Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Title: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Director: George Roy Hill
Writer: William Goldman

I have always been a fan of Westerns. Not a very common favourite genre among women, but there you have it. I aim to please. It has been my experience that Westerns are appealing because they are simple, and I mean no disrespect by that. They are simple and comforting because we have an inkling as to what the outcome will be. The ‘goodguys’ and the ‘badguys’ are clearly defined and everyone in society has a clear role to play without there being any blurring of lines. I like that. I like the simplicity of the plots and the oddly satisfying ending that comes from watching men on horses with guns battle at sunset and win the hands of either the virginal daughters of angry ranchers, or the hands of a lady of the night who has decided that this so-called life of debauchery is no longer for her. I enjoy the scenery of the deserted and lonely mid-west and the beautiful old clap-board houses, and the tinkly music played in the bars on old pianos.

And let’s face it. Cowboys are great. They’ve always been great. As long as they aren’t fighting either the ‘Indians’ (Native Americans) or the Mexicans, but are simply just happy to fight among themselves than I am quite happy to cheer along with them and hope they make it out alive. However, realistically they probably were fighting the Mexicans and/or the ‘Indians’ anyway…

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) we have two of Hollywood’s most popular leading actors (during that time), Paul Newman and Robert Redford, portraying two of the most infamous bank and train robbers in history, Butch Cassidy (real name: Robert Leroy Parker) and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh AKA ‘The Sundance Kid’ respectively. The two men are being pursued by bounty hunters, and manage to escape. They are wanted by the authorities and decide to flee to Bolivia where they attempt to learn the language in order to continue robbing banks. They travel with Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place (Katharine Ross) and are eventually located by the police and gunned down. Or so the legend goes…  Everything about this film is a Western and yet there is a lot that can be said for its unique take on the standard Westerns of the time. Viewers  were used to Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti westerns such A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and The Good, the Bad and The Ugly (1966), where the ‘badguys’ are beaten down by tough no-nonsense Alpha Male types. Perhaps having everyone clearly defined it was difficult to imagine such upbeat and genuinely well-meaning criminals as Butch and Sundance. They are the thieves, the robbers, the miscreants, and yet that doesn’t matter. They are the heroes and we root for them and we want everything to work out for them because they are SUCH NICE GUYS.

Another reason to love this movie is the fact that the entire soundtrack is the music of Burt Bacharach. Who remembers “Raindrops keep falling on my head?” The scene is set with Butch and Ella on a bicycle riding in a madcap manner though a field. The songs plays and Butch ends up crashing into a fence and getting chased by a bull. Classic! The witty banter between Butch and Sundance is also terrific, and another wonderful example of the incredible chemistry between its two leading actors who went on to do The Sting together in 1973.

Finally we have two nice guys who happen to be outlaws that are being chased by the police. Their lives end very violently. One couldn’t swim and one had never shot at anyone before. This became the perfect recipe for the most bizarre and beloved Western of all time, in my opinion.

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