Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – 1969

I mean, good God, look at them.  I already love this movie!

This is one of the movies on the AFI top 100 greatest American movies (number 50!) that I actually did see.  Thing is, I saw it at the drive in back in the mid 70s (1974 according to the Wikipedia article I linked to in this post’s title).  It wasn’t until many years later I realized that it originally came out when I was a year old.  This film is infamous in my family as it was the last film my father let my Uncle Bobby pick for all of us to see.  Bobby loved this film…my father hated it.  To this day my father reminds Bobby about how much he hates this film.  (I have a lot of family members and many of them enjoy film as much as I do so chances are I’ll be mentioning them a lot.)

Because my own memories of it are vague, I thought it time to finally re-watch it.  After the jump is my ramblings in real time as I watch the film for the first time in over 30 years.

I paid very little attention to the beginning because I was so taken with the good looks of both Newman and Redford.  Interesting to see a very young Donnelly Rhodes playing a gambler in the first scene.  Ted Cassidy reminds me too much of Lurch to see him as anything else.  “Rules?  In a knife fight?” followed by a kick to Lurch’s nuts made me laugh even though I saw it coming.

It occurs to me that watching this over 40 years after it was made will give me a bit of a jaded attitude toward a lot of it.  I’m trying to watch it with an open mind but I can’t stop staring at Robert Redford.  I remember, as a kid, Redford was the man all other man were compared to.   “He’s no Robert Redford” was a phrase I heard a lot growing up.  I didn’t really appreciate it until just this moment.  Mr. Redford has aged well but, damn, 1969 was certainly his prime.  I need to do some research to see if people disregarded Redford’s acting skills because he was so damn pretty.  It seems to me that Newman was always taken more seriously although, to my eyes, he was just as handsome as Bob.


A bicycle salesman!  The bicycle scene with Paul Newman and Katharine Ross is iconic but it doesn’ get old.  I have clear memories of seeing it on the drive-in screen.  But I never realized the actually introduced the bike in the movie.  It isn’t something you really get when you’re 6 but even then I remember thinking it was wildly romantic.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Right now Robert Redford is having his first scene with Katharine Ross and, um, he seems to be raping her.  (Unless making her undress at gunpoint is his version of foreplay….oh I guess it is!)  And here’s the bicycle scene!

I’m totally blaming this scene on my decade-long crush on B.J. Thomas.

The music they play once Katharine Ross gets off the bike and Paul Newman is doing his bike tricks totally ruins the mood.  Maybe that was the point.  Once she gets back on the bike and they get chased away by the bull, back to romance in the morning sun.  I’m seeing why my father hates this movie but I think it’s kind of sweet so far.

Katharine Ross was in a movie called The Legacy that has a scene where someone dies in a swimming pool because they are under water and can’t come up because it’s blocked.  Scared me off of going under water in a pool for years.

The directing is impressive.  Aside from the bicycle scene (ruined for me by Newman’s solo on the bike) it’s interesting how well George Roy Hill mixes drama with comedy.  I didn’t realize he directed (among other films) The World According to Garp (another film I saw at a young age, I think I was in 7th grade, but that one had a much more profound affect on me than Butch Cassidy).  I wonder how many people who saw the film during its original run realized how it would end?  Knowing how it will end is giving the film a thriller-like quality for me.  No matter who they run from (“Who are those guys?”) they’re still going out in a hail of gunfire.  I have a hard time finding humor in that.

I’ll say this, the scenery is beautiful, holy cow.

“Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” won the Academy Award for Best Song.  How is this possible?

Another thing I didn’t remember/realize is how many scenes in this film are made up of just Newman and Redford and in those scenes there is sometimes very little dialogue.

The jumping scene:  One of three scenes (including the bicycle scene and the ending) that always stuck with me.  When Sundance yells “I can’t swim!” I know it’s supposed to be funny but, again, knowing how it ends makes me think otherwise.  Of course, then he yells his exaggerated “Ooooooh shiiiit!” and I laugh out loud.  This movie really does have more layers than my father gave it credit for.


Romance between Redford and Ross. As a woman, it never has occurred to me to go after the “bad boys” but I supposed back then Robert Redford could do whatever he damn well pleased and he still would have been beating off the Etta Place’s with a stick.

Ah here comes the sexism.  If Etta whines or becomes a nuisance he’s dumping her in Bolivia.  She’s going to sew his socks and stitch him when he’s wounded but she won’t watch him die.  Okay then.

