Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Compared to 1968, the year 1969 looks fairly light weight in terms of great movies. Leafing through the List the one movie that stood out for me in 1969 was “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Of course, I am hoping that some of the other titles will be awesome and prove me wrong, but I will be surprised if, at the end of this year I will not pronounce “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” the best movie of 1969.

There are a number of reasons for this of which the premier must be the pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I believe this was the first time they were put together and that was one inspired move. There is a chemistry between these two wonderful actors that makes the total far larger than the sum of the parts. The best parts of this movie are those where we just watch these two guys together doing whatever it is they do.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” apparently started a fad for buddy movies, trying to tap into that magic that the constellation of Newman and Redford gave this movie, but not many were as successful at it.

The story of the movie, for, yes, unnecessary as it may seem, there is actually a story here, is of a legendary pair of outlaws in the West who harassed the railroads to the extent that a super posse was formed, eventually pressing the gang to emigrate to South America. Paul Newman is Butch Cassidy, a witty and smart fellow and the brains in the outfit, while Robert Redford is the Sundance Kid, the brooding gunslinger. The have a gang, The Hole in the Wall gang, whom we see plundering trains, but mainly it is just Butch and the Kid and the girl they both loved, Katharine Ross as Etta Place, we follow.

Although these are clearly on the wrong side of the law, there is something incredibly affable about them that it is difficult t be upset with that fact. The train robberies are fun and who feels sorry for a railroad baron? When a sheriff wants to form a posse, nobody is interested and it is hilarious to watch Butch and the Kid sitting upstairs on a porch relaxing while they are listening to the sheriff begging the townspeople to join him.

The super posse changes all that and for a substantial part of the movie they are being chased by the relentless posse. Suddenly it is not as fun being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and they leave for Bolivia. They do try going straight there, but the only thing the know how to do is robbing banks and so it ends the way it must, side by side with guns blazing.

There is an odd intermezzo with domestic bliss before leaving for South America where the three of them are enjoying a quite moment. The oddness is largely due to the choice of scoring. Burt Bacharachs’s  "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" is not exactly what you would expect to hear in a western. It is certainly very far from a Morricone scoring, but this is nevertheless the origin of that song. The effect of using this music is to remove the movie from the classical western genre and into something else and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” has more in common with “Thelma and Louise” than John Wayne or Sergio Leone. The western environment is just setting for a movie that is really about freedom and friendship.

And then I have not even commented on the fantastic production value that sets this apart from most other movies of the era.

I saw “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” ages ago, and while I remember liking it, I doubt I was able to fully appreciate it. I am now. Highly recommended.



  1. Love the Thelma and Louise comparison! A true classic for sure.

    1. They are not so different when you think about it.