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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

 
 
 

Butch and Sundance a Festival of Fun on Film

They're beginning to get on my nerves. Who are those guys?

Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Paul Newman taking Katherine Ross for a bike ride to the sounds of "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" one of the many iconic scenes from the equally iconic "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", a regular in people's top 100 movie lists. What makes it so popular is the combination of a great story, bountiful humour, a memorable soundtrack and the performances of not just Paul Newman and Robert Redford but also Katherine Ross. It is to put it simply brilliantly entertaining from the opening sepia shot scenes through to the closing freeze frame in Bolivia.

Butch (Paul Newman - Hombre) and Sundance (Robert Redford - The Last Castle) are not just partners and friends but they also are the bosses of the hole-in-the-wall gang. Whilst Butch comes up with the plans, Sundance shows his skill with a gun as they set about robbing banks and trains. The trouble is that their robbing exploits have caused them to become infamous and after the latest train robbery find themselves being hunted down by a relentless posse. Realising that their days are numbered they decide to head to Bolivia and along with Sundance's lady Etta Place (Katharine Ross - Hellfighters) hoping for a new start and a fresh set of banks to rob. But it doesn't take long for their exploits to lead to more infamy.

Paul Newman and Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

On face value "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is a western and a buddy movie based on the exploits of two legendary figures. As such it has all those essential western elements with plenty of action, gunfights and also gunfire, a separate commodity as Sundance's prowess with a pistol leads to him often proving himself on various objects. And it all works in a very classic sense of being a western with gun fighting acting, chase scenes and horse riding all playing major parts.

But whilst a western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is more of a buddy movie and being such also has a strong streak of comedy running through it with the pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford lighting up the screen. You have the comic bickering between Butch and Sundance, the amusing set pieces as well as a whole slab of witty dialogue. This was the first of Newman and Redford's two movies together but there is such a naturalness between them making it feel like you are watching two old friends, antagonistically snapping at each other, even in those set piece scenes the humour flows so naturally that these scenes fit in even when they shouldn't.

What helps to bring it all together is a well worked storyline which may be true to the facts it may not, it does amusingly state at the start "Most of what follows is true". The first half of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where the comedy abounds as we watch them becoming so infamous that they can't do a thing is brilliantly worked with the posse following them with the often asked question "Who are those guys?". And then the second half takes over, still with more humour but with a greater importance on the story as they end up trying to go straight once their infamy resurfaces down in Bolivia. But what it does whether truthful to history or not is show the camaraderie of this iconic pairing, the friendship and humour which kept them going. It makes you wonder if the real Butch and Sundance were like that in real life.

Add to this the wonderful music from Burt Bacharach which is not only pleasant to listen to also paves the way for some iconic scenes such as the bike scene featuring Paul Newman taking Katherine Ross for a bike ride to "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head". The purpose of that scene I honestly haven't got a clue, but it's iconic and great fun as it culminates with Butch falling into a bull pen. Plus there is the cinematography as well, from the opening series of scenes delivered in glorious sepia, the montages in the middle as they head down to Bolivia, the camera angles which brilliantly to capture the action, such as Sundance shooting a stone repeatedly it makes it run so smoothly.

But as already mentioned the thing which makes it work is that pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford making the most lovable pair of bank robbing rogues to ever have hit the big screen. Both are stupidly good looking and work so well together, delivering that comic banter to perfection. In fact they work so well that some of the movies daftest moments are disguised by their brilliance. And to add to this there is the even more beautiful Katherine Ross as Etta, Sundance's girlfriend, adding a slight romantic tone to proceedings without it feeling in the slightest bit out of place.

What this all boils down to is that even now over 40 years since it was made "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is still a great movie full of memorable scenes and the wonderful pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It may be factual, it may not be, but it really doesn't matter because its purpose is to entertain rather than educate and as such it succeeds from the glorious start to the stunning finish.

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