Butch dumps the bicycle in a brook.  That could have come in handy in Bolivia.

A musical montage showing us Butch, Sundance and Etta in their new life and how they get to South America.  I find the musical montages a lazy way of film making.  It works in a film like Same Time, Next Year to mark the passing of time but more often than not it’s just used so the screenwriter doesn’t have to explain everything.  It annoys me.  This montage is annoying the hell out of me.  And Robert Redford as Sundance looks much better in his bank robbing clothes than in a tuxedo.  That’s all I’m saying.

Now Sundance is whiny because Bolivia sucks (too bad he didn’t have the Internet back then) and he barks at Butch AND Etta.  I know she eventually leaves but she was an idiot for going in the first place.

Spanish lessons so they can tell people they’re being robbed is genius.  Although, if this movie was being made now, Etta would be robbing the banks with them since she’s the only one who knows how to speak Spanish.   How did it not occur to the film makers to get Robert Redford to take his shirt off in the bedroom scene with Katharine Ross?

Crib notes during the bank robbery…inspired.  While I find the ending to be depressing, there’s enough humor in it to keep me interested (even at 1:18am, when I’m writing this!).

Good Lord.  The “Ba ba ba ba” song as they are escaping the bank robbery is killing me.  It isn’t funny, it’s just lame.  How the hell did Hal David win an Academy Award for this music???  Some of the music in that era really did suck.  Also, the “Ba ba ba ba” song leads into another musical montage that goes on far too long. WTH?  Third one so far.

And during the montage, Etta helps rob a bank!  You go girl!

The length of this particular montage is quite ridiculous.  Redford and Newman in suits, though, can’t beat that.

I absolutely know why my father hates this movie.  Those musical montages would have made me walk out of the theater.  Unfortunately, we watched it at a drive-in so we were stuck.

Finally!  Strother Martin!  There’s only about 25 more minutes left.  It’s about time.  How the hell does Strother Martin not have a head shot on the Internet Movie Data Base?

The TV show Alias Smith and Jones was based loosely on this film.  When Robert Redford asks Paul Newman “Who am I, Smith or Jones?”,  I realize why.

Strother Martin just got shot off his horse.  Didn’t see that coming.  (I purposely didn’t read the summaries of this film anywhere.)  This can’t be good.  So much for going straight.

In this scene of little dialogue but not music it occurs to me I should clarify that I’m good with this type of scene, you don’t always need dialogue, but I hate meshing different scenes together using only music.  I can’t stress this enough.

“I never shot anybody before”.  Okay, something else I didn’t see coming.  If Butch isn’t a gunslinger, how’s he get top billing?  Sundance has to do all the work.

Aaand everyone’s dead.  Nice shooting, Butch.

Etta keeps repeating “There are other ways of going straight”.  Just because you say it more than once, lady, doesn’t mean they’ll listen.

Predictably, Etta decides to leave.  Which is foreshadowing since she already told Sundance she won’t be sticking around to watch him die.  (I realize I keep switching from the actor names to the character names.  This is my way.  I apologize for the confusion.)

It isn’t a good sign when you’re counting the minutes left in a film and it isn’t because you’re tired.

Well here comes the beginning of the end.  Lot’s of one-liners in this film.  Another pet peeve my father has that I share.  Write real dialogue.  Every film doesn’t have to be peppered with “memorable” lines, especially if they’re forced.

Although, “This is no time for bravery, I’ll let you” in response to Sundance saying “I’ll go”, did get one last chuckle out of me.  Still, it was a cheap laugh.

I really am fascinated at how much of the dialogue in this film is just Butch and Sundance talking with no one else directly in the scene.  You must form quite a bond with an actor when you’re the only two people in the majority of the scenes.

I remember reading that the legend is that Butch and Sundance died in a  kind of murder suicide.  One was injured and the other shot him to put him out of his misery and then shot himself.  That would be a more gruesome ending for me than the one William Goldman wrote (and I’m about to witness).

Using humor between them in their final moments, I like that.  “I figured, secretly you wanted to know, so I told you.”   I also like the false hope Butch gives Sundance in these final moments.  Kind of a “Tell me about the rabbits” scene.

“For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”


So I have to admit that I didn’t hate it the way my dad does and I also see a lot of the greatness that others see in it.  While I didn’t hate it, there were parts that annoyed the crap out of me (hello montages!) and for that alone it wouldn’t make it on my 100 greatest films list.

I’d watch it again, though, if only to get glimpses of Redford and Newman.  Dang.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *