital, Daily Variety reported Thursday.
The entertainment trade paper said Buetel, who played Billy the Kid in the controversial picture of the 1940s, was 74 and died Tuesday after what was described only as a long illness.
Buetel, whose name was changed from Beutel by Hughes because the legendary billionaire feared that people would pronounce it Beetle, was a native of Dallas with stage experience in little theater there before he was chosen to appear opposite Jane Russell in what news accounts of the day described as a nationwide talent search.
But the film became known not for the adventures of Buetel as Billy and Thomas Mitchell and Walter Huston as Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday, respectively, but for Russell’s cleavage.
Although when “The Outlaw” was reissued in the 1970s it was assigned a “G” rating, it became a national scandal when it was being filmed in 1940.
Because of the flap, the picture’s release was held up until the mid-1940s, and by that time Buetel was in the Navy.
He later made a few “B” pictures (“Best of the Badmen,” “The Half-Breed,” “Jesse James’ Women”) but never again captured the fame that had accompanied “The Outlaw.”
Buetel moved to Portland more than 20 years ago, Daily Variety said, and was last seen publicly with Russell in the 1982 TV extravaganza “Night of 100 Stars.”